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The World According To Garp


by John Irving

In 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 focuses on the life of Jenny
Fields. She is portrayed as 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-very
unusual. From the way that Garp was conceived, to the way
his son was killed, to the way that Garp was assassinated,
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 also learned a little about themselves. 


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