The Complex Relation between Faith and Fate In the novel A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, numerous themes present themselves to the reader. Irving uses the idea of the relationship of faith and fate to question whether or not faith directly shapes our fate, creating the idea that believing in God in a world with no faith completely absurd. As the novel unfolds, you begin to understand ‘special purpose’ each character serves can only be told in the way God decides.
When Owen Meany is on stage portraying the ghost of Christmas yet to come he approaches the gravestone prop, stops, and suddenly faints. He later awakens, as the curtains fall only to realize that the name he read on the gravestone is his own. Scared, he knew he had been given a glimpse into his future. “It made (Owen) furious when I suggested that anything was an ‘accident’ – especially anything that happened to him; on the subject of predestination, Owen Meany would accuse Calvin of bad faith. There were no accidents. (Irving 66) Owen has a very strong sense of faith and believed that this directly affected his fate and the fates of others and because Owen believes he is an ‘instrument of God’ and that there are no accidents. Everything dealing with Owen is fated to occur. As did others in the novel, Sagamore, John’s mother (Tabitha), John’s grandmother, and others all become symbols of things foreshadowed to die because they lost their faith at some point throughout the novel. Another example of faith shaping fate is when Mr. Fish taught Owen and John to play football because he had no children of his own.
Irving uses this biblical allusion to show how faith is directly tied to fate. Mr. Fish had given up hope in Owen’s ability to kick a football and this led to the fate of Sagamore because, those who lost their faith became ill willed or suffered a fate only destiny could have imagined, much like Sagamore and the diaper truck. As Owen Meany became ‘God’s instrument’ in the death of Sagamore, he also served the same role in taking the life John’s mother, Tabitha, who suffered the fate of a baseball to the head. But was this an accident of fate or was it a lack there of?
At the end of the novel Rev. Merrill revealed to John that he was his father, and it was John, who in the end restored his faith. It however, was the death of Tabitha that caused his lack of faith. The Rev. Merrill believes that he caused her death because, he had wished for it. Or maybe, it is his fate, that Tabitha was destined to die. Owen Meany believed that there were no such things as coincidences and that fate is the ultimate reason. Irving wrote it this way to show how faith and fate are interconnected. Most people have faith that God decides what happens to you; this is fate.
There were many people in this novel that lost their faith. John’s grandmother had lost her faith after John’s mother had died which, foreshadowed her death. And maybe Owen himself, who had confidence in John to believe in faith, fated that Owen too would become another victim of fate. Which makes us think, what is it that actually contains a story of religion and fate, are they linked, or are they two things we can never know together? However, one thing is certain, the belief that if faith is lost; fate will not be so kind. Works Cited Irving, John. A Prayer for Owen Meany. New York: Ballantine Books, 1990. Print