The World According to Garp isn't just a novel about feminism written by a man; it's a novel about a novel about feminism written by a man. Brains officially melted, right? Throughout the book, we see Garp struggle with his relationships with women in all aspects of his life. It complicates things that his mother Jenny Fields—a self-reliant woman with no interest in men—is a modern-day folk hero in the feminist community.
The book uses Garp's relationship with his mama as a launching pad for exploring plenty of other compelling topics, like the struggles of working women and the persecution of transgender individuals. So even though it's written by a man and a man is the main character, ladies get plenty of page time in this one.
The novel argues that sexual violence is one of the primary tools that men use to oppress women.
While the novel whole-heatedly supports feminism, it strongly strands against any sort of radical interpretation of the ideology.
The World According to Garp is manlier than Macho Man Randy Savage and Chuck Norris combined—but that may not be a good thing. While the novel often focuses on women's issues, we're also presented with an intimate portrayal of what it's like to be a man. We learn about their deep, hidden insecurities; we learn why men treat women the way they do; and in the end, we learn what it means to be a real man in the modern world.
Through characters like Michael Milton, Irving points to typical male immaturity as a leading cause of misogyny.
Garp's brand of feminism is fundamentally different from his mother's, solely on the basis that he has only experienced life as a man in a male-dominated world.
For T.S. Garp, the fear of death is far worse than death itself. Throughout The World According to Garp, we see how his obsession with mortality both drives him forward and holds him back. Sure, Garp's morbid fascination doesn't hurt his literary career—in fact, it probably helps it—but this same obsession hurts his personal life, straining his relationship with Helen and creating a tense home environment for his kids. But here's the thing that Garp eventually realizes: No one can outrun their own mortality. Go ahead, put on some running shoes and try.
Garp's fear of death is rooted in his experience of watching Charlotte die so suddenly.
The novel argues, through Garp's death scene, that death can only defeated through memory—and, consequently, through art.
Memory's a funny thing, and sometimes the thing that feels true isn't the thing that actually happened. The World According to Garp examines this idea through the eyes of T.S. Garp, a writer with a tortured relationship with his own past. We get front row seats as Garp struggles to unearth traumatic memories and transform them into best-selling novels. It's not always pretty—in fact, there are times when it's too painful for him to continue—but it isn't until death is staring at him in the face that Garp realizes just how valuable memory truly is.
The World According to Garp is a study of the way that traumatic memories define the course of our lives, no matter how much we try to repress them.
Through Garp, Irving argues that the "truth" of memory is inferior to the "truth" of fiction.
Books about books are the best books—or so we think around these parts. In The World According to Garp, we follow the life of T.S. Garp, an ambitious young writer with a lot on his plate. First off, there's his mother, a mega-famous writer herself; it's tough to climb out of her shadow. On top of that, Garp goes through a series of tragic personal events that threaten to derail his career before it's really established. Despite these struggles, though, Garp manages to become the thing he always wanted to be—a real writer. So yay.
The novel argues that "remembered" fiction is worse than "imagined" fiction, despite the many autobiographical details that Irving uses in the novel.
The novel firmly argues that the classic novel is superior to postmodern or experimental fiction.
By our unofficial count, The World According to Garp features the word lust roughly 17,281 times. Okay—we might be exaggerating a smidgen, but you get the picture. The book follows two characters with wildly different relationships with lust. First there's Jenny Fields, a born feminist who's never felt lustful in her life. And then there's her son, T.S. Garp, who's obsessed with lust enough for the both of them. The tension between these two perspectives creates a unique take on the power that lust has—for better or for worse.
The World According to Garp is a firm rebuttal to the sexual revolution of the 1960s: Every character that embraces freewheeling views of sexuality is punished for it.
The novel identifies lust and sexual objectification as the two major barriers between men and women.
Dearly Shmoop-loved, we are gathered here today to witness the turbulent marriage of T.S. Garp and Helen Holm in The World According to Garp, two young idealists who thought they had everything figured out. The early years are full of disappointment—clandestine affairs, broken promises, and buried resentment. And that's just the start of it. But when tragedy hits their family, they're forced to reexamine their own failures and forgive each other. Is it easy? No way. Is it fun? Not much. But they come together, and that's what truly matters in the end.
Both Garp and his son Duncan get married for selfish reasons: Their respective wives make them feel like true artists.
The novel uses Alice and Harrison's marriage to illustrate the resilience of Garp and Helen's.
In The World According to Garp, the only thing Garp has to fear is Garp himself. Although T.S. Garp is a wild young boy himself, he grows up to be the most paranoid parent in the world. It doesn't help matters that his mother, Jenny Fields, is a famous feminist who receives death threats and angry letters on a daily basis. Garp is left in the middle of this madness trying desperately to protect the people he loves. But you know what he learns? Sometimes it's your fear that poses the biggest threat after all.
Garp's excessive paranoia is a direct descendant of his mother's own over-parenting.
Although Garp manages to control his fears about his family, he actually should be afraid, since every one of his worries is proven true.