Wednesday, April 29, 2009


A common theme in “A Prayer for Owen Meany” is that of amputation and limbs. The idea appears at least five noticeable times throughout the story. One case is in John’s armadillo. He and Owen played with the stuffed toy for a very long time, and loved it dearly. John had received the toy from Dan, who later suggested he give it to Owen to show him he forgave him for the death of his mother. John did give it to him, but was greatly upset when he realized Owen cut off the claws, which meant the armadillo could no longer stand upright. In this case, the amputation symbolizes how the armadillo could not do anything without its claws, just as we cannot do anything without the guiding hands of God. The next case of amputation happens with John’s grandmother’s servant, Lydia. Lydia had cancer, which required her leg be removed. Of course, after that she was put in a wheelchair. But because of the love John’s grandmother felt for her, she kept her in the home as a friend instead of a servant. She became more and more like John’s grandmother, and sort of became a mirror into the future. Everything she experienced, the grandmother feared she would soon experience too. Lydia’s god in this case, was John’s grandmother. She began to mirror her god, as Christians are often urged to do. Her loss of limbs meant she became completely dependant of the god she had previously served. Another case is less noticeable, but something Owen is almost obsessed with, the dressmaker’s dummy. John’s mother made dresses for herself, so she had a dummy that fit the exact body shape she did, causing John to fearfully mistake it for her sometimes. Because of this, John was reluctant to believe that Owen really saw a ghost when he claimed he did. After the death of John’s mother, Owen asked for the dummy, which John did give up to him. The lack of limbs the dummy had represents the hopelessness of survival for John’s mother. Without limbs, it is impossible to do menial tasks without the aid of someone or something else. Without the aid, a person would surely die, just as Tabby did. Of course, later in the book, John’s own finger was cut off, which meant he could not join the army. Because Owen was a sort of God- figure to John, this symbolized him giving up everything to do God’s will, which for him was not joining the army. The final case of amputation or limbless- ness, was Owen’s insistence that he was indeed an instrument of God, and that his hands were the hands of God. He did as all the other characters were urged to so often by himself, to give up his hands and his will for that of God.

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