Study Guide

Mrs. Ralph in The World According to Garp

By John Irving

Mrs. Ralph

It's telling that we don't learn Mrs. Ralph's real name until after Garp's death—despite his feminist upbringing, Garp has an unsettling tendency to objectify the women that he's attracted to.

Mrs. Ralph's life is filled with men like Garp. Although she's studying to get her graduate degree, she's consistently courted by men more interested in her body than her brain. But as we all know, this doesn't mean she doesn't still have her brain (even if men won't acknowledge it), and she proves her intelligence and perceptiveness when she observes that Garp "never once said sorry" (11.150) to Helen on the phone.

It shouldn't be surprising, then, that Helen "came to rather like the woman" (19.129) after Garp's death. Helen can see Mrs. Ralph—or, should we say, Florence Bowlsby—as a person, not just a sexual object. Finally.