Tag: A Prayer for Owen Meaning

The World According To Garp by John Irving

Posted April 14, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 6 Comments

The World According To Garp by John IrvingTitle: The World According To Garp (Goodreads)
Author: John Irving
Published: Black Swan, 1978
Pages: 603
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

This is the story of T.S. Garp, named after his biological father Technical Sergeant Garp. His mother, Jenny Fields was a determined nurse who wanted a child but not a husband. She eventually becomes a feminist icon before being killed by a crazed man for what she said in her autobiography A Sexual Suspect. Garp went on to become a writer as well and The World According to Garp tells the story of his life.

This is my first attempt into the writing of John Irving’s writing and I was impressed with what I read. Many people recommend starting with some of his other books (A Prayer for Owen Meaning or The Cider House Rules) but I think I made the right choice with The World According to Garp. What stood out to me within the book was the constant struggle that T.S. Garp experienced his entire life. Even his decision to become a writer was made in the effort to get a girl. This was a struggle with lust and the way it took over his whole life. It was like he had no control over his own sexual desire but then again he never really tried. Lust took over everything within Garp’s life but other characters also struggled as well. I really enjoyed the way that Irving explores the beauty and destructiveness of sex and desire.

This is not just a novel the focuses on lust, this is also a book that explores life and death. It is fair to say that T.S. Garp had a fascination with death, especially when his book The Pension Grillparzer saw seven of the nine main characters die. Even his third novel The World According to Bensenhaver featured many death scenes. There are so many more scenes about death, you can look at the death of Garp and his mother and see the similarities and symbolism.

There were moments where I was worried that this book would turn transphobic but the way John Irving treated the character Roberta was done really well. Gender roles play a big part in this book, starting from Garp’s mother rejecting a man and deciding to raise her child alone. The novel also explores feminism, the women’s rights movement and misogyny.  What I loved about this book is that there are so many issues tacked within the pages, when I thought I understood the major theme it offers something different.

I like how The World According to Garp explored the whole life of Garp from birth to death. Written like Garp was telling the story, it still covers parts of his life that he could not possibly know, including his birth and his death. I was really impressed with John Irving’s style of writing that I plan to read so many more of his books. I hear A Prayer for Owen Meaning is the next book I should tackle but I would love other suggestions too.