Study Guide

The World According to Garp Chapter 7

By John Irving

Chapter 7

More Lust

  • 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.