The World According to Garp Summary
Everything starts with Jenny Fields. Jenny was a feminist before feminists were cool—she's a working nurse with zero interest in men. She does, however, have interest in becoming a mother.
Enter the poor Technical Sargent Garp, a wounded soldier who ends up in Jenny's care. Garp, despite his child-like mental state, is still quite interested in sex. And so the proudly asexual Jenny Fields makes a baby with her ecstatic patient just weeks before his death. She names him T.S. Garp.
Jenny gets a job as a nurse at the Steerling School, an all-boys academy that Garp eventually attends. He joins the wrestling team and falls in love with Helen, his coach's daughter, and since Helen is an avid reader, Garp decides to become a writer at a young age. He ends up losing his virginity to Cushie Percy, however, and then he doesn't even see Helen for some time.
See, Garp and Jenny are going to Vienna so Garp can fulfill his dream of becoming a writer. Jenny secretly wants to become a writer, too, though, and during their trip, she ends up finishing her autobiography, A Sexual Suspect, which catapults her to fame on their return to America. Garp finishes his first work, too—a short story called "The Pension Grillparzer"—and although it doesn't make him as famous as Jenny, it's good enough to convince Helen to marry Garp. Not bad for a first try.
These next years are full of changes. Garp and Helen have their first son, Duncan, and Garp writes his first novel, Procrastination. Although their marriage looks solid on the surface, Garp cheats on Helen multiple times, culminating in a bizarre partner-swapping ordeal. Feelings are hurt and hearts are broken, but at least Garp has the inspiration behind his next novel—The Second Wind of the Cuckold.
Things only get worse from there, though, and Garp stops writing altogether. The one bright spot is the birth of their second son, Walt. The memory of Garp's affairs takes its toll, however, when Helen has her own affair with a grad student. Garp finds out and demands that Helen end their relationship. This leads to a car accident that hurts Helen and Garp, causes Duncan to lose an eye, and kills Walt. Ugh.
The road to recovery is a long one. The family stays at Dog's Head Harbor, Jenny's hospital and home for wayward women. The couple manages to rebuild their relationship and have a daughter named, um, Jenny. Garp finally starts writing again, channeling his trauma into a heart-breaking novel called The World According to Bensenhaver, which launches him to literary success and controversial infamy.
Then, just as things are looking up, tragedy strikes again. First, Jenny is assassinated while campaigning for a feminist-leaning gubernatorial candidate. Then, several years later, Garp is shot and killed by Pooh Percy, the nutty younger sister of Cushie who's convinced that Garp killed her. Despite these tragic ends, though, the book makes it clear that both Garp and Jenny's legacies will live on into the future. Go team.
- Jenny Fields (mother of the titular Garp) once got arrested for assaulting a soldier at a movie theater in the middle of World War II.
- The year is 1942 and Jenny is twenty-two years old, has recently "dropped out of college" (1.2), and is now studying to become a nurse. You go, girl.
- Jenny comes from a super wealthy family who look at college solely as a four-year opportunity for her to find a husband. Needless to say, Jenny's parents are disappointed with her decision to actually pursue a career. Like, why?
- Let's get back to that movie theater, though: The soldier creeps up on Jenny and slips his hand "under her uniform" (1.33). Bad move, brohemian.
- Jenny the Ripper pulls out a scalpel (left in her purse from work) and slices up his arm. The soldier takes a swing, but that's like going after Robocop with a weed whacker—you're not going to win that fight. Jenny helpfully removes a piece of his lip and the soldier escapes into the lobby.
- Jenny follows and finds the theater staff crowded around the bloody soldier. Her nursing instincts kick in and she tries to help, but her blood-covered outfit is a dead giveaway, so she calls the police.
- The cops aren't very understanding: They keep asking Jenny if she's "been dating this guy long" (1.38). Ugh. It's not until they learn that the soldier has a family that they let Jenny go—typical. Jenny, for her part, is just upset that they confiscated her scalpel.
- Jenny's family thinks she's gone off the deep end after this ordeal. Her mother starts sending her douche bags (it's a real medical device, people—look it up) because she thinks that Jenny is promiscuous. The truth, however, is that Jenny has no interest in sex whatsoever.
- At the hospital, Jenny loves telling new mothers with husbands who died in the war how lucky they are to have a child but no husband. Is she making her feelings about men clear yet?
- Throughout all of this, the novel keeps referencing Jenny's autobiography called "A Sexual Suspect" (1.85). We'll find more about it later…
- Jenny's odd demeanor makes her notorious among the hospital staff. She tells them, half-joking, that she wants to "find a man to make her pregnant" and "nothing more" (1.85). Joking aside, it doesn't take long for a bunch of lonely doctors and medical students to bury her in proposals. She turns them all down.
- Finally fed up, the hospital staff tries to fix Jenny by taking her out of the newborn ward and sending her to intensive care.
- Jenny sees a lot of soldiers while in the intensive care ward. She creates a categorization system for their various conditions, labeling them "Externals," "Vital Organs," "Absentees," and "Goners" (1.97-100).
- Garp's father is one of these soldiers—a Goner, to be precise, through and through. Technical Sergeant Garp was a ball turret gunner in the war, wounded after being hit in the head with flak.
- When the paramedics get to him, he's in a mush-brained daze, saying nothing but the word "Garp!" and touching himself in a rather intimate way.
- Garp is sent to Boston Mercy as a publicity stunt for an embattled senator—and a "wounded orphan" (1.124) with a "one word vocabulary"(1.125) makes the perfect publicity stunt.
- Jenny finds herself immediately sympathetic toward the childlike Garp. He's usually pretty happy, except when prevented from indulging in his daily masturbatory routine.
- They spend a lot of time together: Jenny plays him radio shows and tries to teach him new words. In fact, it's a lot of the same stuff she did when she cared for children; Garp even tries to suckle on Jenny—and she lets him.
- Meanwhile, Garp is deteriorating. He can't even say Garp anymore: just "Arp" and then "only an Ar" (1.146).
- This leads Jenny to make a sudden decision: One night she approaches him in bed and takes off her clothes. Cue smooth sax music. They briefly make love.
- Technical Sergeant Garp dies a few weeks later.
- Jenny is fired from the hospital after she becomes pregnant, and she winds up back at her parents' home in Dog's Head Harbor to wait out the rest of her pregnancy.
- She gives birth to a boy whom she names T.S. Garp—that was all she knew of his daddy's name, after all.
Blood and Blue
- Jenny accepts a position as a staff nurse at the Steerling School, a fancy-pants all-boys prep school.
- Naturally, there is a ton of interest surrounding the single Nurse Fields and the oddly named T.S. Garp. Jenny has crafted a perfectly vague story to keep people from prodding too much.
- Jenny takes the opportunity to get herself an education, reading everything in the library and attending "classes in her off-duty hours" (2.16).
- Truthfully, Jenny is only taking these classes to find out which courses are good enough for Garp when he gets old enough. Over-parent much?
