The World According to Garp: A Brief Introduction

The World According to Garp is a captivating novel written by John Irving. It was first published in 1978 and has since become one of Irving’s most popular and critically acclaimed works. This coming-of-age story follows the life of T.S. Garp and explores various themes such as identity, family, sex, and feminism.

The Plot

The novel takes readers on a rollercoaster ride through Garp’s life, from his unconventional upbringing to his experiences as an adult. Garp is the son of Jenny Fields, a feminist icon who becomes pregnant through unconventional means. Garp grows up in a unique environment, influenced by his mother’s radical ideas and the eccentric characters surrounding them.

As Garp grows older, he becomes a writer, marries, and has children of his own. Along the way, readers are introduced to a vibrant cast of characters, each with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. From transgender former NFL player Roberta Muldoon to the novelist Ellen James, who was born without a tongue, Irving creates a rich tapestry of individuals that adds depth and authenticity to the story.

Awards and Recognition

The World According to Garp has received numerous awards and accolades since its publication. It was nominated for the National Book Award in 1979 and Irving was awarded the O. Henry Award for the short story “Interior Space,” which appeared in the novel. The book was also adapted into a successful film in 1982, further cementing its place in popular culture.

Criticism and Praise

The novel has garnered both praise and criticism from literary circles. Many praised Irving’s ability to blend humor, tragedy, and social commentary seamlessly. Critics often mention the complex characters and their relatability, as well as the novel’s exploration of gender roles and sexual identity.

However, some critics felt that the novel’s plot was convoluted and lacked a clear direction. Others found fault with Irving’s writing style, considering it overly verbose and self-indulgent. Nevertheless, the majority of reviews were positive, and The World According to Garp continues to be celebrated as one of Irving’s finest works.


To summarize, The World According to Garp is a thought-provoking novel that delves into themes of identity, family, and feminism. Through its memorable characters and compelling storytelling, John Irving creates a fictional world that resonates with readers. Despite its polarizing reviews, the novel remains a significant contribution to the literary landscape and a must-read for those interested in exploring the complexities of human nature.

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