Suspense Examples in a Prayer for Owen Meany

1493 Words Dec 20th, 2006 6 Pages
Different Ways John Irving Creates Suspense in A Prayer for Owen Meany

In John Irving's novel titled, A Prayer for Owen Meany, suspenseful events are of abundance, and there are multiple ways the author creates this suspense. Among these methods of creating suspense, four that stand out are the use of setting, the pace of the story, the involvement of mysteries to be solved, and the ability of the reader to easily identify and sympathize with the protagonist. By placing a character in a gloomy or solitary place, uncomfortable feelings are created, which append to the suspense. Pace and structure of the story also play into the foundation of suspense, as shorter sentences and stronger, more cutting verbs and adjectives are often used to
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Another important technique used by Irving is the use of ongoing mystery for a long duration of time. Throughout a major portion of the book, one may continually ask "When and how will Owen Meany die?" and "Who is John Wheelwright's real father?" When the events that answer these questions finally reveal themselves, the reader is in a state of suspense, wanting to know the answers. Also, the repetition of raising such mysteries plays an important part in creating suspense. There are many places where it is revealed that Owen Meany knows how and when he will die, but the reader is unaware, as well as the main character, other than the fact that Owen presumes he will die a hero in Vietnam. When the fateful day arrives, Owen is not fighting the war in Vietnam like he thought his recurring dream had revealed to him, but rather he is at the Sky Harbor airport in Arizona. He becomes unsure and anxious, which further builds the suspense. The answer to the question of "How will Owen Meany die?" is finally answered in the very last pages in the book, "…the door was kicked wide open and Dick Jarvits stood there, nearly as tall and thin as the tall, thin room; he held a chicom grenade – carefully – in both hands…" (612). Dick then throws the grenade to John, who hands it to Owen and automatically the two of them carry out The Shot, a slam dunk move they had formerly practiced and perfected together with a
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