- She becomes head nurse around the time when Garp turns five.
- One night, Jenny can't find Garp. She tries the intercom—no luck. She looks in his typical hiding spots—no luck there either. While she's looking, Jenny receives a buzz from a student named Hathaway on the fourth floor.
- Hathaway has two broken legs and can't walk, so he's buzzing Jenny because he needs her help finding his lacrosse stick.
- Jenny impatiently tells him that she's looking for Garp. Hathaway has a guilty conscience, because he just taught Garp to trap pigeons on the roof with a lacrosse stick; he tells Jenny and she runs to the roof.
- Garp had been climbing on the gutter when it collapsed, sending him into the gutter, which is now precariously hanging from the side of the building. The pigeon is in there, too, but it "had not moved" (2.59).
- Jenny grabs hold of Garp's leg but the gutter is giving way. Dean Bodger is standing underneath them four stories below, ordering students to stack mattresses below our imperiled heroes. Is this Looney Tunes or something?
- Suddenly, the gutter collapses. Garp is safe, though, because Jenny somehow pulled him onto the fire escape at the last moment. The poor pigeon isn't so lucky and goes plummeting down.
- From Dean Bodger's perspective, that falling bird looks an awful lot like a falling Garp. He catches it and gets the "wind socked out of him" (2.74).
- Everyone is relieved that Garp is safe, but he receives a stern talking-to from the Dean after he's patched up.
- There's a teacher at Steerling named Stewart Percy, better known as "Fat Stew" (2.115). Stew teaches a meaningless class each year for one reason—he married Midge Steerling. Now, we're not saying he's a gold digger...
- Garp hangs out at the Steerling Family home quite often. His mortal enemy is Bonkers, the Percys' vicious dog.
- One day, Bonkers leaps on Garp and tears off his left earlobe. Cushie Percy, who's about Garp's age, brings Garp to Fat Stew. Instead of helping him, though, Stew gets all racist and calls Garp a "Jap" (2.146). Garp didn't know what this means; he assumes it has something to do with ears.
- Garp continues to have a close, albeit often hostile, relationship with the Percy children. There's Dopey, who would eventually die in his early thirties, and there's William, who would be killed in the war.
- And finally there's Cushie and Pooh, the youngest of the clan. Both of these girls will play a larger role in the novel later.
What He Wanted to Be When He Grew Up
- The Steerling School was founded in 1781 by "the widow and children of Everett Steerling" (3.1). Steerling was such a major economic force for the city that they named the town after him.
- Although Jenny exhaustively surveyed Garp's potential courses before he started at the Steerling School, she was not quite as thorough with his prospective sports.
- Adding to Garp's difficulty is the fact that he hates any sport with an "extension device" like a "bat or a stick" (3.12), or even those simply with a ball. Yeah, that rules a lot of sports out.
- Finally Jenny decides, as usual, to do it herself. This leads her to the school's wrestling gym, where she finds young wrestlers puking, bleeding, and gasping for air. Seems like a good time, right?
- The wrestling coach is a new hire named Ernie Holm. He's just moved East with his daughter, Helen, who's currently sitting in the corner of the room devouring a book. No, not literally, of course.
- Helen's mom was a nurse, so when she sees Jenny walk in, she immediately assumes that Jenny is her mom. To be honest, so does Ernie, for a moment.
- The two single parents talk after practice finishes. Helen hugs Jenny goodbye—and in this moment Jenny is "more of a mother to Helen than Helen had ever had" (3.72).
- Later that night, Jenny tells Garp about Ernie and Helen, and Garp seems to be awfully interested in what she has to say about Helen.
- It turns out that Garp and wrestling are the perfect combo, like peanut butter and jelly, Kim and Kanye, or Rogan and Franco.
- One day, Garp asks Helen if she's going to be a writer. When Helen says no, Garp then suggests that she might "marry a writer" (3.106). Helen agrees to that one.
- And just like that, Garp has found his career path.
- Garp writes a short story every month "until his graduation" (4.1), though it takes him until junior year to show one to Helen.
- Helen's feedback, written in a letter, is lukewarm but kind-hearted; Garp finds an advocate in Professor Tinch, an English teacher with bad breath.
- One day during his senior year, Garp is walking with Cushie Percy to Steerling River. She teases him about his love for Helen but Garp avoids the subject.
- They end up next in a secluded spot next to an old cannon. Hormones a ragin', the two teenagers get all makey-outy.
- Cushie asks Garp if he has a "rubber" (4.93), but Garp doesn't understand. Knowingly, Cushie reaches into the cannon and shows him an old condom.
- Suddenly they see a golfer on the other side of the river. They can hear his partner shouting at him—it's Fat Stew. The golfer gets stuck and Stew runs down for help, but he immediately loses "a golf shoe and yellow sock to the suction" (4.113).
- The two teens giggle and hide in the bushes. Cushie performs oral sex on Garp and, afterward, he makes her promise to meet him the next weekend.
- When he calls her, however, she tells him that her dad knows about their riverside excursion—she tells him that she might be able to see him the weekend before his graduation.
- He writes Helen a long letter about his lust (not a smooth move, Garp) and she suggests that he go to Europe to learn how to write. Garp digs the idea.
- When he tells Jenny, however, he realizes that Jenny "meant to stay with him" (4.134). Despite his reservations, they settle on Vienna; what he doesn't know is that Jenny now wants to be a writer too.
- Finally, Garp graduates. Helen doesn't show up and Garp doesn't see Cushie in the crowd.
- Although Garp now has his condoms, he doesn't have an opportunity to use them, so he ends up tossing back a few beers with Jenny instead until she passes out "halfway through her second beer" (4.156).
- Garp sneaks out of the house. Any guesses as to where he's going?
- Cushie and Garp try to sneak away, but Bonkers, now "half-blind" (4.176), doesn't seem eager to let them go. He barks and barks until the lights come on in the house. Garp and Cushie get away, but not before Garp pulls a Mike Tyson on Bonkers's ear as payback.
- They manage to get to the infirmary through the campus' underground tunnels. Garp and Cushie have sex three times that night, and he feels great. He feels a little less great, however, when Fat Stew and his crew show up just before dawn.
In the City Where Marcus Aurelius Died
- Gar and Jenny head to Vienna that summer. They stay at various "pensions" (a.k.a. small motels) before choosing an apartment in the "sophisticated, cosmopolitan part of Vienna" (5.3).
- Jenny spends most of her time writing at home, while Garp follows Tinch's advice to "absorb" (5.17) his surroundings. He has hardcore writer's block, except where letters to Helen are concerned.
- There's just one problem with Jenny's work: She's a crummy writer, so while her life story is interesting, she doesn't know how to convey it to readers.
- Meanwhile, Garp has started work on a short story about a man who inspects and grades pensions—but in the end, "it was easier to write to Helen" (5.26).
- Garp feels isolated in Vienna, partly because there are few kids his age around, and partly because he's jealous of Jenny's prodigious writing.
