A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany is a contemporary American Studies moment. American mythology dominates the book, climaxing in a representation of Vietnam-era America with its ambivalent patriotism, sexual experimentation, and Canadian flight.

Calvinist concerns (reminiscent of the thinking of early settlers) run throught the center of the book. Owen believes he has been chosen to be an instrument of God. Despite his extreme belief that he is fated for a certain purpose, he also believes he must actively pursue that destiny. Fate, to Owen, is part of an ongoing exchange between God and man. One's future is unalterable, but one must also create that future. Owen takes his visions as both assurances of his future and as guidelines for reaching that future.

Owen's beliefs do not follow strict Calvinist notions of predestination, but they function in a similar way. The doctrine of predestination holds that God has already determined who will be saved. A person can tell if she is part of this elect through her own behavior. A good life is the realization of being saved, and a way to judge where one is headed. Owen's future is determined, but because he is already an instrument of God, he lives in a way that makes him an instrument of God. Owen's lifestyle also resists Puritanical teaching. He smokes, drinks, and fornicates. The instrument of God has become integrated with a hedonistic pleasure seeker. A Prayer for Owen Meany does not rely on Calvinist teachings, but it reveals the continuing influence of such thought in this America. To capture the American mythology, one must engage the importance of Calvinist thought on the development of the U.S.

a statue from Vietnam