Book Report: Cider House Rules Essay

Social Issue Identification and Discussion

The Cider House Rules a novel by John Irving focuses on abortion - Book Report: Cider House Rules Essay introduction. It develops the issue by having characters with various viewpoints on abortion. The setting of the novel lends itself well to the issue as it is primarily set in an orphanage where the head doctor, Dr. Larch performs abortions (Irving 8). It is revealed that Dr. Larch is performing these abortions illegally (12) as he believes the law is unnecessary, “I know it’s against the law. I ask you, what has the law ever done for this place?” (24). As the plot moves along a woman is admitted to the hospital whose baby dies as a miscarriage as it was too late for an abortion but because the woman did not seek proper medical attention out of fear of the effect it would have on her reputation (29).

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The woman had attempted to abort the child herself as there is a “crochet hook” lodged inside her that was responsible for killing the child. Upon witnessing Dr. Larch questions Homer; an orphan who had trained under Dr. Larch and is against abortions, “if that woman had come to you four months ago what would you have done? Nothing! It means someone else is going to do the job, some moron who doesn’t know how.” (32) This is a very significant quotation as it uses the issue of abortion to develop the theme of the choices people make with their own bodies.

Despite the fact that abortions are illegal, Dr. Larch believes people will attempt them regardless of the law out of desperation. The issue manifests itself as a channel through which the theme of choice and lack thereof is explored. Had the woman had the choice of getting a proper abortion without the risk of legal consequence or societal judgment the woman may have not suffered such extreme pain and a fever of “one hundred and four degrees” (30). As Dr. Larch stated “someone else is going to do the job” meaning when people have no choice they will take drastic measures in order to avoid consequences. Dr. Larch does not believe removing a fetus is ending a life as he says “a fetus can’t sustain itself on its own, so it’s not alive”. (33)

Although, Homer does not criticize Dr. Larch’s right to perform abortions he refuses to perform them himself, “I have no problem with you [Dr. Larch] performing them” (32), he believes abortions are wrong as they are “illegal” (32). As the novel progresses the theme of individual duties trumping societal rules arises. Homer is working at an apple orchard and living in a cider house, he learns that his crew boss has raped his daughter and she is now pregnant with a baby “she doesn’t want” (279). At first Homer is reluctant to perform the abortion despite knowing how and plans to send Rose to Dr. Larch. Upon learning of Dr. Larch’s death Homer realizes he must take on the responsibility of his mentor and “help Rose” (283). In summation, The Cider House Rules presents two main viewpoints on abortion, abortions are wrong as they are illegal and that safe abortions are necessary to prevent medical problems. High Impact Quotations

“When Mrs. Eame’s daughter died – before Dr. larch could operate on her without her having further words with him (Beyond the “Shit or get off the pot!” note that was pinned to her shoulder) [Dr. Larch says], she was angry with me for not giving her an abortion”. (61)

In this quotation a younger Dr. Larch, prior to the events of the book hesitates to operate on a prostitute out of “pride” (61). Dr. Larch’s not operating on the prostitute resulted in prostitute resorting to a back alley abortion that resulted in her dying. The note was directed at Dr. Larch who the prostitute believed should either “shit” perform operations or “get off the pot” stop operating. This event demonstrates what women must resort to when professional medical care is not available to them for their abortion procedure. This demonstrated to Dr. Larch the dangers of non-medically supervised abortions.

“‘I ain’t quick, I swear’ she said….once the baby quickens it’s god’s work[said Dr. Larch]” (68)

This quotation is discussing at which points an abortion is acceptable. The word quick means a developed fetus, which the woman claims she does not have. Dr. Larch warns the woman that once the baby is “quickened” it is god’s work as the fetus can move and has a soul. This plays on the theme of the preciousness of life and how it is not okay to end the life of a fetus that can move or has become “quick” as ending a life is “god’s work”.

“‘What did she die of?’ asked the boy ‘She died of Secrecy, she died of ignorance…Homer if you expect parents to be responsible for their children you have to give them the right to decide whether or not to have children.” (74)

While burying a miscarriage, Dr. Larch is questioned by a boy as to how the girl died. Dr. Larch explains the girl died of “secrecy” as the woman was too afraid of the affect her bastard child would have on her reputation to come forward and get a proper abortion. Furthermore the “ignorance” is referring to the lack of knowledge on the part of the government and society who continued to dictate the immorality and illegality of abortions. Dr. Larch uses this to develop the themes of personal responsibility and choice. He states that in order for parents to be able to take responsibility for their children they must have the “right to decide whether or not to have children”. Dr. Larch is suggesting that parents will not be “responsible” for children they did not “decide to have” and that the child’s life will not be with a responsible parent.

