Good writers write about life and someone living it, while great writers write about living itself and a living out a struggle that not only captures one person, but it also captures the soul of having a struggle in general. Although story of The World According to Garp has received its fair share rant and rave reviews by the judging public, what makes this book a great read is that it gives us something to talk about. It’s so powerful, that you only either hate it or love it. The storyline is so compelling, that it will you’re your eyes into looking more in the problems not only in the characters of the story, but also the struggle that we face in general. May it be in struggles of classes, or gender and most importantly, fighting for your rights.
In the story of the The World According to Garp, from the very opening of this novel, it was pretty evident that the story was not for the weak of heart. It was obvious that the novel was to be dealing with the harsh realities of life that will really grip your attention, not only because of the drama but more importantly; because the story depicts something that we see in the streets and sometimes even our lives itself. What can we read in the novel that is so gripping that it has caused a craze in its time of release? The answer is struggle. From the very beginning
“This was shortly after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and the people were being tolerant of soldiers, because suddenly everyone was a soldier, but Jenny Fields was quite firm in her intolerance of the behavior of men in general an soldiers in particular. (Iriving 1976, page1)”
The story revolves around exactly this; how men, in general was a threat to women like Jenny. Unfortunately, in the harsh reality presented in the book, very few women were empowered to fight against abuses of men. Predictably, like most novels, women were once again depicted as victims and the men were the antagonists whom inflicted pain and suffering to women roles in this novel. What sets this story of story apart though is the level of stress the author took in the brutalization of sex as one of the major sources of oppression for women.
Irving has been known to write about this topic not only in this novel, but also in his other works like the “The Hotel New Hamshire”. Irving has been notorious about putting stress in this issue that a number of book reviews coming from columnists like Doane and Hodges notices that Irving views a great strength in male power and he not only sees it as a day to day occurrence, but more importantly, that he found it as one of the things that are inevitable in the present day scenario. In the perfect words, he explained how he viewed brutalization of sex in The World According to Garp:
“We are all terminal cases. Imagining something is better than remembering something. In this dirty-minded world, you are either somebody’s wife or somebody’s whore — or fast on your way to becoming one or the other. Between men and women, only death is shared equally. Lust makes the best men behave out of character.”
In this statement, Irving caught perfectly in words how the scenario is with women and their battle against any abuse coming from the opposite sex. He capture the scenario its utmost reality to the core of why it was considered as one of the inevitable battles known to women. He dared say what was lying right under our noses but refuse to talk about, human nature at its utmost real and brutal sense. I guess to a certain extent, he had to do it to stress a point, someone had to point a finger to that problem for people to start facing the possibility of finding a solution to how men generally treat women.
Even though some feminists responded to his novel with great retaliation to how he depicted women in his novel, what most feminists failed to notice was that his intentions in painting color to brutalization in sex into his novels was intended not to put down women to accept such roles, but rather to fight it. Unlike most authors who make women roles the typical traditional roles that box up women to be submissive and weak, Irving’s intention of writing about women in that light was to point out a problem that women face to come up with the end result of inspiring readers to do something about it.
He took a man’s role and a woman’s role and torn all its clothes out to the point where in it was completely naked for us to pick on what was wrong with the picture that we have always been presented to but never really had a chance to look at. If you ask me, I think no author has ever done that simply for the reason of having people get the wrong impression of what he was trying to say.
It’s a pity that very few try this tactic, coz you know if you have a great novel in your hand if your only allowed to have two of the varying reactions to reading it; you either hate it or love it. Why is this so? Because in the two varying ends of the pole, the book achieved what it’s author’s intention was to begin with; stir your emotions and strike a chord.
As for Irving’s Goal in stressing a point in exposing brutalization in sex in his novel, I think he pretty much achieved it by simply stirring an outburst of public opinion in the feminist movement. Even though the general reaction to the context of his novel may initially be bad for women in the feminist movement, eventually true colors came up to float and women now realize the real point of Irving’s writing about how painful it is to be a woman. On the contrary, by showing women’s weaknesses in his novel, he achieved the exact opposite by illustrating how strong women are by coping with it, this is pretty evident in the story and characters of the women in the novel, especially Jenny
Irving, J., Mc Caferrey, L. 1982, ‘An interview with John Irving’, Contemporary
Literature 23, no. 1, winter, pp.1-18.
Irving J., The World according to Garp [online] 1996, Available:
http://cqu.edu.Au/arts/humanities/listud/naff/naff7irving.html[2007, October 17]
Larson J., ‘The World According to Garp’ and ‘The Hotel Hampshire’ [online] 2005,
available: http://epubl.ltu.se/1402-1773/2005/090/LTU-CUPP-05090-SE.pdf [2007, October 17]