A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
A Prayer for Owen Meany Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Since her death, Owen had hinted that the strongest force compelling him to attend Gravesend Academy—namely, my mother's insistence—was gone. Those rooms allowed us to imagine what we might become—if not exactly boarders (because I would continue to live with Dan, and with Grandmother, and Owen would live at home), we would still harbor such secrets, such barely restrained messiness, such lusts, even, as these poor residents of Waterhouse Hall. It was our lives in the near future that we were searching for when we searched in those rooms, and therefore it was shrewd of Owen that he made us take our time. (4.54)
Do you remember doing similar things as a kid – putting yourself in an older person's shoes, trying to figure out what your life is fated to be like, based on theirs? It's something we all have done, and John and Owen do it, too.
That was how we ended up on Newbury Street—one Wednesday afternoon in the fall of '61. I know now that it was NO ACCIDENT that we ended up there. (7.46)
Remember, Owen doesn't believe in accidents anymore. Increasingly, we get the sense that the things that he does are all components of some larger plan. In this case, Owen is all over the task of trying to figure out the identity of John's birth father, and the search takes the two boys to Newbury Street in Boston to the site of the dress store where Tabby bought her red dress.
"Don't bother, kid," said Mr. McSwiney. "If he was looking for you, he would have found you."
"GOD WILL TELL HIM WHO HIS FATHER IS," Owen said; Graham McSwiney shrugged. (7.181-182)
Here, we see how fate and free will seem to exist in conflict with one another. Mr. McSwiney suggests that Johnny's father hasn't revealed himself yet because he doesn't want to – an exercise of his free will, so to speak. Owen seems to be suggesting that fate will overcome free will and that God will inevitably show Johnny who his real father is.