“‘How about expecting people to be responsible enough to begin with?’ said Homer ‘What about her, you expect her to be responsible? replied Dr. Larch’ ” (74)

In this quotation Homer is countering Dr. Larch’s argument about allowing parents to have the ability to decide whether to keep their children by saying parents should have control and not have a child to begin with as it will be their responsibility. Dr. Larch points out who the real victim is, asking a sarcastic rhetorical question referring to the corpse of the baby girl. He sarcastically asks in terms of responsibility is better to end up with miscarriage or to have the choice to abort the pregnancy early and at least have given “her” a peaceful end. Along with the theme of choice, this plays on the theme of responsibility as Homer represents the arguments against abortion which believes abortions should not be necessary as people should maintain control over their sexual desires and not have children they do not want.

“Not a problem for wealthy Americans…. One way the poor can help themselves is to be in control of the size of their families” (376)
In a letter to president Roosevelt, Dr. Larch is expressing how he believes the anti-abortion laws are making it difficult for the poor to control the size of their families and in turn their finances. This plays on the theme that laws can impact people differently based on their socio-economic rank. It discusses how “wealthy Americans” can afford the burden of extra children, whereas the poor cannot and thus, must either bear the financial burden of more children or if the law did not exist, they could “control the size of the their family” and plays on the issue that laws that affect personal choice; such as anti-abortion laws, impact control and hence, the freedom that individuals have.

“‘Is it [America] a democratic society that condemns people to the accident of conception?’ roared Dr. Larch, ‘What are we – monkeys?'” (376)
In a burst of anger, Dr. Larch expresses his frustration with the legal system in the United States, a supposedly “democratic society” that will not even allow people to overcome accidental “conception” He compares Americans to “monkeys” who are unable to have abortions, once a child is conceived it must be born if there is no abortion. Despite having access to abortion, according to Dr. Larch Americans live as “monkeys” and are condemned to their “accidents”.

“‘Quick or not, they end up as life-less fetuses [said Homer]’…’life-less but not dead [replied Dr. Larch]'”(418)
In this quotation, Homer is addressing his moral objection to abortion. He understands that prior to quickening the fetus is unable to live on its own and is therefore not being killed. He is still uncomfortable with the fact that the fetuses end up “life-less”. The fact that the fetuses are not given a chance at life is one of the major arguments against abortion addressed in the novel. Dr. Larch replies by declaring that they are “life-less” but not “dead”. Dr. Larch is suggesting that the fetuses never were alive and thus, it is not ending their lives.

“‘Have you heard the rumors of Senator McKay? Probably the biggest advocate of the anti-abortion law, had an abortion performed on his daughter’ Nurse Caroline asked ‘Guess the laws are only for people who can’t make them [replied Dr. Larch]'”. (487)

In this quotation Dr. Larch addresses the double standard held by many politicians. He jokes that “the laws are only for people who can’t make them”, meaning they only apply to ordinary citizens and not politicians who have sway and power. This plays on the theme of power and how it is easier to enforce onto others than it is to live by.

“HOW CAN YOU FEEL FREE TO CHOOOSE NOT TO HELP PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT FREE TO GET OTHER HELP? You have to help them because you know how, think about who’s going to help them if you refuse” (488)
Having learned from his previous mistake of not helping the prostitute, Dr. Larch has realized that as long as women are not free to “choose” “other” safe sources, it is his duty to help them. This is being written in a letter to Homer in an attempt to convince him to come back and work with Dr. Larch to perform abortions. This quotation plays on the theme of choice as people become bound when their choices are limited. If Dr. Larch “refuses” help the woman will have to go to someone who must be thought “about” suggesting they are less than professional.

“If abortion was legal, a woman would have a choice – and so would you. You could feel free not to do it because someone else would. But the way it is, you’re trapped. Women are victims and so are you” (489)

In this quotation Dr. Larch is reminding Homer of his duty. He explains to Homer that because abortions are illegal, women are left without a “choice” and he is “trapped” into having to perform them as women need them and he is one of if not the only safe source women have available to them. Dr. Larch is addressing the lack of freedom that comes with laws affecting personal choice.

“I guess I have to do what’s gotta be done, it wouldn’t have a great life
anyway” (528)
At this point Homer has decided to go forward with the operation and come to realize significant themes with abortion. He understands that it is his duty to perform the abortion “I have to do what’s gotta be done”. Furthermore this quote demonstrates that even if the baby was to be born it would not have a “great life”, in which case it is better to end it before it is even born.

