A Critical Examination Of Death Within The World According To Garp, By John Irving

2372 words - 9 pages

"Death is the only inescapable, unavoidable, sure thing. We are sentenced to die the day we're born." (Gary Mark Gilmore) Truer words have never been spoken. While many may not wish to except this idea, the fact that this statement is true is unavoidable. From the first day of someone's birth it is unknow if they will become a famous actor or a parent, or even a criminal. What is known is that one day they will die. That day is unknown like everything else but they still know that day will come. This idea, that death is inevitable, is a driving theme behind The World According to Garp. Irvings uses a variety of characters in a wide spectrum of situations to show not only the randomness of death but also its inevitability. Throughout the whole book, death happens to everyone, but it is not the idea that death is a terrible situation, that Irving hopes to get across. Instead he wants the reader to realize that not only is death inevitable, but that we must learn to live with death and continue on with our lives; while being aware that death will always be there. Death surrounds the characters in The World According to Garp, each of one being exposed to the pain and suffering of death. But this is not what Irving hope's his readers gain from this novel, instead he hopes for a realization that death is inevitable and to avoid it is futile because it will always be there. But instead he urgestone to learn to live with death alongside life, and to live life to the fullest.Irving's well crafted story, of T.S Garp's life, has one large focal point, that seems to drip from every page. The inevitability of death. From the first page, death consumes the novel. "[The World According to Garp] contains three rapes, two assasinations, two accidental deaths, the loss of an eye, the loss of two ears, the loss of an arm, the loss of a penis, and a whole society of women with amputate tongues." (Barbara Lounsberry) While this may seem to an excessive amount of death and suffering, never does the novel feel to be weighed down by death. But instead, death becomes almost expected. A critic commented on this situation in the novel, "People are dying almost from the first page[of The World According to Garp] but by the end the reader is neither bored with death nor hardend to it." (Greil Marcus) Irving uses the deaths and severe injuries in this novel to stress a point he is trying to make, the inevitability of death. Irving is looking for the reader to take out from this book that death will forever be around and there is no way to escape it. One way that Irving introduces into his novel the idea of the inevatibility of death is with an anecdote about Walt, Garp's youngest son. In this anecdote, Walt fears for the 'undertoad', a miss pronuciation of the undertow of the water. He hopes to see the 'undertoad' and perhaps understand it. "Garp...realized that all these years Walt had been dreading a giant toad, lurking offshore, waiting to suck him under and drag him out...

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