John Irving “The World through the Eyes of Harp”

Critics have long called John Irving a modern classic, and I only become more convinced of this with each of his new read books. In the novel “The World through the Eyes of Harp,” Irving again creates a whole gamut of surrealism mixed with the commonness of realism, no less outstanding is the spectrum of characters in the book. But under all these layers of the artistic component it is extremely difficult to discern the author’s attitude toward his characters: does he respect them, is he critical or neutral?




A similar question occurred to me during the reading of his other book – “Prayer for Owen Mini”. And despite the fact that in this work the emphasis from surrealism is somewhat biased towards a more plausible ratio, in the book “The World through the Eyes of Harp” we again find ourselves in New England with familiar landscapes, people, moods. Again, the image of an unusual and extremely attractive (rather, not physically, and internally) single mother and her non-standard child in all senses, conceived under rare circumstances, comes to the fore. But these are just insignificant similar elements, woven into two completely different epic structures that “hook” the reader to the hook of intrigue quite differently, but because no less firmly and firmly.

What is this book about
“The world through the eyes of Harp” affects a wide variety of topics: relationships within the family, the role of the sexes, feminism, as well as death, although the story is mostly based on the relationship of sex and violence, fiction and reality. In the global sense, the book can be called a saga about the family, since it refers to three generations within the same family tree. In the center of the narrative is Harp’s relationship with his mother, his wife and two sons. Irving often portrays Harp as a victim of obsessive anxiety that embraces him at the thought that a modern cruel world can cause many misfortunes to his wife and children. But his fanatical attempts to save the family from all sorts of misfortunes are pointless, for death and misfortunes happen again and again on the pages of the novel.


Another very important topic in the work is the displacement of the usual sexual principles within the family. Harp quietly reconciles with his role as a housewife, and also accepts, although does not share, his mother’s feminist views and her role as a leader in this movement. At the very moment when Garp disguises herself as a woman to attend the funeral of her mother, he gets a vivid example of how society treats women. In the image of transsexual Roberta, non-traditional sexual roles in society are shown. And of course – feminism, and in its most radical and extreme form – another very urgent topic in the book. And although the mother of Harp did not consider herself personally a feminist, her independence from men and subsequently written a book elevated her to the rank of icons. It is impossible not to mention the current of the Jessian women – women who voluntarily deprived themselves of language in protest – this current is an extremist feminism, sometimes bordering on mental insanity. Sex and violence also invariably go toe-to-toe throughout the work. The book is filled with a lot of accidents, somehow caused by lust and human incontinence.

How society met the novel
Most critics have met the novel “The World through the Eyes of Harp” positively, and almost everyone agrees that this is one of the best works of John Irving. It’s hard to argue that Irving’s unique style is distinguished by its special sophistication, ingenuity, and intelligence. In my opinion, this is absolutely a matter of taste, and I personally was much more impressed by his other novel – “Prayer for Owen Mini”, although “The World through the Eyes of Harp” hardly leaves anyone indifferent.



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