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John Irving: The Cider House Rules

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American Novelist John Irving

American Novelist John Irving

The Cider House Rules (1985) by John W. Irving centers on the life and development of Homer Wells, one of the orphans at St. Cloud's, which is both an orphanage and an abortion clinic.

The orphanage is administered by Dr. Wilbur Larch who is both an obstetrician as well as covert abortionist. He has to inhale ether to withstand the pain he suffers from catching gonorrhea as a young man. Its prolonged use turns him into an ether addict. Under the influence of ether fumes, he rewrites The Brief History of St. Cloud's to fit his personal views and philosophies on the meanings of "being of use", the spiritual and physical needs of the orphans, as well as his own wishful imaginings of their lives. After personally experiencing the plight of women who have undergone illegal abortions, as well as and the sad lives of abandoned children, Dr. Larch attacks the existing, puritan views on abortions. Homer becomes both his protégé and surrogate son, whom he tries to protect from harm by creating a fictitious heart condition for him. There is a natural gloomy depression over the rural setting of St. Cloud's. The orphans are lulled to sleep each night by readings from Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, Great Expectations and Charlotte Brontë's, Jane Eyre. Dr. Larch sends them to sleep with his,"Good night— you Princes of Maine, you Kings of New England!". Rebelling against Dr. Larch's views on abortion, Homer tries to escape by driving off with a beautiful couple, Candy Kendall and Wally Worthington, who come to St. Cloud's for an abortion. They both work at and Ocean View Apple Orchard, the second setting in the novel. There is a huge range of characters, where their histories and harsh milieus are minutely described. Homer falls in love with Candy and while Wally is "missing in action", Homer even fathers her child. However, in the end he must choose between either leaving a girl to bear a baby by her own father or performing an abortion on her. This procedure is a precursor to his greatest decision whether or not to return to St. Cloud's and carry on the medical traditions after Dr. Larch.
(Editor's Note: We suggest that you follow the Comprehension Questions 1-7 and 8-11 as a guide while reading the novel)

Comprehension Tasks

Tasks to The Cider House Rules by John W. Irving (1)
Chapter 1 The Boy Who Belonged to St. Cloud’s Read more

1. Where and when does the story take place?
2. Why were circumcisions practiced at St. Cloud’s?
3. How were babies named at St. Cloud’s? Explain how Homer Wells received his name and why he was able to keep it.
4. Why didn't Dr. Larch inform the families who adopted the children of the names the nurses at the orphanage had given them?
5. Describe St. Cloud’s, Maine and its history. What did it evolve into affecting the lives of its workers?
6. According to Dr. Wilbur Larch., why was the enemy of the Maine forests the Ramses Paper Company?
7. Why did one of the left behind prostitutes write a letter to the officials of the state of Maine? How did the letter affect Dr. Larch?
8. Why did Dr. Larch end up being called Saint Larch?
9. Explain Homer’s experiences with the four foster homes and how he ended up remaining at St. Cloud’s. What was Dr. Larch’s advice to him?
10. Why was Dr. Larch both obstetrician and abortionist?
11. What did routine mean to the orphans of St Cloud's?
12. In which ways was Homer put to “use” at the orphanage? Why didn’t he feel “of use” at the Drapers?
13. What sad memory is Homer forced to recall in order to fall asleep at the Draper’s?
14. What lie initiated Homer’s return to the orphanage from the Drapers?
15. Why did Dr. Larch think it necessary to withhold love at the orphanage? How did he make an orphan of Homer?
16. Describe Homer’s schooling and teachers. What did he experience at Three Miles Falls?
17. Why were Dr. Larch’s nightly readings to the orphans from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and David Copperfield such an essential routine?
18. The fourth foster family who want to adopt Homer, Billy and Grant Winkle are fanatically sports oriented. Why didn’t Dr. Larch think Homer would really fit this type of life?
19. What was it about the Winkles that impressed Dr. Larch?
20. How do they die?
21. How did Melony get her name?
22. What did Dr. Larch first say to Homer when he had returned to St Cloud's after the tragic accident?