- He gets inspiration one day when he sees a traveling circus (complete with a motorcycle-riding bear) at the railroad station. He wants to fit these wacky characters in his story—but how?
- By winter, Jenny has completed over six hundred pages of her manuscript. Holy smokes, right? As for Garp, he still hasn't started his story yet and Helen has stopped writing him back.
- Garp finally makes a breakthrough during a visit to the Vienna museum. That day, there's a special exhibit featuring the "writer's room" (5.38) of Austrian author Franz Grillparzer.
- After his museum day, Garp picks up "The Poor Fiddler" by Grillparzer and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Garp hates Grillparzer's writing, and this disdain gives him the confidence to start writing in earnest.
- One night, Garp and Jenny are walking behind three women when Jenny points at one of the women's coat and tells Garp that she wants one.
- But Garp knows something Jenny doesn't: the three women are prostitutes, which is legal in Vienna. When they see Jenny and Garp, they immediately assume that Jenny is one of their coworkers on the job.
- When she finds this out, Jenny decides that she wants something else—she wants them to tell her about "lust" (5.96).
- After some confusion—and some haggling—Garp convinces one of them to join them at a nearby coffee shop. She doesn't have any answers for Jenny's limitless questions, however.
- Before leaving, Jenny gives Garp some money to buy his own session with the woman. Embarrassed, Garp declines, but it's not as if he hasn't visited the working ladies before.
- The next day, Garp goes back to the corner and hires one of the girls they met the previous night. Her name is Charlotte, and it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship—Garp becomes a long-term client and the two become close.
- Finally, Garp gets to work on his story, now titled "The Pension Grillparzer."
- The story follows a man who works for the "Austrian Tourist Bureau" (5.146) and rates hotels (or pensions) using the letter grading scale. His family—his wife and two sons, Robo and the unnamed narrator—always tag along.
- Their merry band is joined by Johanna, their grandmother. She's mad cranky, yo—plus, word on the street is that their next hotel is infested with bears. Eek.
- They arrive at the Pension Grillparzer, a "Class C pension that wanted to be a B" (5.194), and meet Herr Theobald, the owner.
- Unfortunately, there are only two rooms available and they're on opposite sides of the building, so Johanna will be staying alone next to the bathroom while everyone else crowds in a room on the other wing.
- In the lobby, they meet a singer and an odd Hungarian who is said to "tell dreams" (5.223).
- The odd man recites to Johanna a dream of a husband and wife lying together in a castle while an army of ghost soldiers clatters about outside; the husband eventually dies of a respiratory illness.
- Johanna slaps him in the face and storms off. Mom tells Theobald that her father (Johanna's husband) actually had died of a respiratory disease.
- That night, the kids hear a bike in the hallway… and then they see a pair of hands walking outside their door. Spooky.
- Suddenly, Johanna screams from across the pension. They rush over, and she tells them that she heard "whispers" (5.236) and "a wheel" (5.238).
- Johanna then tells them that she had the same exact dream that the mystic described earlier. She's creeped out, to say the least.
- Johanna ends up staying with the boys while their parents stay in the room next to the bathroom. The boys sneak out to pee, but they stop in their tracks when they see paws beneath the stall door.
- They run into their parents' room, but are quickly caught in a makeshift trap—their parents thought they were intruders.
- The scuffle knocks the bear's unicycle over, and the bear seems upset until a woman emerges from a room and leads him away.
- That's as far as Garp got. It's not bad, but he still needs an ending.
The Pension Grillparzer
- It's spring and Garp still hasn't finished his story. Jenny, on the other hand, has made a breakthrough and is finally satisfied with her work.
- He's still seeing Charlotte. In fact, she even takes him to her personal physician—Doktor Thalhammer—after he catches gonorrhea from a frisky American student.
- But then Charlotte disappears; the other working girls warn him that her "sex is sick" (6.16).
- Charlotte has been staying at the Rudolfinerhaus, Vienna's only private hospital. But while she has enough money to afford a private room, things aren't looking good so far.
- Garp visits her frequently. He tells a nurse that he's Charlotte's son, and Charlotte appreciates the gesture; she dies "a week later" (6.35).
- Garp sees his first opera that night. He meets one of Charlotte's friends, named Tina, who tells him that Charlotte "bought Garp a favor" (6.44), but he politely refuses.
- Garp has stopped writing to Helen altogether. When Helen sends Jenny a letter asking about Garp, Jenny sends back a copy of her autobiography—titled A Sexual Suspect—instead.
- Finally, Garp sends Helen a letter telling her that he wants to marry her. Her response, more or less, is to "go stick it in [his] ear" (6.56). Garp responds that he has completed his story and that it will prove to her how serious he is.
- Meanwhile, Jenny learns about a publisher named John Wolf, and she decides to send him A Sexual Suspect when she returns to the States. Garp sends Helen his story before they fly back home.
- Next, we're shown the conclusion to the "The Pension Grillparzer."
- It's the morning-after and the whole family is complaining to Theobald about their ordeals; the mystic and singer are sitting in the same spots, more or less.
- One of men apologizes and tells Dad that their circus has been staying at the hotel because they married Theobald's sister.
- Yes, they—apparentlyTheobald's sister is married to the mystic and the singer. Their circus has gone through hard times in recent years, but Theobald is too kind-hearted to throw them out.
- Regardless, he needs a "B rating to attract more tourists" (6.115), so Theobald's sister is out front with the bear, hoping to attract some tourists herself.
- On the way out, the family debates what rating to give the pension. Father, out of mercy, decides to give them their much-needed "B" rating.
- Years pass and Johanna passes away. Oddly, Mom is now having the same dream repeated by the mystic all those year ago.
- After his parents' death, the narrator decides to visit the Pension Grillparzer with his second wife.
- Herr Theobald is dead, and all of the members of the circus have died, too—everyone, that is, except for Theobald's sister.
- The bear was eventually banned from the inside after scaring away too many guests. He was sent to live in a cage and died "a short two months after he'd take up his new lodgings" (6.161).
- The narrator and his wife drive home.
- Helen likes the story enough to marry Garp—mission accomplished—and Garp also sends it to Tinch's favorite journal. They reject it, though, describing the story as "only mildly interesting" (7.2). Burn.
- Helen would complete college in only two years and earn her Ph.D. in Literature by age twenty-three, while Garp moved at a slower pace and wouldn't complete his first novel for five years.
- Jenny's life is pretty different now, to say the least. She had submitted her story to John Wolf, who was shocked to realize that he had a bona fide bestseller on his hands.
- A Sexual Suspect is a blockbuster-level success. While a few reviewers criticize of the quality of her writing, most were awed by what is called "the first truly feminist autobiography" (7.36).
- Jenny doesn't know how to react to her newfound fame. She doesn't feel like writing another book, though, so instead she moves back home to care for her mother after her father's sudden death.
- Garp and Helen have their first child: a boy named Duncan. Garp becomes a stay-at-home dad of sorts, splitting his time between caring for Duncan and working on his novel.
