John Irving ” a Prayer for Owen Meany»
Every sphere of human activity is imbued with a religious component, especially its direct reflection — literature. Probably, the image of Christ is more often found in books. How could it be otherwise?? A righteous Martyr who gave his life in the name of others, both those who believed in him and those who did not believe in him. The problem of sacrifice is not less often raised in literature, and when both paths are intertwined, an indelible impression on the souls of readers is guaranteed. As I have already said, the image of Christ is not a novelty for literature and art in General. We saw him in the” gospel of Jesus ” by Jose Saramago; partly in the image of Benji Compson in the work “Noise and fury”; we met him in the works of Bulgakov, Blok, Gumilev. Perhaps it is easier to point out writers who did not use this symbolic image in their work, but in each of the individual cases, you can weed out the unnecessary and find quite similar, and sometimes even identical, features of the image of Christ.
First of all, this is the already mentioned sacrifice, or rather, the desire for self-sacrifice. Born of ordinary people, he came to this world to lead these simple people to the light; the personification of the light component of the immortal antinomy of good and evil; the righteous and the Martyr; the symbol of the decline and rebirth of the human race. The writer focuses on one of the characters, sometimes fully distributes the “roles”, but in General, the image does not change from work to work; only its outer shell changes. To all this I can only add that I know only one book in which the outer shell and inner content of this centuries-old image are unlike any of the works I have previously read. This is not a classic, not a universally recognized masterpiece or standard of verbal art; it is a book by John Irving, ” a Prayer for Owen Meany.”
Briefly about the book
The story in the Prayer for Owen Meany is narrated by one John Wheelwright, an American immigrant living in Toronto. Filled with contempt for the land on which he grew up, he leaves for Canada, where he becomes a literature teacher at a girls ‘ school. His story is directly about his closest friend Owen Meany — a short guy with a very shrill and memorable voice. Owen Meany, a little Saint, unrecognized by anyone except his eternal companion and admirer, John Wheelwright. They share one terrible incident: at the age of 11, Owen accidentally kills the narrator’s mother, but this is not followed by a direct apology and a bitter remorse. Owen believes that this is a sign from above; he believes that his hands have become the instrument of God, and he is the messenger of God. Subsequent events further strengthen the faith in Owen Meany: he sees an angel, learns his own date of death, and in addition to everything, his parents tell him about his immaculate conception.
The realization of his own uniqueness literally “unties” Owen’s hands: he sometimes behaves in strange ways, allows himself unsolicited antics. It seems that he foresees every step, knows the answer to any question, can find a common language with anyone. It is obvious that this behavior of the boy does not find flattering reviews in the mouths of others, especially such religiously informed and deeply religious citizens as his native town was inhabited by. It is understood and accepted by only a few, one of whom was the narrator John. The story of Owen Meany is a story about how one person’s life makes another believe in God!
But the book is hardly exclusively religious, and the narrator himself plays a huge role in this. The fact is that John Irving, through the mouth of his character John Wheelwright, expresses his disapproval of the current political and social disposition in American society, Kennedy’s military intervention in Vietnam, Johnson’s inability to solve urgent problems, the General enthusiasm of young people for military ideas, enhanced by the influence of marijuana, the harmful influence of television on the human mind, and so on. These are just some of the factors that contributed to the author’s General disillusionment with American society, not to mention moral impoverishment, political games, and the decline of the institution of the Church.
The density of symbolism
It is necessary to note the fact of deep saturation of the book with symbolic images and motives. Symbolically, the murder of his friend’s mother proved to be the catalyst for Owen Meany’s belief in God’s own destiny. But would Owen have believed it if he hadn’t accidentally killed her during the match? Would something else have happened in his life that was just as important? Or maybe the revelations of his parents about the unusual appearance of the boy into the world made an indelible impression? However, there are no answers to these questions; the writer does not offer such an alternative branch of reasoning.
But John Irving skillfully plans and composes the plot of the work, and the already mentioned saturation with symbolism definitely adds a note of mystery. It is symbolic that throwing the ball into the basketball ring, which the friends practiced at every opportunity, served as the fulfillment of God’s will. It is symbolic that the dream of death that Owen saw comes true with complete accuracy of coincidence of dates, details and circumstances, but even Owen Meany could not see the content of this vision beyond the outer shell. It is symbolic that John Wheelwright, thanks to the fate of Owen Meany and the power of His faith, accepts God into his soul, and later converts a constantly doubting pastor to blind faith, but this time through a simple practical joke. It is symbolic that…
No less symbolic are the images of acting characters from the pen of the writer. John Irving certainly divides them into “good and evil”, he gives them quite clear characteristics: a cowardly postman, a doubting priest, a lustful sister, mad brothers, a treacherous school Director, etc.But such features do not include the picturesqueness and staleness of the characters, because each of them appears quite alive, full of emotions and experiences. The writer gives two boys (Owen and John) the most valuable — the strongest friendship, which can not be destroyed even by the accidental death of the mother due to the other. On the contrary, it binds them together! One is ready to take care of the other for the rest of their lives, to sacrifice their potential and future, to give away the most expensive things available… Even to cut off a finger and save them from future dangers.
I can assure you that John Irving has put much deeper ideas in his book than the interpretations I am trying to pour out on this page, and to be able to convey them without losing motivation, meaning, and ideological implementation, you must have a talent for more serious coverage than the author of these lines.