Chapter 2 The Lord's Work Read more

1. Explain Wilbur Larch's family background. How was this significant to his choice of careers?
2. What was so ironical regarding Wilbur Larch's father and the Prohibition Movement and temperance reform?
3. Why was Wilbur Larch a “whale of a student”?
4. How did Wilbur Larch catch the gonorrhea that spurred his interest in bacteria at Harvard Medical School?
5. Who was smoking a cigar when he woke up the next morning in the prostitute’s bedroom?
6. What did Mrs. Eames, the prostitute, beg Wilbur to do? Why was this a bit ironic?
7. How did the consequences of the disease affect Wilbur Larch both physically, mentally and spiritually?
8. What happened to Wilbur Larch’s family the same year he became a doctor?
9. Why did he become an obstetrician?
10. Why did Dr. Larch become an ether addict? Explain how it was administered.
11. Where did he start his practice? Why was his first delivery both horrid and humorous at the same time?
12. Why did Mrs. Eames come into Emergency in the South Branch of Boston Lying-In? What did Dr. Larch discover when he tried to sew up Mrs. Eames’ uterus? What actually caused her death?
13. Why couldn’t Dr. Larch treat Mrs. Eames daughter? What did she give him?
14. What were some of the aborticides mentioned in this chapter?
15. According to some doctors with religion, when did they define a fetus as having a soul?
16. What was the common-law’s attitude towards abortion?
17. Describe "OFF Harrison". What methods were used there? How did they deal with pain?
18. What was pinned to Mrs Eames’ daughter's shoulder? What significance did it hold for Dr. Larch?
19. Describe the women waiting in OFF Harrison’s waiting room.
20. Why was Dr. Larch unprepared for Mrs. Santa Claus’s aggression and response? What advice does he give her?
21. Why did Dr. Larch end up giving an abortion to the 13 year old girl at the South Branch of Boston Lying-In? How did his life change afterwards?
22. What made Dr. Larch flee Boston?
23. Why is the way Dr. Larch finally cures his gonorrhea ironic?
24. How did Dr. Larch finally end up at St. Cloud’s orphanage?
25. Why was Dr. Larch invited to the upper class Channing-Peabodys of Boston? How had they prepared for him?
26. What could Dr. Larch NOT forgive them for? Why did he pin the panties from Off Harrison to the old surgeon's lapel?
27. What soul searching questions and answers does Dr. Larch realize while returning to Portland?
28. When he doubted himself, what did he force himself to remember about his past?
29. When Dr. Larch serves in World War I what did his replacement at the orphanage call abortions? What was Dr. Larch’s response to this?
30. Why did the nurses consider Homer a possible problem for the orphanage? How would they combat this?
31. What were in the wastebaskets that Homer had to empty into the incinerator?
32. Describe Homer’s first contact with a dead fetus? What were his first impressions?
33. How did Dr. Larch explain what he saw?

Chapter 3 Princes of Maine, Kings of New England Read more

1. How did they treat orphans at St. Cloud's? What did this entail?
2. What effect did reading from David Copperfield have on Homer? What does he learn from it?
3. What does the following quote from David Copperfield mean to Homer? “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show”
4. How does Homer respond to Dr. Larch’s famous bedtime quote : “Good night!... “Good night— you Princes of Maine, you Kings of New England!”
5. How does Dr. Larch explain pregnancy and abortion from the point of view of the women to Homer?
6. What is Dr. Larch referring to when he says he helps the women have what they want?
7. How old is Homer at this time?
8. Why does Dr. Larch ask God to forgive him with regards to Homer?
9. Describe the girls’ division. What does Homer read for the girls’ division when he is 15?
10. What is remarkable about about Melony? How old is she?
11. Why was it necessary for Homer to keep his eyes off Melony during his readings from Jane Eyre?
12. How were Melony's reactions to the sweeter passages of Jane Eyre different from those of Mrs. Grogan and the others?
13. Describe some of the problems the other orphans like John Wilbur or Fuzzy Stone had.
14. What were the routines for births and abortions at St. Cloud's?
15. Why do you think the women who came for abortions were upset to hear new born babies crying?
16. How was Homer “of use” to the women who came to St. Cloud’s?
17. What was one of the “notorious games” the orphans played?
18. How had Melony’s past influenced her anger? Describe some of her experiences.
19. In what ways was Dr. Larch worried about Homer's innocence?
20. How does Melony's contribute to his education? Why didn’t Dr. Larch take away his reading duties for the girls’ division?
21. What was Dr. Larch’s cluttered dispensary a cover up for?
22. What does Melony think Dr. Larch is hiding regarding her background?
23. What is the significance of the pornographic photo Homer and Melony find in the abandoned bunkroom of the Ramses Paper Company? What lingered with Homer longer than the photograph itself?
24. How does Melony coerce Homer into finding her file?
25. Why does the noise of the hawk dropping the snake startle them so much?
26. What was Dr. Larch’s definition of ”adolescence”?
27. What did Dr. Larch's papers actually contain? Why was he more concerned with the orphans’ futures than their pasts? What was Larch’s law?
28. Why did Dr. Larch know what Homer was looking for when he went searching through his office?
29. Why was Melony a perfect example of someone NOT loved? How does she take the news that her history was not to be found?
30. What is Homer's opinion of Dr. Larch's role at playing God?
31. What must Homer promise Melony to calm her down?
32. Why does Homer’s sexual act with Melony leave him impotent? How does she react to his impotency?
33. What did Homer try to do with the pornographic picture? Describe the reactions of the boys and Dr. Larch to the picture. Why does Dr. Larch end up keeping the picture?
34. How does Dr. Larch handle the act of vandalism on the Ramses Paper Company building that Homer and Melony had carried out? What would he teach Homer?
35. What did Dr. Larch mean by saying that Homer was going to finish medical school before he starts high school? How does he go about teaching Homer?
36. What impressed Homer about the births at St. Cloud’s?
37. Melony seems subdued and physically tired. Why?
38. What was the usual bedtime routine at the orphanage when a child had been adopted?
39. What lie does Dr. Larch tell the orphans when Fuzzy finally dies? Why was the final benediction around Fuzzy’s different?
40. Why did Fuzzy die? How does Homer demonstrate maturity here?

