Study Guide

Ernie Holm in The World According to Garp

By John Irving

Ernie Holm

If Ernie had a theme song, it'd the sad music from Charlie Brown. The poor guy gets no breaks. His wife leaves him and then, when he meets an amazing woman—Jenny Fields—he realizes that she has no interest in men. See what we mean? Those are some tough breaks.

And then, of course, there's Ernie's untimely death. The interesting thing—to us, at least—is the nature of his death. We learn from Dean Bodger that Ernie suffers a heart attack while reading the issue of Crotch Shots "where the first chapter of The World According to Bensenhaver had been published" (17.257). One question remains—what caused him to have a heart attack?

Was it simply overexcitement over the magazine's salacious pictures? Was he upset by the clearly autobiographical implications of Bensenhaver? In fact, you could even argue that the death of Jenny could have something to do with it. We never learn the answer, but it's a question well worth considering.