A Prayer for Owen Meany Imagery

A Prayer for Owen Meany Imagery

Owen's Physique

Irving dedicates a great detail of attention to describing Owen Meany's appearance. He is very slight in stature, with papery white skin and large jutting ears. His size is frequently commented upon, as is his nasal voice. These unusual descriptors are meant to indicate that by all means Meany is an unusual character. His appearance sets him apart physically but so do his moral and spiritual qualities.

The Shot

When Owen devises "the shot" he does not tell John its intended purpose. The basketball maneuver in which John lifts Meany to complete a slam dunk, was based entirely upon Meany's visions of the future. The intricate play is also symbolic: John is physically supporting Meany, who is flying through the air as though an angel. The play would later be employed during the climax of the novel, when Meany saves the lives of a group of children, cementing the moves symbolic importance.

Disfigured Mary Magdalene

Once Meany is expelled from high school for tampering with students' draft cards, he steals a statue of the Virgin Mary from a Catholic school. He then disfigures the statue, cutting off it's arms and head before placing it on the stage of the high school from which he was expelled. The image is important for several reasons. The loss of the arms symbolizes what would happen to Meany in his own death. The use of the Virgin Mary also references Meany's virgin birth, like that of Jesus Christ who was born to Mary Magdalene.

The Foul Ball

The most shocking and upsetting imagery of the novel revolves around the foul ball. At a little league game, Meany is substituted to bat for John. Normally, Meany is a very bad baseball player but he finally hits the ball. The scene is described in slow-motion. The ball curves towards John's mother in the stands. She barely sees it coming as it crashes against her head, snapping her neck and killing her. It is described with close and vivid detail. It symbolizes another "miraculous" moment in Meany's life; however, in this instance it is a dark and damaging event. In a sense, the foul ball demonstrates that religious faith and devotion is not simply goodness and reward, it is also pain, suffering and loss.

Dick Jarvits

Another character described in detail is Dick Jarvits. Arriving at the end of the novel, Jarvits comes from a rough family in Phoenix, Arizona. His brother was killed in Vietnam, and Jarvits intends to avenge this loss. Judging by his appearance, John can immediately tell Jarvits wishes to do harm. He mutters to himself and paces and talks about wanting to slaughter Viet Cong. Because John is alerted by Jarvits' character, he is able to assist Meany in saving the children when Jarvits attacks.

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