A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
A Prayer for Owen Meany Mortality Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"YOU LET ME DROWN!" Owen said. "YOU DIDN'T DO ANYTHING! YOU JUST WATCHED ME DROWN! I'M ALREADY DEAD!" he told us. "REMEMBER THAT: YOU LET ME DIE." (1.98)
Owen uses the concept of mortality as a way of testing to see who his "real" friends are. This scene is a key moment through which we learn about John and Owen's ideas about death before they ever encounter death for real. At this point, death is a vague concept that they sort of play around with. It will become much more real later on.
The crack of the bat was so unusually sharp and loud for a Little League game that the noise captured even my mother's wandering attention. She turned her head toward home plate—I guess, to see who had hit such a shot—and the ball struck her left temple, spinning her so quickly that one of her high heels broke and she fell forward, facing the stands, her knees splayed apart, her face hitting the ground first because her hands never moved from her sides (not even to break her fall), which later gave rise to the speculation that she was dead before she touched the earth. (1.198)
This is the scene of Tabby's death in the exact moment that it happens. For the first time in his life, Owen actually swings and hits a baseball. This moment of triumph is also a moment of defeat – he kills his best friend's mom, who has also been like a mom to him. It's really striking how it seems like she dies instantly – she doesn't even try to break her fall.
Whether she died that quickly, I don't know; but she was dead by the time Mr. Chickering reached her. He was the first one to her. He lifted her head, then turned her face to a slightly more comfortable position; someone said later that he closed her eyes before he let her head rest back on the ground. I remember that he pulled the skirt of her dress down—it was as high as midthigh—and he pinched her knees together. (1.199)
Tabby's death isn't peaceful – it's chaotic. She's such a mess when Mr. Chickering reaches her that he has to rearrange her body and close her eyes – it's just too shocking to look at her.