A Prayer for Owen Meany

Weightlessness Symbol Analysis

Weightlessness Symbol Icon

Owen’s weightlessness, which forms the opening and closing motif of the book, symbolizes the way that one’s flaws or deficiencies actually can be used for good. Throughout the story, John is fixated on Owen’s extraordinary lightness and his seeming vulnerability to every minor force, even the meager strength of his young peers. Owen’s weakness is deceptive, however. He cannot be budged from any ideological stance; his will is like the heavy granite he mines and refines in the family business. Moreover, the conclusion of the book suggests that Owen’s weightlessness was merely a sign of his formidable mission and his election by God. His lightness doesn’t stop him from orchestrating enormous feats of strength, from picking up a whole car and carrying it up a flight of stairs to prying up a solid marble statue and depositing it on an auditorium stage. Of course, Owen himself never touched the car—the basketball team did all the work—nor did he dislodge the statue without a great deal of specialized equipment, but he was the primary force behind these efforts. He transcends his physical limitations by wielding other means of carrying out his objectives. Thus he refuses to let his disadvantage dictate his life, determined to fulfill his ambition by force of will. He trusts in God to help him where his own means fall short; the novel implies that God intervened when he was being tested for the Army’s height and weight requirements (“Since when do you weigh one hundred pounds?” John later asks him in disbelief). In the novel’s climax, Owen’s diminutive size endears him to the frightened Vietnamese children, who quickly follow his orders to get down on the ground, and allows Owen to rise high out of John’s hands with the deadly grenade, sacrificing himself to save everyone else.

Weightlessness Quotes in A Prayer for Owen Meany

The A Prayer for Owen Meany quotes below all refer to the symbol of Weightlessness. 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 1 Quotes

Owen was so tiny, we loved to pick him up; in truth, we couldn’t resist picking him up. We thought it was a miracle: how little he weighed.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany, Mary Beth Baird
Related Symbols: Weightlessness
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other A Prayer for Owen Meany quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 9 Quotes

When we held Owen Meany above our heads, when we passed him back and forth—so effortlessly—we believed that Owen weighed nothing at all. We did not realize that there were forces beyond our play. Now I know they were the forces that contributed to our illusion of Owen's weightlessness; they were the forces we didn’t have the faith to feel, they were the forces we failed to believe in—and they were also lifting up Owen Meany, taking him out of our hands.

O God—please give him back! I shall keep asking You.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany, Mary Beth Baird
Related Symbols: Weightlessness
Page Number: 627
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire A Prayer for Owen Meany LitChart as a printable PDF.
A prayer for owen meany.pdf.medium

Weightlessness Symbol Timeline in A Prayer for Owen Meany

The timeline below shows where the symbol Weightlessness 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
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...the tiny Owen like an infant and passing him over their heads. They thought his weightlessness was miraculous.    (full context)
Chapter 9: The Shot
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...marry the father, a dairy farmer. She asks John, “How could he have been so light?” John can’t speak—he doesn’t want to hear his own voice, only Owen’s. When Mary Beth... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...it and passes it to Owen. Owen jumps into his hands, and John lifts him lightly. (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...his bayonet, but Rawls grabs Dick’s machete and breaks Dick’s neck with it. Meanwhile, Owen soars toward the high window. He stuffs the grenade into the windowsill and holds it in... (full context)
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
...in the cemetery, if he hadn’t been speechless with grief. When they held Owen so lightly above their heads as children, they didn’t know that there were other forces at work,... (full context)