“If laws stopped anyone from doing anything they’re would be no crime, yet crime happens every day. Even us performing these abortions is a crime, yet we’re the ones helping people and orphanages” (39)

In this quotation Dr. Larch is explaining to Homer how ineffective laws are, especially those that make it a crime to “help people”. This relates to the issue of abortion as the women who receive a safe abortion see it as help, the orphanages that already have too many children will not be burdened further and find it helpful and despite of this help it is still a “crime”. Retell

The Cider House Rules is a novel that focuses around the social issue of abortion. It begins by opening to St. Cloud’s Orphanage in a deserted town, Dr. Wilbur Larch delivers unwanted newborns and secretly performs illegal abortions. Loyally followed by his nurses Edna and Angela who see him as a “saint” One child is unadoptable: Homer Wells is adopted four times only to be returned. Dr. Larch takes in Homer as his own son raising him and teaching him doctor skills. (4-47) The second chapter develops background on Dr. Larch and how he performed an abortion for a thirteen year old incest victim. Finding his true calling as an abortionist. (47-79) Chapter three Homer looks up to Dr. Larch as a father figure and works under him learning his trade. When a boy dies it is Homer’s responsibility to inform the other boys, instead he tells them that the boy had been adopted. (79-119)

Chapter four begins with Homer training under Dr. Larch learning to deliver babies and perform abortions. In a nearby town, Heart’s Rock lives the Worthington family. They run an apple orchard and have a handsome son Wally
who has a beautiful girlfriend named Candy Kendall. Candy becomes pregnant and the two head to St. Cloud’s as they are not ready for a baby. (119-163) Chapter five has Dr. Larch having Homer perform an autopsy on a fetus. Homer believes the fetus has a soul and is a “baby” (169). Upon realizing Homer informs Dr. Larch he will never perform an abortion and that he is not even sure whether or not he wants to become a doctor. Dr. Larch is devastated by the news. Wally and Candy arrive at the orphanage and Candy has a successful abortion. Homer plans to go with them and work as an apple picker on Wally’s orchard. (163-214) In chapter six Homer shares a room with Wally, who teaches him to drive and takes swimming lessons from Candy. He finds a girlfriend named Debra but has feelings for Candy. Back at the orphanage, Dr. Larch misses Homer. He gets word from the board of the orphanage that they are searching for an assistant. Dr. Larch believes they are looking for a younger replacement for him who is unwilling to perform abortions. He uses the identity of orphan who had died and fabricates an identity of a doctor known as Dr. Stone that he hopes Homer will fill. Wally will be leaving for college, Candy must complete her senior year at the girl’s academy and Homer is invited to stay at Heart’s Rock for the apple harvest. (214-264)

At Heart’s Rock, Homer moves into the cider house, where the pickers live for the harvest. There are a set of rules posted on the wall known as the “Cider House Rules”. Having never been formally educated, Olive; Wally’s mother, has Homer attend a biology class at a local high school. (264-317) Candy and Wally return from school for Thanksgiving. Wally confesses he wants to leave college and go to flight school to become a pilot. Homer believes he has a heart condition which prevents him from joining. This was actually falsified by Dr. Larch to keep Homer from ever going to war. Candy and Homer learn that Wally’s plane has been shot down. (317-368) Candy and Homer volunteering at the hospital have a woman come in beginning for an abortion but is refused. Homer gives her a note informing her of St. Cloud’s. Wally is still missing and Homer and Candy make love in the cider house. They return to St. Cloud’s so that Candy can have the baby secretly. Their plan is to say they adopted the baby from the orphanage. They have a baby boy named angel. Wally returns and is paralyzed from the waist down. Realizing that Wally will need Candy, Candy tells Homer to “wait and see”,
Homer replies “Past a certain point I won’t wait” (422). (368-424)

Attempting to persuade Homer to return Dr. Larch sends Homer his doctor bag. Wally and Candy get married, but Candy maintains a sexual relationship with Homer. All three live together and eventually after fifteen years have passed it becomes clear to Wally that Angel is Candy and Homer’s son. Angel however remains oblivious to this. Homer explains to Candy they must end their relationship and tell Wally and Angel the truth. (424-491) The eleventh and final chapter Homer sends Dr. Larch a note telling him he believes a fetus has a soul and he could never be a doctor. Meanwhile Rose Rose, a farm hand has become pregnant after she is raped by her father. Knowing he must help her and having found out that Dr. Larch has died overdosing on ether, Homer uses the tools sent to him by Dr. Larch to have the baby girl aborted. Homer returns to St. Clouds as Dr. Stone and becomes the resident physician.(491-560) Reflect

