A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis
Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.
Plot Type : The Quest
Owen accidentally kills Tabby and becomes convinced that he is God's Instrument.
In "The Call" stage, our hero realizes that he has to make a difficult journey and gets some kind of vision of the goal that he must aim for. In A Prayer for Owen Meany, Tabby's death is a pivotal moment that sets the rest of the events of the novel in motion. Owen doesn't see it as an accident; he thinks that it was meant to be and takes it as a sign that God has bigger plans for him.
Owen and John grow up and go to school. Owen talks a lot about his faith and the principles he most believes in.
For our hero Owen, adolescence is a journey that is full of trials, tribulations, and adventures. We watch him engage in all kinds of antics, from writing for The Grave to learning and perfecting "the shot" to helping John try to piece together the puzzle of his father's identity. As all of these events come to pass, his faith becomes stronger and stronger, and he becomes more and more convinced of his life's purpose. He knows that he is supposed to die as a hero, and he has a dream in which he saves a whole bunch of Vietnamese children.
Arrival and Frustration
In spite of his best efforts, Owen doesn't get to go to Vietnam.
Right when Owen thinks that he's on the brink of getting to go to Vietnam and fulfill his destiny, he's disappointed to find out that he's given a domestic job. His plans seem to be totally thwarted. He's almost positive that he knows the specific date on which he's supposed to die, but, when the date comes, he finds himself in Arizona instead of Vietnam. What the heck is going on?
The Final Ordeals
Dick Jarvits throws a grenade at Owen and John. Owen dies.
As July 8, 1968 passes (the day on which Owen believes he will die), Owen starts to get a weird feeling of relief. Maybe his hunch was wrong this whole time – maybe he's not going to die after all! Oops, wrong, Owen, but thanks for playing. Right when Owen starts to think that he's in the clear, the final ordeal begins: Dick Jarvits follows Owen, John, and a bunch of Vietnamese orphans into the airport bathroom and throws a grenade at them. This is the last big task that Owen needs to complete to fulfill his destiny: he catches the grenade as John passes it to him and holds it under his arms to protect the kids from the explosion. Owen dies, but everyone else is OK.
Owen becomes a hero; John becomes a believer; Rev. Merrill regains his faith.
Unlike many other novels following the Quest plotline, Owen doesn't narrowly escape death – he dies. Yet, he is able to fulfill a couple of distinct goals after his death: he becomes a hero, as he expected, and he affirms the religious faith of those around him, particularly John and Rev. Merrill. Owen becomes a hero when he saves the lives of a group of Vietnamese orphans. Furthermore, he has spent the majority of the novel questioning the shaky faith of the people around him and talking about how it's possible to believe in God without having actual proof that he exists.