- Jenny's mother passes away. This causes her to act a little strange: She now surrounds herself with an entourage of her female supporters.
- Garp resents his mother's success and dislikes her followers. He's a little famous now, too, but only as the unsuccessful writer son of a bestselling author. Ouch, that has to sting.
- One day, Jenny shows up at Garp's apartment with a tough-looking but completely silent woman. Garp tries to coax her into talking, but Jenny explains that the woman doesn't have a tongue.
- It turns out that the woman is a member of the "Ellen Jamesian" (7.77) movement, founded in honor of Ellen James, an eleven year-old girl whose tongue was cut out by her rapists. Disgruntled women formed the Ellen James Society, each member cutting their own tongue out as a symbolic gesture.
- Ellen Jamesians communicate exclusively through notes. Garp is annoyed by this, but he holds his tongue—bad pun—because he is living off of Jenny's money after all.
- Garp's first novel (when he finally finishes it) is titled Procrastination. Funny, right? The novel is set in Vienna during from 1938-1945, and it follows the rise and fall of the Schonbrunn—the Viennese zoo that housed Grillparzer's bear. Like his first story, it ends with the death of a bear in the struggling zoo.
- The novel is well-received, but hardly a success on the level of A Sexual Suspect.
- Garp manages to make a bit of money, however, and Helen starts earning a salary as a professor. Instead of bliss, this creates a perfect storm: Garp wants another kid.
- Helen agrees, but she wishes that Garp would "relax" (7.116). Plus, while they love each other a lot, Garp cheats on Helen with a family babysitter.
- But that isn't the only crazy thing to happen during their first five years of marriage.
- One day, Garp is running in the park when he sees something crazy: a naked ten year-old covered in blood, running for her life. He tries to help, but quickly realizes that she has just been molested.
- A pair of mounted policemen sees them and assumes that Garp is the rapist. The girl stops them before they do anything rash, pointing to her lip to indicate that the bad guy has a mustache.
- With that, Garp is off and running. The first person he sees with a mustache is an old man; Garp proceeds to sniff his crotch in search of the stench of sex. Nope, not him—he's just one confused old dude.
- He runs to the men's room, passing a clean-shaven college kid on his way out. Garp looks in the sink and sees "whiskers rimming the bowl" (7.146).
- He runs after the college kids, shouting for the officers' attention. One of the mounted policemen catches up with the kid and his horse plows the kid over.
- The old man shows up right after they arrest the kid and assumes that Garp is the one in custody. Luckily, the officers think he's just a rambling madman.
- The story blows up. The newspaper headline reads "Unsuccessful Writer No Failure as Hero! […] Son of Famous Feminist Has Knack For Helping Girls" (7.176). Needless to say, Garp hates the attention.
- Garp would see the old man again a few months later at a drugstore when he is out buying condoms, which simply validates the old man's belief that Garp is a pervert.
- In truth, Garp is buying condoms for his tryst with the family babysitter, who he affectionately (or maybe not) refers to as "Little Squab Bones" (7.213). After a long courtship, Garp sleeps with Squab Bones the night before she heads home for the season.
Second Children, Second Novels, Second Love
- Garp and Helen name their second son Walt. Garp begins work on his second novel and Helen gets a job at a state university.
- That's where she meets Harrison Fletcher, a fellow English professor. He's married to a woman named Alice—a writer with a serious lisp—and the two couples become fast friends.
- One night, after a movie, Alice tearfully tells Garp that "Harrithon is having an affair" (8.18) with a student. Garp himself has had another babysitter affair by now and he tells Alice about both.
- Helen finds out about both Harrison and Garp's affairs. But she also learns that Alice is in love with Garp and decides that they've "got to help the Fletchers" (8.53). Okay…
- So one night, after a double date, Helen tells Garp to take Alice home. She's going to stay and deal with Harrison. Uh oh…
- Garp and Alice make love and he reads her the first chapter of her novel. Garp is falling for Alice, too.
- Plus Harrison is in love with Helen now, although Helen has little interest in him sexually. They continue their relationship, however, because she doesn't want lose him as a friend.
- It quickly becomes clear that this crazy arrangement "will have to stop, and pretty soon" (8.100). Shocking, we know.
- The whole arrangement finally comes to a halt when Helen calls the whole thing off. Alice has the hardest time letting things go.
- Harrison eventually gets fired after another student relationship becomes public, so he and Alice move away, although the two couples still keep in touch.
- Garp finishes his second novel and immediately throws it away. He then gets to work on his second second novel, titled Second Wind of the Cuckold.
- It's a novel "full of wounding dialogue and sex" (8.127), and it follows two married couples stuck in a bizarre affair. Sound familiar?
- Helen isn't pleased that Garp's revealed their personal life; she also thinks it doesn't happen to be very good book.
- In the midst of all of this, Jenny hires a new bodyguard named Roberta Muldoon. Roberta used to be a "standout tight end from the Philadelphia Eagles" (8.153), but gave it up after undergoing gender reassignment surgery. She and Garp become close immediately.
- Both Roberta and Jenny receive their fair share of hate mail, often threatening grievous bodily harm, so Garp tries to convince Jenny to law low, but Jenny wants to help other women.
- Then Garp starts to get hate mail calling Second Wind "mostly garbage and nonsense" (8.203). He provokes the lady letter writer and they exchange threatening missives back and forth. Good times.
- Garp realizes the problem with Second Wind—it's too much autobiography and not enough imagination. Feeling like he can't get over the hump, though, Garp decides to stop writing.
The Eternal Husband
- Garp is looking through the phone book (don't worry—before your time, kids) for lumber, but he becomes distracted looking at the marriage counselor section.
- At this point, Garp has "been married nearly eleven years" (9.2). He hasn't written anything in a while, and looking through the marriage counselor section makes him want to get a real job.
- Duncan, now ten years old, comes home from school. He asks Garp if he can spend the night at his friend Ralph's house, but Garp's distracted.
- Ralph is a little older than Duncan, which is strike one. He also doesn't trust his mother—who he refers to as "Mrs. Ralph"—so that's strike two (9.21). Even so, Duncan convinces Garp to let him go.
- Garp has become a paranoid parent, so much so that he imagines Duncan getting hit by a car as he rides away on his bike.
- Garp tries—and fails—to get some writing done. As usual, he vents his frustration by cooking a nice dinner for the family. Hey Garp, feel free to swing by our offices any time you're having a bad day… we love a nice meal.
- The phone rings: It's Helen. She reminds him about the lumber he was supposed to buy and he, in turn, tells her about his potential career as a marriage counselor. She is not amused.
- Helen comes home with a bundle of two by fours and little Walt in tow.
- Suddenly, Garp hears a car speeding by the house and sprints out the front door. He does this whenever he hears somebody speed by.
- To his surprise, the driver is none other than the "notorious Mrs. Ralph" (9.96). She looks like she's been crying, but they flirt in an awkward sort of way, until Garp sees a book on the passenger seat: Dostoevsky's The Eternal Husband.
