A Prayer for Owen Meany

The Baseball Symbol Analysis

The Baseball Symbol Icon

When Owen hits the baseball that kills Tabitha, the fatal ball represents a loss of innocence and the different ways people grapple with that loss, especially in the context of religious faith. Owen and John are no longer children, and life is no longer a game. To the novel’s characters, the deadly ball is proof of either life’s senseless chaos or God’s mysterious will at work. People like Chief Pike search for the ball because they want to restore order and understand how this tragic accident could have happened. Everyone thinks that Owen kept the ball in light of his role in Tabitha’s death, but Owen understands that God’s will cannot be known, and he does not take the ball. Instead, Rev. Lewis Merrill takes the ball, believing that he caused God to kill Tabitha by praying for her to die. Tabitha’s death prompts Merrill to completely lose his faith, and although he continues to preach, his sermons are laced with doubt. When Merrill later shows John the baseball, John accuses him of childishly believing in a self-centered religion and imagining signs from God instead of recognizing real miracles. John throws the ball through the church window when he tricks Merrill into thinking that Tabitha is sending him a message from the beyond, and the ruse ends up restoring Merrill’s faith in a God who speaks to him and forgives him his sins.

The Baseball Quotes in A Prayer for Owen Meany

The A Prayer for Owen Meany quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Baseball. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Collins edition of A Prayer for Owen Meany published in 1989.
Chapter 2 Quotes

“Your friend is most original,” Dan Needham said, with the greatest respect. “Don’t you see, Johnny? If he could, he would cut off his hands for you—that’s how it makes him feel, to have touched that baseball bat, to have swung that bat with those results. It’s how we all feel—you and me and Owen. We’ve lost a part of ourselves.” And Dan picked up the wrecked armadillo and began to experiment with it on my night table, trying—as I had tried—to find a position that allowed the beast to stand, or even to lie down, with any semblance of comfort or dignity; it was quite impossible…

And so Dan and I became quite emotional, while we struggled to find a way to make the armadillo’s appearance acceptable—but that was the point, Dan concluded: there was no way that any or all of this was acceptable. What had happened was unacceptable! Yet we still had to live with it.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), John’s Stepfather / Dan Needham (speaker), Owen Meany
Related Symbols: The Baseball, Armless Totems
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 3 Quotes

It made [Owen] furious when I suggested that anything was an “accident”—especially anything that had happened to him; on the subject of predestination, Owen Meany would accuse Calvin of bad faith. There were no accidents; there was a reason for that baseball—just as there was a reason for Owen being small, and a reason for his voice. In Owen’s opinion, he had INTERRUPTED AN ANGEL, he had DISTURBED AN ANGEL AT WORK, he had UPSET THE SCHEME OF THINGS.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany (speaker), John’s Mother / Tabitha Wheelwright
Related Symbols: The Baseball, The Voice
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 9 Quotes

Because he’d wished my mother dead, my father said, God had punished him; God had taught Pastor Merrill not to trifle with prayer. And I suppose that was why it had been so difficult for Mr. Merrill to pray for Owen Meany—and why he had invited us all to offer up our silent prayers to Owen, instead of speaking out himself. And he called Mr. and Mrs. Meany “superstitious”! Look at the world: look at how many of our peerless leaders presume to tell us that they know what God wants! It’s not God who’s fucked up, it’s the screamers who say they believe in Him and who claim to pursue their ends in His holy name!

Related Symbols: The Baseball
Page Number: 554
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Baseball Symbol Timeline in A Prayer for Owen Meany

