Study Guide

The World According to Garp Chapter 2

By John Irving

Chapter 2

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.