Death As A Sacrifice In John Irving’s A Prayer For Owen Meany

John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany shows how death can have a lasting impact on anyone. These influences are often associated with negative meanings, but death in this book has a more positive effect on the narrator. John is able to reconcile with Owen by his death and turn to the Christian faith. His death’s sacrificial side reveals his deepest beliefs.

Owen’s death was premeditated and meant to save John and Vietnamese children. Dick Jartvis, a mentally unstable teenager, entered the bathroom with John and Owen and threw an exploding bomb at John. John gives it to Owen, and Owen lifts Owen. Owen then throws a grenade against the window sill, making him a victim of the bathroom’s curse. Owen had “the dream”, which was a vision that he had of his death. He wrote in his diary, “I know when and how I will die” (He also knew this from a dream). I will be a hero.” John read this entry. He found it a little frightening that Owen was so certain of his convictions. John didn’t believe in God prior to reading the entry. Owen was a man based on faith. He did everything because he believed God would support him. John becomes more spiritually aware of Owen’s certainty and realizes God was the one who gave him the message. John comes to believe in God after realizing that life was fragile. He also realized God had given him the ability to destroy the grenade using a maneuver called “The Shot”. Owen comes up with a move. Owen will dribble a basket, then pass it on to Owen. Owen would then raise Owen to dunk his basketball. Owen and John practice this shot consistently until they can do it in less than three seconds. Owen says that faith takes practice to get the shot right. They practice until they are able to save everyone in the toilet. Owen’s ability predict the future and fate is what makes him a connection to God. Owen sees himself as God’s instrument, saving people in his place. John understands this connection as Owen gave his life to God. John now sees how Owen can complete the miracle.

John is able to see Owen’s sacrifice through his own eyes and it helps him reconsider his beliefs. John is a very rational and doubtful person who requires proof to believe any thing. This explains his doubts about God’s existence. As a teenager, he “became somewhat vague in his faith,” but that quickly changes. John must have real-life experience with the fragility in life to fully understand why miracles are not always explained, but God creates them. Owen said that “you can’t prove miracles” before, and John needed to experience it for himself. Owen said that miracles can only be proved by God. John believed Owen after Owen died. John’s realization contributes greatly to John’s character development. Before Owen’s sacrifice, he believed only in what was visible rather than having faith. He is now able to believe in facts rather than faith.

John’s spiritual evaluation of Owen’s sacrifice is evident in A Prayer for Owen Meany’s ending. John’s experience near death helps him to realize the fragility of life, and how God is capable of controlling it.


  • tenleylancaster

    Tenley Lancaster is a 34-year-old educational blogger and student. She enjoys writing about topics related to education, including but not limited to student motivation, learning styles, and effective study techniques. Tenley has also written for various websites and magazines, and is currently working on her first book. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and traveling.