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Baseball appears in A Prayer for Owen Meany. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Foul Ball
Powerlessness Theme Icon
Owen’s tie would often become untucked from his trousers, and his loose change and baseball cards sometimes fell out of his pockets, but he wasn’t injured or stolen from, only... (full context)
Powerlessness Theme Icon
While Owen loved baseball, he was not a good player. He was too small to swing at a ball... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...so he was inserted as a pinch runner, too. But he was afraid of the baseball, and rarely caught it, and his hand was too small to throw it. However, his... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...were eleven when John’s mother died. It was summer, and they were growing bored with baseball. Their team was badly losing the game, and the coach, Mr. Chickering, was bored, too.... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
After letting the first two pitches go, Owen hit the third ball foul, and it struck John’s mother in the head, killing her almost instantly. Mr. Chickering... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
Owen fled the game after apologizing to John for hitting the ball, and everyone later assumed he took the fatal ball from the scene. He was a... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Armadillo
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...poor Owen must have looked like while riding his bike home alone after the fateful baseball game, preparing to face his parents and tell them what he had done. (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...died, Owen deposits a few big boxes at their door. The boxes contain Owen’s entire baseball card collection, his most prized possession. Dan says that Owen gave the beloved cards to... (full context)
Chapter 3: The Angel
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...hallucination that Owen believed was real. He became irritated when Owen later suggested that the baseball that killed Tabitha was “fated”; John believes that his mother’s death was purely an accident,... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
Chief Pike was also at Tabitha’s funeral, still on the lookout for the stolen ball. Pike stared at Owen throughout the whole funeral, suspecting him of possessing the ball. Just... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...He doesn’t understand why until he hears it for himself—the sound of children nearby playing baseball. After the funeral, the Wheelwrights and Eastmans return to Harriet’s house, where Aunt Martha and... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
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...later that Mr. Meany stopped interfering with anything Owen wanted after Owen hit the fatal ball. (full context)
Chapter 4: The Little Lord Jesus 
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
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...him to touch. John imagines that Owen must be keeping other things out of sight—his baseball cards, the fatal baseball, the armadillo’s claws, and the missing baby Jesus. (full context)
Chapter 5: The Ghost of the Future 
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...that many of the same people in the crowd must have also been watching the baseball game the day Tabitha was killed. Mr. Chickering is there, and Chief Pike. John remembers... (full context)
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
...his hair long. If they have a daughter, they will insist in enrolling her in baseball, to Mr. Chickering’s dismay. Amanda serves on the Town Library Board, and believes in banning... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
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...he realized that night about his father, and Owen agrees that John’s instincts regarding the baseball game and stirrings of lust are pointing him in the right direction. He argues that... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Voice 
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...watching the crowds at Dan’s shows and searching their memories for who was at the baseball game. They decide that Mrs. Merrill never would have gone to a game, not being... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
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...be careful not to give them any way to get him. Although he doesn’t play baseball anymore, once his favorite game, Owen still plays soccer, tennis, and basketball throughout the year.... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
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...and grandmother and doesn’t mind living in two places. Dolder wants John to bring a baseball to his next session, and bring Owen, too, but John refuses. (full context)
Chapter 9: The Shot
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...laid down while John, Noah and Simon searched the house for Owen. He finds a baseball card under the couch cushions and realizes that Owen had been lying under the couch... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
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...statue of Mary Magdalene to Tabitha’s armless dummy. He sees that Owen never unpacked his baseball cards after John gave them back to him. He sees how withered the armadillo’s claws... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
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Mr. Meany says the baseball was never there—he looked for it in Owen’s room for years, and never found it.... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
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...parents told Owen when he was ten or eleven, around when he hit the fatal baseball. (full context)
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...IN THE THIRD DRAWER, RIGHT-HAND SIDE.” Merrill opens the desk drawer and out falls a baseball, undoubtedly the fatal ball that killed Tabitha. “Forgive me, my s-s-s-son!” Merrill stutters. (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
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...hovering above the flowers, her missing head and feet consumed by shadows. He takes the baseball and throws it through the stained-glass window, then hides behind a tree. (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
Merrill comes outside, spots Tabitha’s dummy, and falls to his knees, clutching the baseball to his heart. He drops the ball and prays: “God—forgive me!...Tabby—forgive me, please!” He covers... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
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...margin of one page, Owen wrote, “THIRD DRAWER, RIGHT-HAND SIDE.” He must have seen the baseball the day that he mounted the statue on the stage of The Great Hall, and... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...door of the church as if he’s going to frisk the mourners for the missing baseball. Coach Chickering is there, and Buzzy Thurston’s parents, who recently buried their own son. Father... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
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Sunlight shines through the new hole in the stained-glass windows made by John’s baseball, reflecting against the medal pinned to the flag on Owen’s casket. Mr. Meany and Mrs.... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
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...Tabitha’s funeral. It’s another summer funeral, and they can still hear the children nearby playing baseball. Merrill prays over Owen’s grave, and John listens with careful attention, knowing that he is... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
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...man.” Merrill was so forgettable that John and Owen never remembered seeing him at their baseball game, even though they saw him in the audience of all of Dan’s plays. John... (full context)