Study Guide

Dean Bodger in The World According to Garp

By John Irving

Dean Bodger

Dean Bodger is one of the few father figures in Garp's early life.

We learn this in the aftermath of Garp's rooftop accident. Bodger lectures Garp, telling him to never "ever disappoint your mother" (2.92). This is surely the sort of male presence Jenny was hoping to find for Garp at the Steerling School—a sort of pseudo-father, giving a classic fatherly talk to Garp. And it's clear that Bodger loves Garp since he "wept almost as much as Helen at Garp's death" (19.77). Aw…

Because of this affection and guidance, though, it's a bit odd that Bodger partially inspires the character of Arden Bensenhaver, as created by Garp. While the two are as different as Dirty Harry and Paul Blart, there's a notable connection between Bensenhaver's unorthodoxy and Bodger's tendency toward "bizarre arrests" (19.78). And because of this, in The World According to Bensenhaver, a stand-in for Garp's father figure kills Garp's stand-in for himself. That's heavy stuff. Although they're never fully explored, Garp's father issues are always lingering under the surface.