Chapter 4 Young Dr. Wells Read more

1. What does Dr. Larch mean by saying that there is no "society" at St Cloud's?
2. In which ways does Homer lack choices?
3. What medical procedures had Homer taken part in by the time he was around 20 years old? Why didn't Homer perform abortions?
4. Why did Dr. Larch think Homer needed a sponsor to get into medical school?
5. Why had Melony given up running away?
6. Why didn’t the jobs Dr. Larch found for Melony work out?
7. Who were Wallace and Olive Worthington? What were their stories?
8. Why was Olive Worthington more capable of looking after the Ocean View Apple Orchard than her husband Wallace?
9. What did Wallace finally die happy?
10. Why did Homer name the third cadaver that Dr. Larch obtained for him to dissect, Clara?
11. What parallel events take place on the day the cadaver is supposed to arrive? Why can some of the scenes taking place be described as examples of black humor?
12. Why hadn't Dr. Larch returned from the train station when he went to pick up the cadaver?
13. Why had Homer forgotten about the second cadaver?
14. Why is it significant that Homer names the baby he delivers alone, David Copperfield?
15. When Dr. Larch finally complements Homer on his good work, he kisses him. Why did his fatherly kisses mean so much to Homer?
16. What are Dr. Larch’s views on falling in love?
17. Compare Candy Kendall and Wally Worthington. How do their backgrounds differ?
18. What was Ray Kendall’s background?
19. What does Olive Worthington think of Candy’s relationship to her son, Wally?
20. How did Dr. Larch change the history of his orphans at St. Cloud's? Give examples.
21. Why did he give Homer an imaginary heart defect?
22. Why were Wally and Candy not ashamed to tell their parents that Candy was pregnant?
23. Why does Candy slap Wally when he tells her he would have to go to war?
24. From whom did Wally get the proper information regarding abortions?
25. Describe Vernon and Grace Lynch.
26. Describe the lives of some of the people who worked at the orchard.
27. What does Grace tell Wally about St. Cloud's? Why do you think Grace suggests that Candy should not go alone? What was her experience there like?
28. What lie did Wally have to tell Senior Worthington?
29. What did Wally and Candy worry about prior to leaving?

