Essay, Research Paper
In the novel The World According to Garp, by John Irving, feminism isboth glorified and ridiculed. This is shown through the life of T.S.Garp and his family. When the author refers to Garp’s mother Jenny,feminism is shown as a great thing that is totally for the benefit ofwomen and all mankind. However, there are just as many times when theauthor shows how feminism led to people doing stupid things and actingas extremists, as in the case of the “Ellen Jamesians”. Also, theevolution and deterioration of the feminist movement throughout Garp’slife is paralleled with other movements in history that turned bad overtime, such as Communism. The story therefore presents a fairly roundedpicture of feminism, and encom passes it in the very interesting storyof T.S. Garp. The beginning of the novel, where the story focuses on the life ofJenny Fields, is a portrayal of a woman trying to lead her own life in aworld of male dominance, before the all-out attempt by women to attainequality. The way that Jenny feels and proves that she can live withouta man supporting her is the essence of the feminist movement, in the waythat it was meant to be. The author here is generalizing about mostmovements, like Communism, where the initial idea is good and ifrepeated exactly would be perfect but, as in the story, feminism, theydeteriorate from their original ideology. The “Ellen Jamesians” were a group of women who showed their oppositionof men by cutting out their tongues because there was a twelve year oldgirl, named Ellen James, who was raped and had her tongue cut out. JohnIrving uses them to ridicule some of the stupidi ties of the feminist
movement when it is at its extremes. The Ellen Jamesians are the productof the change of the feminist movement to a state of craziness wherehundreds of women maimed themselves just to show how feminist they arewhen they could do the same thing in different ways, like Jenny did.This is how the author ridicules the feminist movement, not for itsthinking that women are equals of men, but for the stupid things that itdoes. Another aspect which is important in the book is the contact that Garphas with the Ellen Jamesians. Garp is portrayed in the book as a man whois impartial to somewhat sensitive to the women’s movement and is muchaware of it because of his mother. The Ellen Jamesians see him as just aman, and they stereotype all men as pigs who are out to make all womensubservient to the male gender. They don’t even realize that he is theson of Jenny Fields, and that he might be aware of the struggles thatwomen have. Thus, the interaction that they have ends up emphasizing thelunacy of the feminist extremists and taking away from the little amountof sympathy that Garp had for women, almost to the point where hebecomes male chauvinist pig. The story of Garp can only be described in one way-weird. From the waythat Garp was conceived, to the way his son was killed, to the way thatGarp was assassinated, all are strange events that end up teaching thereader a little about feminism but also a little about life. Eachcharacter, although not perfect, has some aspect that is the ideal imagefor people to be. Just the same, in each situation the characters seemto point out a detail of life that people don’t usually notice, so bythe end of the book readers have learned a little about themselves aswell.