- Mrs. Ralph tells Garp about her husband, who recently left her for a nineteen-year-old; then she throws The Eternal Husband at him and drives away.
The Dog in the Alley, the Child in the Sky
- Garp tells Helen that they have to "get Duncan out of that mad woman's house" (10.1), but Helen simply eyes The Eternal Husband with suspicion.
- After dinner, Garp sits down to tell Walt a bedtime story. Tonight, he improvises a story about a dog that belonged to a cafe owner in Vienna; the dog is tied to a large truck in the front.
- The dog is taunted daily by a stray cat, but his leash is too short to reach it. He manages to move the truck a few feet—seemingly enough to get the cat—but the cat dodges and runs away. Unfortunately, he runs directly into the street and is hit by a car.
- That night, Garp has a nightmare. He's on an airplane with Duncan, who needs to pee. Garp tells him to go to the bathroom by himself, but Duncan opens the wrong door and is "sucked through the open door and into the heavens" (10.183). Garp tries to save him but is sucked out as well. Eek.
- Garp and Helen make love and Helen falls asleep. Garp, however, is panicked by his dream and decides to check up on Duncan.
- Garp puts on his jogging shorts (no shirt) and runs to Mrs. Ralph's house.
- He looks through the windows and sees "the cancerous television" (11.11) blaring while Duncan and Ralph sleep on the couch.
- Suddenly, a figure emerges from the back of the house: It's Mrs. Ralph wearing nothing but a kimono. She sees Garp and flirtatiously leads him inside.
- Garp is ready to grab Duncan and go, but Mrs. Ralph has a request: She needs Garp "to get someone out of here" (11.21).
- She brings him to her room, where he finds a young, naked hippy. Garp has to bring him outside himself.
- When he returns, he finds Mrs. Ralph crying on her bed. She's embarrassed, but that doesn't stop her from making sexual advances toward Garp. He stops her—albeit half-heartedly.
- It's past 3:00AM, and for some reason, Garp decides to "clean the kitchen, to kill time until dawn" (11.110).
- Helen calls the house and Garp picks up. She's suspicious and demands that they come home immediately. Before they leave, however, Mrs. Ralph tells Garp that he'll "be back" (11.159).
- Garp and Duncan get stopped by the police on their way home. Who can blame them for being suspicious of the shirtless man carrying around a ten-year old?
- Luckily, they've heard of Garp's heroic park rescue and let him go—even though the young hippy is in the back of the cop car talking trash the whole time.
- Helen is furious, but she knows that "there is plenty of time to do damage when you know where the war wounds are" (11.254).
It Happens to Helen
- Garp has always been terrified of late-night phone calls—they send his already hyper-charged anxiety levels past eleven.
- Even so, he ends up making one himself after learning that Cushie's died in childbirth. Strangely, though, Fat Stew seems upset by this gesture. What Garp didn't realize is that Cushie died a while back: Bonkers had died the previous day.
- One night, Garp receives a late-night call from Roberta: another boyfriend has "flown the coop" (12.23). Roberta feels isolated after her sex change because of how slimy men can be.
- Roberta calls again a few weeks later. Oddly, Helen picks it up this time—in fact, she rushes to get it
- Helen isn't even in bed the next time Roberta calls. She's downstairs reading a story written by a student named Michael Milton.
- Michael Milton is a third-year grad student with a wispy mustache—he has his bachelors' degree in French from Yale. He's pretty lame: he loves to make a big deal about his time living in Paris, despite the fact that "he'd only spent a year" (12.73) there.
- Michael takes Helen's class and hands her a sexually suggestive note on the first day of class. Although Michael is hardly her type, Helen finds herself attracted to him—it doesn't help that Garp has been getting on her nerves lately.
- For example, Helen hates how Garp pulls into their driveway. Their house is at the bottom of a hill, so Garp cuts the engine and lights as they get to the driveway, and then idles into the garage.
- Helen notices that her car's gearshift knob is broken, exposing sharp metal, but while it hurts her hand, neither Garp nor Helen makes the effort to fix it.
- Michael Milton is waiting outside Helen's office when she arrives at work. Helen tries to make it clear that she's not interested, but even she must admit that he "tempted her" (12.111).
- They start spending time together, ostensibly so Helen can help Michael with his writing. Garp notices her new reading and writes a story called "Vigilance" to win back his favorite reader.
- It's a simple story about a man, like Garp, who chases after speeding cars in his neighborhood; he meets a few odd characters until a plumber named O. Fecteau freaks out and is arrested. Yeah, it's about as interesting as it sounds.
- Helen doesn't like the story—to her, it's "not much of anything" but a "trifle" (12.224). Garp storms upstairs and falls asleep.
- Helen goes upstairs and performs oral sex on Garp. Strangely, she now feels "freed to have her dreams" (12.251).
Walt Catches Cold
- Walt has caught a cold, which makes Garp endlessly paranoid. He hardly sleeps anymore—whenever he does, he just has bad dreams. In one recurring dream, he's distracted by a "pornographic magazine" (13.6) while his family is bombed from unseen aircrafts.
- Meanwhile, Helen finally gives in to Michael's advances. She tries to control the situation, though, demanding that he buy a car for their encounters and that they can only get together at his apartment. She puts her head in his lap during these cross-town rendezvous.
- Things start to go bad quickly, though, when a former girlfriend of Michael's named Margie Tallworth drops out of Helen's class "without so much as a note of explanation" (13.51). Uh oh…
- Margie has been trailing them and knows pretty much everything. After seeing Duncan and Walt outside Helen's home, she decides to leave a note revealing the affair in Garp's mailbox.
- Garp is jogging at the time, and he gets home just as Margie takes the letter out. Margie tries to run away, but drops the note, so Garp reads it and is furious.
- He takes Walt and Duncan to soccer practice in a daze. When they return home, Garp takes a bath with Walt. Uncharacteristically, Garp has completely forgotten about dinner.
- Helen can tell something is up when she gets home. She calls Garp, but he hides underwater "because he felt such hatred for her" (13.168).
- Walt shouts to her that Garp is holding his breath. Garp emerges a few moments later, but he tells Walt to keep the lie going.
- Helen panics and runs upstairs only to find Walt and Garp in towels. Helen apologizes, knowing that Garp has learned of the affair, but Garp is cold.
- He starts to cry when he realizes that the kids have been watching them fight. He demands that she "tell him goodbye" (13.126) (by him, Garp means her boy toy) without seeing him again—while she does, Garp will go to the movies with Walt and Duncan.
- The kids act up the whole way to the movie, but Garp has no patience for their nonsense, and when Walt points out the missing gear-shifter, Garp says that it's their "mother's job" (13.275).
- Helen calls Michael, and he comes over, mustache-free. This—along with his pathetic and borderline creepy demeanor—zaps away any attraction she had for him.
- Eventually, she promises to sit in the car with him. He starts to cry and Helen, desperate to get this over with, puts her head in his lap.
