The World According to Garp Form and Content

John Irving

Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The World According to Garp is the bizarre and detailed story of the life of T. S. Garp, from the moment of his unusual conception to his untimely death. As the novel progresses, Garp’s life unfolds as he struggles to comprehend a world governed by chaos and mishap. Each chapter depicts a new stage of Garp’s social, emotional, and sexual maturation, which is paralleled in his writing career. On his perilous journey through life, Garp must strive to understand the relevance of random events and the significance of the eccentric people whom he meets along the way. The lengthy story of T. S. Garp’s life is often interrupted by “mini-fictions,” with each subfiction mirroring a stage in his social and emotional development.

Garp is born into the world with unique disadvantages. He is not only the only son of the first famous feminist, Jenny Fields, but also an illegitimate child who has limited knowledge of his father, a situation that has profound effects on him. In addition, Garp is reared in a single-parent family by a woman who detests men, lust, and sex. In an effort to protect her only son from the pains of the world, Jenny Fields rears Garp in the sheltered and enclosed environment of the infirmary at the Steering School, the all-boys preparatory high school where she works as a nurse.

After his graduation from the Steering School, Garp travels with his mother to Vienna, where he plans to begin a writing career. While his mother writes and completes her famous feminist autobiography, A Sexual Suspect, Garp struggles to write and experiments sexually with prostitutes. It is in Vienna where he writes—but does not complete—his first novel,...

(The entire section is 694 words.)