Irving Essay, Research Paper
The World According to Garp by John IrvingIn the novel The World According to Garp, by John Irving, feminism is both 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 of women and all mankind. However, there are just as many times when the author shows how feminism led to people doing stupid things and acting as extremists, as in the case of the “Ellen Jamesians”. Also, the evolution and deterioration of the feminist movement throughout Garp s life is paralleled with other movements in history that turned bad over time, such as Communism. The story therefore presents a fairly rounded picture of feminism, and encompasses it in the very interesting story of T.S. Garp. The beginning of the novel, where the story focuses on the life of Jenny Fields, is a portrayal of a woman trying to lead her own life in a world of male dominance, before the all-out attempt by women to attain equality. The way that Jenny feels and proves that she can live without a man supporting her is the essence of the feminist movement, in the way that it was meant to be. The author here is generalizing about most movements, like Communism, where the initial idea is good and if repeated exactly would be perfect but, as in the story, feminism, they deteriorate from their original ideology. The “Ellen Jamesians” were a group of women who showed their opposition of men by cutting out their tongues because there was a twelve year old girl, named Ellen James, who was raped and had her tongue cut out. John Irving uses them to ridicule some of the stupidities of the feminist movement when it is at its extremes. The Ellen Jamesians are the product of the change of the feminist movement to a state of craziness where hundreds of women maimed themselves just to show how feminist they are when they could do the same thing in different ways, like Jenny did. This is how the author ridicules the feminist movement, not for its thinking that women are equals of men, but for the stupid things that it does.
Another aspect which is important in the book is the contact that Garp has with the Ellen Jamesians. Garp is portrayed in the book as a man who is impartial to somewhat sensitive to the women s movement and is much aware of it because of his mother. The Ellen Jamesians see him as just a man, and they stereotype all men as pigs who are out to make all women subservient to the male gender. They don t even realize that he is the son of Jenny Fields, and that he might be aware of the struggles that women have. Thus, the interaction that they have ends up emphasizing the lunacy of the feminist extremists and taking away from the little amount of sympathy that Garp had for women, almost to the point where he becomes a chauvinist. The story of Garp can only be described in one way weird. From the way that Garp was conceived, to the way his son was killed, to the way that Garp was assassinated, all are strange events that end up teaching the reader a little about feminism but also a little about life. Each character, although not perfect, has some aspect that is the ideal image for people to be. Just the same, in each situation the characters seem to point out a detail of life that people don t usually notice, so by the end of the book readers have learned a little about themselves too.