Study Guide

The World According to Garp Chapter 8

By John Irving

Chapter 8

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.