Motifs In A Prayer For Owen Meany

Essay, Research Paper

Owen Meany Motif

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving has many different motifs. One dominant motif is armlessness. Armlessness was a reoccurring motif throughout the story and came up in many occasions. It seems to symbolize helplessness or being under your own control. There are a variety of things throughout the novel that gives off that feeling.

The armadillo was very dear to John. He had gotten it from Dan Needham the only gift he kept from one of his mother s beaus. It had great sentimental value to him and to young Owen who had also become attached to it. That s why it showed great emotional distress on Owen s part when he removed the claws of the armadillo. He did this when he had hit Johnny s mother with the foul ball that killed her. Dan had interpreted it as trying to say that Owen was helpless now and that he couldn t do anything to change what he had done on accident. Though that might be the partial truth it could also symbolize something different. Almost saying that he is the armadillo and he wasn t in control of himself, but was the instrument of God. His hands were not his own. Though the armadillo never recovered from the declawing, it had mended John and Owen s friendship and helped ease some of the pain of that situation.

The statue of Mary Magdalene sat in front of a concrete arch. She was like a goalie protecting her goal, John had noted. Owen had sawn off her arms when he was expelled from Gravesend Academy. This might also symbolize Owen s helplessness, not being able to change what had happened. When the statue is returned John notes that she is unable to protect her goal. Almost helpless to stop what will happen without her protection. Again armlessness and helplessness reoccur in a different instance in which Owen is feeling distress and major emotional anguish. Owen later replaces the statue of Mary Magdalene with a granite statue. The effect he tries to obtain by doing so is said to be rising out of the grave. Maybe he was relating it to himself, recovering from what had happened.


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