Study Guide

The World According to Garp Chapter 3

By John Irving

Chapter 3

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.