- But then things get dark. Michael forces Helen to perform oral sex on him in the car, and Helen, although horrified, wants to "avoid any scene, at any cost" (13.344), and doesn't fight back.
- Garp, meanwhile, has no patience for the movie. He can't get his mind of Helen—he even tries to call the house, but no one picks up. With that, he piles the kids in the car and speeds back home halfway through the film.
- He does his usual shut-off-and-coast ritual as he pulls into the dark driveway. As they hit the driveway going "about forty miles per hour" (13.389), Walt says he feels like he's in "a dream" (13.394).
The World According to Marcus Aurelius
- As you might've guessed, Garp's car collided into Michael's. The accident must've been bad, because the family is now staying with Jenny at Dog Head's Harbor.
- Duncan lost his eye in the accident—it "was gouged out" by the "uncovered tip of the stick-shift shaft" (14.3). Ouch.
- Helen was giving Michael oral sex when the impact happened, so she broke two teeth, strained her neck, and needed stitches in her tongue.
- But that's the least of it—the collision was so powerful that she accidentally bit off "three quarters of Michael Milton's penis" (14.6). Ha.
- Garp also sustained some injuries: His jaw was broken and tongue torn up, preventing him from speaking.
- Duncan, though bed-ridden, manages to find the bright side of his injury. It sparks an interest in art—he now wants to be a photographer or painter.
- It takes Garp a while to finally interact with Helen. He sends her a series of notes, saying that he doesn't blame either of them and that "only in this way can we be whole again" (14.28).
- The experience fosters a bit of empathy within Garth, and he even manages to have good interactions with Ellen Jamesians—after all, he has to use notes to communicate now, too.
- One day, Garp returns to the facility to find a group of police officers with the young hippy of Mrs. Ralph fame in tow. Apparently the kid's told them he's staying with Garp, so luckily for him, Garp lets him stay.
- The hippy's name is Randy and he's actually a huge fan of Garp's work. He stays with them for a while but Garp never gets comfortable with him.
- Garp starts writing, although his memory of the recent accident keeps him from delving in too deep. By summer, however, he finally gets underway on his next novel: The World According to Bensenhaver.
- The Fletchers visit for about a week. They've had a kid since we've seen them last. It's actually a good visit for everyone involved: Harrison "provided Helen with a confidant" (14.152), and Alice convinces Garp to start speaking again. Go team.
- One night, after the Fletchers have been gone for some time, Helen comes to Garp's room late at night. They hear someone taking a bath upstairs, which makes them reminisce about how Walt "liked to lie with his ears underwater" (14.163) during a bath. Wait, where has Walt been?
- Helen tells Garp that she wants another child—but she hopes that it's a girl because there could never be "another Walt" (14.187). Oh no…
- After the accident, it took Garp a few moments to realize that there was an "absence of sound" (14.204) coming from Walt. He was killed instantly.
- Garp and Helen make love for the first time in a long time.
The World According to Bensenhaver
- We're now presented with the opening chapter of The World According to Bensenhaver.
- It opens on a woman named Hope Standish at home with her son Nicky. Suddenly, a man named Oren Rath barges in and puts a "fisherman's knife" (15.1) to Nicky's throat.
- Oren cuts the phone cord and leads Hope to her bedroom, demanding that she take off her clothes.
- They hear a voice downstairs—it's Margot, Hope's neighbor. Hope shouts about Oren and tells Margot to "take Nicky" (15.31) and run; she does.
- Oren drags Hope into his truck. In fact, the truck passes by the office of Dorsey Standish, Hope's husband. He sees the truck go by but has no clue what's happening inside.
- They take a desolate country road until Oren stops at what must be his home. There are two men there: Raspberry and Weldon Rath.
- Oren wants to switch out trucks—he suspects that Margot saw his license plate—so they move to a black truck and drive down "mile-long plots of country roads" (15.73).
- Hope speaks up, but Oren punches her in the nose. So she spits blood in his face and bites his hand, but he just responds by hitting her again and pushing her head into his lap.
- He tells her that he'll kill her once he's finished; in a desperate attempt to buy herself time, she performs oral sex on Oren.
- Suddenly, Oren stops the car and forces Hope away. He thinks that he'll catch a disease unless he wears a condom.
- He pulls a condom out and tells her to take off her dress, but ends up finishing before he begins. He begins to rape Hope.
- Hope, meanwhile, is fumbling through Oren's pants. She finds what she's looking for—"the bony handle of the fisherman's knife" (15.119).
- Margot has already contacted the police, and Arden Bensenhaver, a police inspector, and one of his deputies, are now sweeping the countryside in a helicopter. The Rath name comes up, so the officers land next to the ratty home and pig farm.
- Bensenhaver sees Oren's pickup. The Raths are cagey, but Bensenhaver says that they will be castrated without a trial if they're lying. Of course, this is a lie, but Raspberry spills the beans.
- Meanwhile, Hope has the knife in her hand. Oren is about to finish, so she has to act fast. She stabs him with "the long blade" (15.240), slicing up his neck and stomach.
- When he finally stops moving, Hope gets out of the car. Then she hears a voice from overhead: It's Bensenhaver.
- Hope recounts her story. Bensenhaver is an extremely sympathetic because he believes that "there was no crime as serious as rape" (15.278).
- Bensenhaver's wife was raped soon after they were married. They went to a laundromat in the middle of the day, and he waited in the car while she went inside. Three kids raped her and stuffed her into a drying machine, where she suffocated and died.
- Bensenhaver and the deputy take a long look at the crime scene. The deputy notices the condom, but Bensenhaver throws it away—he knows that it will raise suspicion that this wasn't a rape.
- When they're finished, Bensenhaver takes Hope onto the helicopter. Hope is "grateful" (15.284) to have Bensenhaver on her side, but the old policeman is nervous about how her husband will respond.
The First Assassin
- John Wolf hates the first chapter of The World According to Bensenhaver, but Garp is insistent that it be published ahead of the novel's release. Garp has a different motivation now: He wants to make enough money to "buy [...] isolation from the real world" (16.9).
- Jenny, on the other hand, likes the novel because it tackles a serious subject like lust. Helen, understandably, refuses to read it at all. Plus, she's busy taking care of their new daughter, the aptly named Jenny Garp.
- In the end, the chapter is published in a magazine called Crotch Shots. And, yes, it's exactly what it sounds like. But if you thought the first chapter was rough, just wait until you find out about the rest.
- After the rape, Dorsey becomes paranoid and hires Bensenhaver as a personal bodyguard. Hope eventually demands that he "not live with them" (16.29), but Dorsey continues to pay Bensenhaver to trail Nicky.
- The couple has another child and Dorsey suspects that Hope is having an affair. When Bensenhaver refuses to follow her, Dorsey does it himself. That night, his new son chokes to death at home.
- It turns out that Hope was having an affair. Dorsey tells her to have a child with her "boyfriend," but Hope obviously isn't interested in that.
- Despite this, Dorsey still resents Hope. He tells Bensenhaver that there is a prowler on the loose in their neighborhood, hoping that Bensenhaver will catch Hope's lover instead.
