A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
A Prayer for Owen Meany Theme of Mortality
We never really get away from a discussion of mortality in A Prayer for Owen Meany. We learn right away that Owen is responsible for Tabby's death. We witness the deaths of many other characters, including Lydia, Sagamore, Buzzy Thurston, Harry Hoyt, and Harriet. They live in a town called Gravesend, for crying out loud A Prayer for Owen Meany the word "grave" is in the back of our minds the whole time! Yet, the theme of mortality is perhaps most important and pronounced when we consider how Owen's life relates to death. He gets a sense pretty early on that his time on earth is limited; he's even convinced that he knows when he's going to die, and he's also sure that he will die for a cause. As a result, Owen's sense of mortality guides and shapes the way that he lives his life.
Questions About Mortality
- Whose death has a bigger impact on John: Tabby's or Owen's? Justify your choice.
- Do you think that Tabby was supposed to die, or do you think it was a coincidence?
- Which characters die peacefully in the novel? Can we view Tabby's death as being peaceful if it happened too quickly for her to know what happened?
- Do you think Owen redeems himself for killing Tabby by saving all the kids? Why or why not?
Chew on This
A Prayer for Owen Meany shows us the ways in which death is unfair and beyond our control.
A Prayer for Owen Meany shows us the ways in which death is a small part of the larger scheme of things.