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Beginning to See the LightSex, Hope, and Rock-and-Roll$
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Ellen Willis

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816680788

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816680788.001.0001

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Postscript: The Backlash According to Irving

Postscript: The Backlash According to Irving

(p.169) Postscript: The Backlash According to Irving
Beginning to See the Light

Ellen Willis

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter presents the author’s reflections about the book, The World According to Garp by John Irving. Irving attempts to square an emancipated, profeminist stance with a profoundly conservative defense of the family, and because he is such a good storyteller he almost pulls it off. The novel evokes the positive side of family life with vivid conviction, and Garp’s unorthodox household—he stays home with the kids and writes; his wife, Helen, is a college professor—is both credible and appealing. But ultimately Irving’s conservatism takes over the book. Both he and his protagonist are Victorians (or Freudians) at heart, bemused by what they see as the foolishness of sex, distrustful of its anarchic potential. Garp also caters to the privatism of the seventies by arguing insistently for the virtues of an individual moral outlook, as opposed to a political one.

Keywords:   The World According to Garp, John Irving, family, feminism, family life, conservatism, privatism

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