- One night, however, Dorsey does some snooping of his own and Bensenhaver shoots him "with a twelve-gauge shotgun" (16.33).
- Bensenhaver is sent to live in a home for the criminally insane. Hope, who has another child with her lover, manages to find some peace.
- While John Wolf likes Garp's writing, he thinks that the novel is little more than low-brow schlock. But Wolf has a very particular technique for determining whether a book will be a success.
- There's a cleaning woman at the publishing house who once told Wolf that she "never read a book that didn't make her want to close it" (16.43). Her name is Jillsy Sloper.
- After she told Wolf this, he made it his goal to find her a book that she'd like—his first success was A Sexual Suspect, which she read in one night. Wolf gives her The World According to Bensenhaver but instantly regrets in, given its sordid and violent subject matter.
- Jillsy looks haggard when she comes into work on Monday—Wolf assumes that the book was too much for her. And it was, but in a good way: Although she hated the book, she was compelled to keep reading because "it feels so true"(16.82).
- Now convinced that Bensenhaver will be a success, Wolf sends the novels to the printers. When Garp can't think of someone to dedicate the book to, Wolf suggests Jillsy, although he doesn't tell Garp who she is.
- Being a savvy businessman, Wolf knows exactly how to market Bensenhaver. The book jacket tells the story of Garp's recent tragedy, tying it to the disturbing events of the novel. He doesn't want Garp to see this before release, so he pushes him to go to Vienna with his family.
- They stay in New York with Wolf on their way out, and Garp, Helen, and Wolf stay up late drinking and discussing Garp's future novels.
- Wolf drops them off at the airport. He gives Garp a copy of the book jacket inside several envelopes so Garp won't be able to open it "until he was safely seated on the plane" (16.290). Clever move, Wolf.
- He knows that Garp will be mad about the book blurb, and even madder about the picture of him, Duncan, and Walt on the back. We're told Helen "never forgave" (16.303) Wolf for this low-class PR stunt.
- On the plane, Garp and Duncan reminisce about a beach trip they once took, when Walt referred to the undertow as the "Under Toad" (6.327). The "Under Toad" becomes Helen and Garp's nickname for anxiety.
- And boy do they feel the Under Toad in Vienna. The reviews of Bensenhaver are mixed, with some praising it as a feminist masterpiece and others calling it pornographically violent. Sales, on the other hand, are through the roof.
- Meanwhile, Jenny has gotten involved in the New Hampshire gubernatorial race, acting as an advisor to the feminist-leaning challenger to the "crowing, reactionary moron" (16.351) of an incumbent.
- Then, one night, Garp receives a late-night phone call from Roberta. This time it's serious: Jenny has just been shot and killed during a political rally. The shooter was killed immediately after.
- Jenny has always said that she didn't want a funeral, but Roberta wants to hold a service; Garp convinces her to wait until he gets back.
- Garp and Duncan watch a newscast about the assassination and Helen cries, holding little Jenny. Although devastated, Garp likes his mother's last words: "most of you know who I am" (16.438). We like them, too, Garp.
The First Feminist Funeral, and Other Funerals
- Garp is upset to learn that Jenny's supporters are already planning a service, dubbed "the first feminist funeral in New York" (17.6).
- Despite his reservation, though, Garp wants to go. Roberta says that he can't—both because the feminist community isn't too fond of him at the moment and, more importantly, because there are no men allowed.
- The only solution is for Garp to dress in women's clothes. Helen and the kids aren't going; they're going to Steerling to see Ernie because he hasn't been answering her calls.
- The funeral is filled with women wearing nurse's outfits—Jenny's style has become a national trend, and women all over the country are wearing fake nurse outfits with "little red hearts stitched over their breast" (17.110).
- Garp is there in drag. He looks ridiculous, but thankfully Roberta is there to help him navigate the waters.
- Several women (including Sally Devlin, the gubernatorial candidate) attempt to speak, but each becomes too emotional to finish. Garp is moved by the feeling of unity, the feeling of sisterhood.
- He feels a hand on his shoulder. It's a woman ranting about how Garp killed her sister. Huh? To Garp's shock, it's Pooh Percy, daughter of Fat Stew, and the sister she's talking about is Cushie.
- Pooh loudly announces that "Garp is here" (17.144). Roberta tries to clear the way for Garp to escape, but she gets taken down pretty quickly. Luckily, a woman named Dotty (who's wearing a real nurse's uniform) helps him get to a cab
- The cab driver talks rudely about Sally Devlin's emotional breakdown during the funeral and Garp gets in his face. He doesn't even have time to change his clothes before getting on a plane to Steerling.
- On the plane, he's approached by a young girl who hands him a note. Garp assumes that she's an Ellen Jamesian, but the truth is far more shocking—she's "the Ellen James" (17.204). Whoa.
- She went to the funeral, but not just to pay her respects to Jenny—she came to meet Garp. She has read The World According the Bensenhaver eight times already.
- Realizing that Ellen doesn't have anywhere to go—especially with Jenny gone—Garp tells her to join his family. Ellen looks "as if she had fainted with joy" (17.233).
- Ellen tells Garp that she hates the Ellen Jamesians, because she would give anything to be able to speak. Fortunately, she has found her voice; she wants to become a writer.
- They arrive to bad news: Ernie has passed away. Dean Bodger tells Garp that Ernie had a heart attack while reading "the issue of Crotch Shots" (17.257) that contains the first chapter of Bensenhaver. Neither man wants to share this information with Helen.
- Coincidentally, Fat Stew died the same day. Both funerals will be held at the Steerling chapel the following day.
- Garp introduces Ellen to the family. Helen is upset, but seems comforted by Garp's presence and quite amused by his saucy attire. She asks Garp to go by the chapel in the morning to confirm that the organist won't play the same tunes at both funerals.
- But Garp shows up just as Fat Stew's funeral is about to go underway and gets roped into acting as a pallbearer. Nobody recognizes him, so he says that he is "Mr. Smoans [...] class of '61" (17.313).
- Mrs. Percy, who's at the funeral, reveals that she has to sell the famous Steerling house. And, for some reason, Garp decides that he wants to buy it. He forgets tells the organist to play different music.
Habits of the Under Toad
- Helen is offered a teaching job at Steerling, but she hasn't forgotten how she wasn't allowed to go to the school "when she was a girl" (18.2)—while they now allow female students, Helen just won't forget that slight.
- Garp isn't writing—he even claims that he might not write ever again—and instead, he takes over Ernie's position as Steerling's wrestling coach. Helen knows that Garp is scared of the dark personal issues that his semi-autobiographical writing unearths.
- They fix up the Steerling mansion and settle in. Duncan attends Steerling, although he chooses to join the swimming team rather than his father's wrestling squad; he and Ellen become fast friends and even write "a screenplay together" (18.31).
- Since Jenny's death, Garth has been tasked with forming the Fields Foundation to continue his mother's work. Luckily, he has Roberta's help, and she helps him manage the Foundation and takes over day-to-day operations at Dog's Heads Harbor.
