Responsibility, or Death- Analysis of responsibility in John Irving's novel The World According to Garp.

Essay by ablaze451College, UndergraduateA+, March 2004

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As author John Irving might suggest, we live in a dangerous world. Irving always warns his children of danger, and admits The World According to Garp "is a novel about being careful, and about that not being enough," (Garp Afterword). Irresponsible adventures plagued Jenny, T.S. Garp, Walt, and nearly every other character in Garp. At first, they believe the outcomes will be insignificant--a cough, perhaps--but they led to the "Under Toad" of maiming and death. This novel deals with the fear and unfamiliarity of death, and warns us about the future.

T.S. Garp lost a part of his ear to Bonkers the dog at age five. He carelessly ignored the dog's history of violent outbursts. In one instance, Bonkers had mangled a volleyball, and then bit deeply into the forearm of the boy who tried to retrieve the ball. Yet as Bonkers approached Garp, Garp did not prevent the dog from hurling his body on him.

Garp's wounds eventually healed, and his hair covered his damaged ear, but he retaliated against Bonkers years later. Garp's biting of the dog's ear infuriated the Percy family. The desire for revenge overwhelmed his ability to rationalize.

As Garp grew older, he became more aware of danger. Garp's fearlessness was evident as a young boy when he captured a pigeon with a lacrosse stick on the Steering roof. After being stuck in the gutter, Garp narrowed his idea of safety to life on the ground. He had been "four stories above where the world was safe," (38). With cars speeding down his neighborhood streets, Garp felt obligated to warn drivers to slow down. By then, Garp believed that as long as he was in control, he was safe. For example, in Garp's dream, Duncan flew out of the airplane door because Garp does not...