Major Issues Addressed
Throughout the novel there is a common focus on rules. From the title The Cider House Rules to the unwritten rules Dr. Larch sets himself to the actual rules of the cider house, rules and the following and bending of them is a major issue throughout the novel. Dr. Larch has explicit rules especially in reference to abortion. He will not abort any child that has “quickened” or started to move (24). Furthermore, he does not keep any of the “records of the women who receive abortions from him” (26). Although this is against regulations and norms, Dr. Larch helps parents by allowing them to decide whether they want to keep their children or not (37). To do so however he must perform abortions and the discard medical records, both of which are illegal meaning he breaks regulation. Thus, in order to follow his own moral rules he must bend societal and legal rules. Another issue addressed throughout the novel is the theme of choice. Dr. Larch is outspoken when it comes to advocating legalizing abortion. He believes by doing so it gives people choice and allows them to have more control over their own lives, “…if you expect parents to be responsible for their children you have to give them the right to decide whether or not to have children.” (74) Therefore, the major issues addressed throughout the novel
focus on rules and choices that people make and follow. Character Development

After witnessing a fetus for the first time Homer decides that it is a “baby” and has a “soul” (169). At this point Homer is very compassionate. He believes that the fetus’s life is precious and it could have formed life as it was in his words a “baby”. He believed an abortion was like taking away a “soul”. Throughout the novel Dr. Larch attempts to convince Homer that because “abortions are illegal” he is “trapped” and must perform them as women have few other choices if any (489). Homer continues to believe that abortions have no place both on a moral level as well as on a legal level as his primary reason for refusing to perform an abortion was the fact that they are “illegal”. On the apple orchard at the cider house when he finds out Rose Rose is a victim of incest and that Dr. Larch has “overdosed” and died he realizes his “business is being a doctor” (512). At first, Homer is very hesitant and wishes to take Rose to St. Cloud’s but finding out that Dr. Larch has died he realizes he must carry on his legacy and perform abortions to women who need it. To come full circle he travels back to St. Clouds as resident physician and performs abortion just as Dr. Larch had before him. Literary Devices

Repetition is very prevalent throughout the novel. A phrase that occurs numerous times is “goodnight your princes of Maine, Kings of New England”(53). This is used to end each night with, after reading the boy orphans a story Dr. Larch would recite that phrase very “compassionately”. The phrase itself is meant to suggest that the orphans despite being sick and weak have large amounts of potential. The phrase is very important in character development as it is the last line spoken, however; this time it is not spoken by Dr. Larch but instead by Homer. Demonstrating he has take his place. Imagery is another literary device prevalent throughout the novel. An example where it used to develop character is when Homer is observing the beds in the cider house and describes the rolled up blankets as “bodies waiting to be identified” (344). The fact that Homer is seeing inanimate objects as “bodies” and examining and “identifying” them as a doctor would demonstrates he is very much still interested in becoming a
doctor despite his belief that abortion is wrong (478). Symbolism

The cider house rules are reposted by Homer each season in the hope that somebody will follow them. Each season Homer is let down as the rules go ignored. The cider house rules are symbolic of laws that govern our lives. In both situations they are well known and made apparent similar to the anti-abortion law. Yet, many women come to St. Cloud’s every day to get an abortion. This demonstrates that people often do not follow rules. Mr. Rose explains this to Homer when he questions why the cider house rules are ignored “We got our own rules” (311). Just as the cider house rules are ignored, eventually the anti-abortion rules are ignored by Homer when he realizes that sometimes official rules must be broken and a person must live by their own set of rules. Point of View

The novel The Cider House Rules is written in the third person point of view. It allows the readers to see the thoughts and beliefs of multiple characters as the narrator is all-knowing. The novel has constant flashbacks that help give a better understanding of Dr. Larch’s character. For example, in a flashback scene it is revealed that Dr. Larch actually refused to perform an abortion on a prostitute out of pride. She was “angry with [him] for not giving her an abortion” (61) and resorted to a back alley abortion. This resulted in her dying and it was from this guilt that Dr. Larch was driven to open up an orphanage and perform abortions there. Furthermore the third person narrator allows the reader to see a glipse of what happens in the character’s minds, “He was still thinking of exactly what to say”(33). This is effective as it demonstrates that Homer is unsure of what to say to Dr. Larch. In this situation, “there is a very pregnant woman” and Homer must escort her in. It shows that Homer is feeling unsure of what to do, “still thinking”. Relate

“The Abortion Debate”
Summary: Debating on abortion encompasses the termination of a pregnancy before normal childbirth. Abortion can be a very painful topic, especially for those considering terminating a pregnancy. There are two facets to the debate, morality of abortion and the legality of abortion. The debate is
split into two main groups, pro-life who believe in banning abortion and pro-choice who believe it should be a woman’s choice. Lastly, there is the issue of a silent victim, the unborn fetus who has no say in whether or not it lives or is killed even before it is born.

