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Summary added; works list updated; text updated to include discussion of In One Person (2012).

Updated on 28 August 2018. The previous version of this content can be found here.
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date: 23 September 2019

Summary and Keywords

A major American writer, John Irving has published many novels, several of which have been adapted for film. His most popular novel is The World According to Garp, which has become both a popular and a cult classic. He is often compared to Charles Dickens, an author he admires. His novels are often political and take liberal views, confronting issues such as abortion rights, LGBT rights, and antiwar sentiments. His characters are not shy about sex and often begin sexual encounters at a young age. Major themes and subjects in his novels include the search for the father, the search for identity, looking back at one’s life, searching for one’s personal history, the difference between memory and truth, and unconventional lifestyles. The settings of his novels vary, and sometimes his characters travel both nationally and internationally. Many of his novels have been adapted for film, and he wrote screenplays for some of them. Irving became a household name in 1978, with the publication of The World According to Garp. Irving is well known for his dark sense of humor and sometimes absurd situations in which he places his characters. Many of his protagonists are older men who look back on their childhoods or adolescents who develop into men over the course of the novel. The relationship between memory and fact is often blurred as one’s memory of events trumps the actual events. Most of Irving’s protagonists are males who do not come from traditional families.

Keywords: John Irving, Garp, coming-of-age novel, Cider House Rules, Charles Dickens, Vietnam war, A Prayer for Owen Meany, sexuality, New Hampshire

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