- One of Garp's primary tasks with the Foundation is approving requests for grant money from women in need. It also happens to be Garp's least favorite part of the job.
- They receive a request from "the divorced wife of the man who had killed Jenny Fields" (18.82), Kenny Truckenmiller. She's a self-employed hairstylist and claims that she needs money to support herself.
- They divorced about a year before the assassination. Kenny blamed the feminist movement for the fact that he has to pay child support, and throughout their marriage, he was abusive to her and their children.
- Roberta is skeptical—she thinks the woman could be a prostitute—so they decide to send Garp to her home in New Hampshire to find out for sure.
- Garp tries to convince the board of directors to ban Ellen Jamesians from Dog's Head Harbor, but although the board is sympathetic toward his perspective, he finds no support.
- Garp is worried; he thinks that the movement is capable of doing something "mindless" (18.143)—like killing—in the name of their ideology.
- Meanwhile, Ellen has been showing Garp her writing, and the Garpmeister loves her style. The piece he loves the most is titled "Why I'm Not an Ellen Jamesian."
- Garp encourages her to publish it despite Helen's protests. John Wolf knows a moneymaking article when he sees one, and though Garp realizes that the ensuing publicity will be bad for Ellen, it's too late. This train has already left the station.
- On the night before its publication, Garp is visiting Mrs. Truckenmiller in New Hampshire. Her house is marked with a sign reading "Nanette's Beauty Salon" (18.208), but her name isn't Nanette—it's Harriet.
- Garp quickly realizes that Harriet was being honest in her application—she's just a hairdresser—so despite her seeming lack of customers, he requests a haircut.
- As they're finishing, a man named Dickie walks into the house. Dickie is skeptical of Garp's motives, but Harriet explains that he is her brother. Garp looks at his haircut—it looks great. Phew.
- He goes outside to find Dickie chopping wood. Dickie tells him that he was "Kenny's only friend" (18.268), and that he shot Kenny himself.
- Helen doesn't like the haircut; she thinks it makes Garp looks like "a body prepared by an undertaker" (18.293).
- As expected, Ellen's essay engenders all the wrong responses from the public. Think about the comments under an average YouTube video and multiply that by ten.
- Ellen is crushed. Garp writes his own piece defending her, which goes about as well as you might expect. He wants to write more, but Ellen humbles him into stopping.
- Garp and Roberta normally exercise together, except when Roberta is in New York for her "not infrequent [...] trysts" (18.331). During one of those trips, Garp is left to do his morning jog alone while stewing about which story to read for an upcoming Fields Foundation event.
- Suddenly, Garp sees a car barreling toward him. He manages to get out of the way, but the car crashes off-road. Inside is a deceased Ellen Jamesian—this was an assassination attempt.
- Even so, Garp decides to go through with the public reading to the Fields Foundation. He decides to read "The Pension Grillparzer" on a whim and, to his surprise, everyone loves it.
- Garp is even more surprised when Duncan shows him a full set of illustrations he made of the story. Garp tells Wolf to publish a "special edition" (18.362) of "Grillparzer," which has never seen a wide public release.
- These recent experiences change Garp. He starts writing again—first a letter of apology to the Ellen Jamesians, and then the beginnings of his next novel, My Father's Illusions. He even becomes exceedingly generous when it comes to the Fields Foundation.
- Helen is also making changes: She finally agrees to teach at Steerling. And—well—the next chapter title is a bit of a spoiler. So let's just get to it, shall we? Onward.
Life After Garp
- It's an average February day. Helen is bathing baby Jenny, Garp is making sure Duncan is wearing warm clothes, and Ellen James is getting ready to drive to a college course.
- Garp calls Roberta to see if she wants to join him at wrestling practice, but "Roberta couldn't play" (19.15).
- He spends the rest of the morning writing My Father's Illusions before grabbing lunch with a young grad student named Don Whitcomb, who would go on to become Garp's most famous biographer.
- After his lunch with Whitcomb, Garp heads into wrestling practice. Helen shows up a few hours later.
- A nurse walks in. It takes Garp a moment to realize that something's fishy—she's wearing a "Jenny Fields Original" (19.40)… Oh no—it's Pooh Percy.
- Pooh pulls out a gun and shoots Garp before Helen can tackle her. Helen can tell from her wordless grunts that Pooh is an Ellen Jamesian now.
- Garp is dying in Helen's arms. He wishes that he could tell her that the "Under Toad was very familiar" (19.98) and that she need not be scared.
- Garp's death prompts a fresh reprinting of The Pension Grillparzer and a metric butt-load of sales for his other books. We guess this is some sort of consolation…
- But what happens to the rest of our friendly characters in a post-Garp world?
- Alice and Harrison only have one daughter; they both die in a plane crash.
- Helen never remarries. She becomes a respected teacher and dies at a ripe old age.
- Dean Bodger remains "active" (19.77) as Steerling's dean "long after his retirement" (19.78), and he dies while watching a particularly intense wrestling match.
- Donald Whitcomb becomes "the Garp scholar" (19.87) and helps keep Garp's works away from less kind hands.
- Ellen James becomes a successful poet after her first compilation, entitled Speeches Delivered to Plants and Animals. The Ellen Jamesian movement, on the other hand, passes away soon after Garp.
- Ellen never marries, but maintains "a lifelong flirtation with Duncan" (19.123). Duncan outlives her, though, and Ellen dies after being pulled under by the undertow.
- Florence Cochran Bowlsby—a.k.a. the one and only Mrs. Ralph—writes Helen a sympathetic letter after Garp's death, and she and Helen become friendly after this.
- Pooh is sent to a mental institution and eventually released, at which point she has a child and manages to become a functioning member of society again.
- John Wolf publishes Whitcomb's biography of Garp, titled Lunacy and Sorry: The Life and Art of T.S. Garp. Wolf also edits a posthumous release of My Father's Illusions, although Helen doesn't allow its release until after her death.
- Roberta lives long enough "to grow at last comfortable with her sex reassignment" (19.173). What no one knew, though, is that Roberta and John Wolf had a relationship.
- Roberta cares for Duncan after he loses his arm in a motorcycle accident, sending a young "transsexual" to take care of Duncan's New York apartment while he's in the hospital—not to mention sending Duncan flirtatious letters all of the time.
- Roberta dies suddenly one day. Ellen goes inside to fix her a glass of lemonade and returns to find Roberta "dead in the hammock" (19.238).
- Duncan and Jenny are devastated by Roberta's death. When Duncan gets back to New York, however, he falls in love with the girl who moved into his apartment and they get married.
- Duncan goes on to become a successful painter "with his father's sense of humor" (19.269); he dies after choking on an olive at a party.
- Jenny Garp "outlive[s] them all" (19.296). She becomes a nurse and steals one of her father's famous phrases in reference to her own career. In Garp's world—and in Jenny's— "we are all terminal cases" (19.306).