The pro-life argument is very contrasting to Dr. Larch’s and eventually Homer’s opinion on abortion. The pro-life argument believes that regardless of when the abortion is terminated whether it has “quickened”, is able to move (68) or not it is still alive. This is the viewpoint Homer has for the majority of the novel. For the majority of the novel Homer is convinced that the fetus is alive and has a “soul”(169). According to the article this belief can only be sustained on a religious or science-less bases. Although the heart may be beating and will be stopped if the fetus is aborted, scientifically the fetus cannot survive independently and is therefore not alive.

Dr. Larch’s argument is very pro-choice, he believes “Americans” act like “monkeys” as both are stuck with the consequences after conceiving a child (376). Contrastingly to the circumstances in The Cider House Rules, most Western countries now allow abortion. This was the belief that Dr. Larch had on choice. He believed that as long abortion remained “illegal” and women’s choices on what to do were limited they would be “trapped”(489). Parts of the article would argue that it is the fetus that is trapped between a decision of life and death that it will have no say in. Both The Cider House Rules and “The Abortion Debate” mention one crucial point that people who are desperate will attempt abortion regardless and it is best for them to have a safe medical professional handling it.

Dr. Larch mentions that if a woman is unable to find a reliable source, “someone else is going to do the job, some moron who doesn’t know how” (32). Similarly, the article argues that “despite the best effort of many countries to ban abortion, it still happens. Right under law enforcement’s nose”. The article understands it is very difficult to prosecute illegal abortion cases as it can be done privately and “right under law enforcement’s nose”. In conclusion, both the article and the novel have
varying views on abortion, both agree that there should be some legal, safe abortion clinics available, whereas the article also argues for pro-life which does not allow abortion altogether. Metacognition

I believe I am very strong at starting my work on time. I completed this project two weeks before it was due and had it edited multiple times. Additionally, I have the ability to visualize what I am reading very clearly. This helps be better understand what is happening in the plot and the character’s intentions and moods are like. Another strength I have is note-taking, I take notes obsessively, almost one sticky note for every two or three pages. This is also helpful in allowing me to remember important details I may forget and keep track of what has happened in the story. Areas For Improvement

I can improve my reading by pacing myself a bit more, usually I will read roughly thirty pages a day, however I find that I may forget some details and have to reread some parts. If I limit my reading slightly it would help me better understand the material I am reading. Another area where I can improve is my reading fluency, I can read fairly fluently and efficiently. Every once in a while I make skip over some words or reread them. I can fix this by reading more often so my reading fluency improves. Reading Strategies

I have a series of strategies that I follow each time almost ritualistically. Before
Prior to reading, I must always eat a handful of fruit and nuts. It helps me concentrate and keeps me from repeatedly getting up and snacking. It also gets my brain stimulated and helps me to better concentrate. Next I take a few deep breaths and clear my mind. I then grab the book and read the back, front and sleeve covers. I then imagine what the book will be about and what I can expect to be reading. This helps me get in the mindset better for reading and allows me to better relate to and understand the topic. I also, do some stretches so I am no especially anxious to move around while reading. During

While reading I am constantly making sticky notes every two three pages. I summarize what happened and analyze some quotations to pull out the most important literary factors in English. Theme, metaphors, symbolism, and character traits and development. I keep the quotation analysis guide, the list of literary devices, etc. These tools help me to better break down the topic and analyze the text better. After

Upon completion of my intended amount of reading I immediately read over my notes. If there is something I believe I missed, I will reread that section of the book and take additional notes. I then organize my notes into chronological order and compare them to what I remember off memory. I put away my notes and the book and I attempt to visualize exactly what happened by closing my eyes and imagining I was there. Additionally, if there were any words I had trouble understanding I will search them in the dictionary. Lastly, I write a one to two page note on what I learned from that section of text.

Works Cited
Irving, John. The Cider House Rules. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2001. Print.

Jones, Harry P., Dr. “The Abortion Debate.” BBC News. BBC, 4 May 2012. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.

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