“….A straight-backed, narrow-minded maternal monstrosity, Jenny is also fearless and independent…. Jenny Fields never goes as far as carrying a scalpel, which the Jenny of the book does…, but metaphorically she's got a knife out, all right…. [Kael quotes a scene where Jenny catches a student hiding a porn magazine in Garp's crib: Jenny threatens to "inoculate his jock strap with bubonic plague" which will leave him with "nothing left even to scratch down there. Understand?"] This gets a laugh from the audience, of course, but it certainly doesn't help a viewer understand the film's later view of the humorless, threatening Jenny as a warm, compassionate woman….
“…. The novel has an antic tone and plenty of disguises, but it's a poison-pen letter to Mother and the feminist movement. And the film is even more transparent. Glenn Close's Jenny Fields has the burnished look, the well-scrubbed glow, of a Liv Ullmann: she radiates while the character constricts. Jenny holds everything in and remains unfazed, untouchable--Garp himself never seems able to get through to her. Glenn Close's line readings are reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn's cadences (filtered through Meryl Streep), but she has fine carriage for the role. She's unyielding. Uniformed for battle, her Jenny Fields is a warrior woman, Nurse Ratched as mother of us all. And that infernal glow of hers makes it impossible to judge whether at any given moment Garp loves her or hates her, or what the film director feels about her. She's a joke, she's a saint. Whatever she is, she's inhuman….
“How could the modern feminist movement, which is rooted in the sexual liberation of women, be inspired by a lust-fighter like Jenny (a woman who is grandly contemptuous of all sexual desire), except for the sly purposes of satire? Or the angry purposes of a writer swaddling his rage in trumps and tricks and reversals? It's when writers create straw men to attack that they expose what's bugging them, and Irving creates straw women: Garp's drillmaster mother and the Ellen Jamesians….”
New Yorker, August 23, 1982
Taking It All In, 377-80