When referring to John Irving's book The World According to Garp, it has been said "His style is simplistic, almost childlike..."(55), and "Irving's prose is the prose of a poorly educated man-his vocabulary is uninspiring, his grammatical proprieties is severely limited."(51) It has also been said that Irving's "instincts are so basically sound, his talents for storytelling are so bright and strong..."(55) I agree with all that has been said to an extent; Irving is by no means perfect when it comes to prose, grammar, and vocabulary, yet I laughed cried and mourned with the characters he created. The story he spun was entertaining, comical, and even inspirational even if it wasn't grammatically perfect. So what makes his story telling so strong and unique that you look past these flaws? His use of irony, but it's not only the irony, it's how he manipulates the irony. I call his technique ironic circling.
Ironic circles are when the author creates irony that starts at the beginning of the book and doesn't stop until the end. The irony just keeps repeating itself over and over again until the reader is so engrossed they can't put the book down. This technique is what John Irving uses to create such a wonderful story, that keeps the reader both interested and entertained.
One of the most interesting ironic circles in this book deals with the death of the main character, Garp. Garp is shot and killed by a woman wearing a Jenny Fields original, Garp's mothers brand of clothing. Garp's mother was one of the first feminist in the 60's to get a lot of publicity, and become an icon to the community. Many splinter movements and groups came to her for support, one of these such groups were the Ellen Jamisons. Garp's killer, Pooh Percey, happened to be a member of the Ellen Jamisons a group of women who cut out their tongues to protest a rape of a little girl. Garp's mother Jenny Fields was a supporter of the Ellen Jamisons and encouraged them to do what they believed. In the end they believed that they should kill Garp because he had given the group bad publicity at one time. As you can see the irony just keeps coming; the reader never knows what bazaar circumstances are going to come next and what they are going to lead to. Minor ironies such as the fact the Ellen Jamisons were protesting a violent act, yet they still committed one themselves. And the ultimate irony that he was shot by a women wearing his mother's clothing line. All of these major and minor ironies circling around, makes the death of a main character, so much more interesting.
The relationship between Garp and his children is also made more interesting and realistic through the technique of ironic circling. Garp is a very protective father to the extent he will even chase after cars that are speeding in his neighborhood to tell them to slow down. Garp wants to protect his children from all things that are evil and violent "the cancerous television is violently loud... Duncan and Ralph, half in their sleeping bags, asleep (of course), but looking as if the television has murdered them. In the sickly TV light their face's look drained of blood."(281) Garp is so protective that even the television is an evil praying on his children, draining the blood from their faces. The irony of Garp's protective nature emerges when Garp starts writing books that he feels are to violent for them to read. Garp ends up providing the violence he is protecting his children from The circumstances that surround the children also end up being incredibly violent. Their Grandmother is Gunned down by a madman, and they watched it on television. Their brother is killed in a car accident that they are in, and their father is killed by a Madwomen at age 33. Through these circles Garp's relationship with his children is revealed. Never in the Book does it say that Garp is incredibly protective, yet corrupting, but it is obviously demonstrating. The circles also demonstrate that no matter how hard Garp tried he couldn't protect his children. Irving wasn't communicating a new massage, but he was doing it in a new and interesting way through ironic circling
The last and ultimate set of ironic circles I will address are the ones surrounding the car accident I mentioned earlier. Helen, Garp's wife, has an affair with one of her graduate students, Garp finds out about this affair and tells Helen to end it that night. Helen agrees because she doesn't want to hurt Garp any further and she couldn't bear to see her children suffer because of her mistake. Garp takes the children to the movies and, Helen's lover comes to the house to talk to her, and they sit in the driveway in her lover's car. Garp decides to come home early, and Garp has a habit of turning of his lights right before pulling into the driveway and stopping just before hitting the garage. Garp does this that night and runs into the car parked in the driveway. He sends one of this kids into the gearshift poking out his eye. His other child is thrown through the car and dies. While both Helen and Garp have severe injures to their jaw. All of this happens because Helen had an affair and she was ending it so that she wouldn't hurt anyone further. She ends up not only hurting them emotionally but also physically. The irony keeps circling until the reader feels the full impact of the situation.
Irving spins this crazy tale that's so ironic that it's funny and heart breaking at the same time. These circumstances can only be achievable through the winding of the Ironic circles. And without these circumstances the book wouldn't be near this interesting. Ironic circles weaving one big spider web just waiting to catch their next victim to be caught in their web, of entertainment and interest. This is what John Irving does so well, and makes The world According to Garp absolutely fantastic.
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