A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
Analysis: What's Up With the Title?
You'll find pretty quickly that the topic of prayer is a huge one in this novel. A Prayer for Owen Meany is all about figuring out one's personal faith. It's also about one man's sacrifice of himself in order to serve a bigger purpose. Owen is convinced that God has chosen him to fulfill a particular destiny, and, in spite of his strong faith, this scares him. When Owen is certain of what his fate will be, he asks Rev. Merrill to say a prayer for him in front of all of the students at Gravesend Academy.
OK, so the book contains prayers for Owen Meany – so, what else? Well, we can look at the whole novel, narrated by John, as one big extended prayer on Owen's behalf. On one hand, prayer, according to Owen, doesn't have to entail asking for something; it can be as simple as talking to God directly in order to try to make sense of a difficult situation. If we look at it this way, then we can see the ways in which John uses his role as the narrator as a way of talking through his memories and making sense of what happened to Owen. On the other hand, the book itself ends with a prayer: John asks God to give Owen back. Thus, in one way we can see the novel as an extended prayer on Owen's behalf; in another way, we can see it as John's prayer for his own interests – he wants his friend back.