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A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany


by John Irving

A Prayer for Owen Meany Fate and Free Will Quotes

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Quote #1

It made [Owen] furious when I suggested that anything was an "accident"—especially anything that had happened to him; on the subject of predestination, Owen Meany would accuse Calvin of bad faith. There were no accidents; there was a reason for that baseball—just as there was a reason for Owen being small, and a reason for his voice. In Owen's opinion, he had INTERRUPTED AN ANGEL, he had DISTURBED AN ANGEL AT WORK, he had UPSET THE SCHEME OF THINGS. (3.66)

Owen sees his role in Tabby's death as a product of fate rather than as an accident. He's convinced that he saw the Angel of Death in Tabby's room (even though, you know, he had a high fever and saw Tabby's dressmaker's dummy). He thinks that he interrupted the Angel of Death, and that the task of taking Tabby's life fell into his hands instead. In that sense, Owen is sort of able to excuse himself for killing Tabby because he thinks she was supposed to die anyway.

Quote #2

I must have repeated what Owen said to Dan Needham, because years later Dan asked me, "Did Owen say your grandmother was a banshee?"

He said she was "wailing like a banshee," I explained.

Dan got out the dictionary, then; he was clucking his tongue and shaking his head, and laughing to himself, saying, "That boy! What a boy! Brilliant but preposterous!" And that was the first time I learned, literally, what a banshee was—a banshee, in Irish folklore, is a female spirit whose wailing is a sign that a loved one will soon die. (3.94-96)

Owen's use of the word "banshee" implies that, somehow, Tabby's untimely death was always in the cards. We can see the moment when Harriet screams during the "angel of death" scene as a foretelling of Tabby's impending death, because banshees signal that someone who is with us now will be gone pretty soon.

Quote #3

"Wait a minute," she said. "Let me out. You get in first." She meant that he was small enough to straddle the drive-shaft hump, in the middle of the seat, between her and Dan, but when she stepped outside the Buick—even for just a second—a hailstone ricocheted off the roof of the car and smacked her right between the eyes.

"Ow!" she cried, holding her head.

"I'M SORRY!" Owen said quickly. (3.195-197)

Hmm, remind you of another moment in the novel? This moment at Tabby's wedding foreshadows the event of her death. Is it possible that this is some sort of sign that her death at the baseball game is inevitable, or is it just a coincidence?

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