Owen’s exceptional voice, made unforgettable by the ALL-CAPS formatting of his speech, symbolizes that he is chosen by God. John Irving’s special treatment of Owen’s speech in the book has been compared to the red-lettering editions of the Bible, in which the words spoken by Jesus are printed in striking red ink, while the rest of the words are printed in black. Owen’s voice is thus unmistakably divine, as he himself claims throughout the book. He believes that his voice was made permanently high and childlike by God, suggesting lasting innocence and moral purity and allowing him to communicate his good intentions to the frightened children when he carries out his climactic self-sacrifice. After Owen’s death, when divine forces save John from falling down the stairs and also reveal his long-sought-after birth father to him, it is Owen’s unmistakable voice speaking to him from the beyond that proves to John beyond a doubt that God is at work.
As a child, Owen sometimes abstains from using his voice, self-conscious of how unusually high and childlike it sounds. Ironically, as Owen gets older and his peers’ voices all begin to deepen with puberty, Owen seems to grow into his unchanging, squeaky voice. Rather than avoid drawing attention to his peculiar speech, he makes it central to his adolescent identity, becoming The Voice of Gravesend Academy in the school newspaper. The period when his voice did not change with puberty seems to have confirmed to him the special role God intended for him and his voice to play. If his earlier reluctance to speak represented his doubts and unease about God’s design, then his later determination to raise his voice represents his faith and commitment to God’s path for him.
The Voice Quotes in A Prayer for Owen Meany
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.
I remember the independent study that Owen Meany was conducting with the Rev. Lewis Merrill in the winter term of l962. I wonder if those cheeseburgers in the Reagan administration are familiar with Isaiah 5:20. As The Voice would say: “WOE UNTO THOSE THAT CALL EVIL GOOD AND GOOD EVIL.”
“YOU’RE MY BEST FRIEND,” said Owen Meany—his voice breaking a little. I assumed it was the telephone; I thought we had a bad connection.