Chapter 5 Homer Breaks a Promise Read more

1. How does the stationmaster's superstitions based on his mail-order religion fit in with the arrival of "Clara", the cadaver?
2. What awakened the stationmaster and why did he scream?
3. Why didn’t the stationmaster like the children at St. Cloud's orphanage?
4. Describe the women who came with the morning mail train to St. Cloud’s
5. Why did the stationmaster think he saw sorcerers? What did this result in?
6. Why hadn’t anyone noticed the stationmaster?
7. Why was Homer so grimly affected by the autopsy he performed on the fetus of the stabbed woman from Three Mile Falls? What does Homer realize at this stage?
8. Who come into the corridor between the dispensary and Nurse Angela’s office just as Homer is carrying the tray with the dead fetus in it? Where does Homer end up placing the tray?
9. What state is Dr. Larch in when Homer explains his autopsy findings?
10. What final decision regarding abortions does Homer relay to Dr. Larch?
11. What is Curly Day screaming about? How did David Copperfield end up landing on top of the dead stationmaster’s face? What role does Melony play during this scene?
12. Why is this scene a turning point?
13. How had Wally imagined arriving at St. Cloud’s for the abortion?
14. Curly Day and David Copperfield mix up the message that is to be given to the railroad attendants regarding the death of their stationmaster? How?
15. What did the stationmaster’s assistant mistake Wally’s Cadillac for?
16. When Wally asks for directions to St. Cloud’s, what did Curly Day think Candy and Wally wanted with the orphanage?
17. Describe the scene with the Curly and David in the white Cadillac. How does Wally react?
18. How does Mrs. Grogan misconstrue their arrival?
19. What frightens Melony? Why is she so engrossed by this beautiful couple?
20. Why does Dr. Larch insist that Homer participate by watching the abortions against his wishes?
21. Why doesn’t Dr. Larch interfere with the choices the women make who come to St. Cloud’s?
22. Why can’t he teach the same procedures to Melony?
23. What are Dr. Larch’s thoughts and responses when Homer says he does not want to become a doctor?
24. Why was Curly Day crying in the shower room? What misconception is Curly living under?
25. After his quarrel with Dr. Larch, Homer goes to apologize to Dr. Larch. Why does he end up saying, “I’m sorry and I love you” to the dead stationmaster instead of Dr. Larch?
26. What does Curly want Homer to tell the couple?
27. How do the children behave around Wally, his gifts and the Cadillac? Why are Wally’s actions so inappropriate?
28. Why doesn't Dr. Larch realize why the couple is actually there? Who does?
29. Why wouldn't Homer have anything to do with Candy's abortion?
30. How did Wally react to what was happening?
31. What does Wally suggest to Homer? What metaphor does Homer use about Wally?
32. Why does Melony steal the book, Little Dorrit from the Cadillac?
33. What is Melony’s response to the stationmaster’s assistant when he asks to “view” the body?
34. What did the stationmaster’s assistant think the Cadillac was for?
35. How does Dr. Larch feel about Homer's leaving? Why does Dr. Larch insist that there demonstration of emotion or affection?
36. What does Dr. Larch tell Candy regarding Homer's condition?
37. Why is Curly so upset?
38. Why does the stationmaster’s assistant run out screaming?
39. What is the immediate effect on the inhabitants of St. Cloud’s when Homer leaves?

Chapter 6 Ocean View Read more

1. How did Homer’s leaving St. Cloud’s affect the routines at St. Cloud’s?
2. How does Melony respond to Homer’s leaving?
3. Why doesn’t Dr. Larch respond positively to Nurse Angela’s suggestion that Melony might "be of more use"? Why doesn’t he like Melony?
4. What does Dr. Larch think of Mrs. Olive Worthington’s letters concerning Homer?
5. Why is Dr. Larch so negative to Homer learning to drive and swim?
6. How do we know that Melony’s violent temper is escalating? What did she do to Mary Agnes and why?
7. What was the meeting between Melony and Dr. Larch like? How had she prepared herself?
8. Why does Dr. Larch ask Melony to watch while he sets Mary Agnes’ broken arm?
9. What does Melony steal before running away from St. Cloud’s? What is her destination?
10. What were Dr. Larch’s reasons for asking Mrs. Worthington to tell Homer that Melony took the copy of Jane Eyre and if she could please replace it?
11. Describe the ride back in the Cadillac to the coast for Homer, Wally and Candy. How does Homer demonstrate his inexperience with life outside of St. Cloud’s?
12. What is Homer’s life like at Ocean View? Go through the chapter and describe some of the practical things he learns?
13. In what ways do the letters between Dr. Larch and Homer differ?
14. How is Dr. Larch changing?
15. What do we learn about Senior Worthington and his alcoholism?
16. What were some of the things that Homer had missed at St. Cloud's? Why was it so depressing?
17. Why does Vernon Lynch alarm Homer?
18. How is racism and prejudice brought out in this chapter?
19. Why does Herb Fowler make innuendos and jokes regarding prophylactics?
20. Why can Homer sense that Grace Lynch, Vernon’s wife, is a victim?
21. Why does Grace think that although St. Cloud’s was an “awful place”, she still felt safe there? Why does she think it is “dangerous” in the bunk room of the cider house at Ocean View Apple Orchard?
22. How does Homer feel towards Debra Pettigrew, her family and dogs?
23. What was Homer's impression of the drive-in movie at Cape Kenneth and the film?
24. What rules of dating does Homer learn at the drive-in from Debra Pettigrew?
25. What does Homer compare his love for Candy with after the film?
26. Who had adopted Curly Day? What was his grievance against Homer?
27. Why did the druggist and his wife adopt Curly? What name did they give him?
28. Why do Candy and Wally think that calling the orphans Princes of Maine and Kings of New England could be interpreted as “cynical” and “mocking”?
29. After much deliberation what does Homer end up writing in his letter to Dr. Larch?
30. Describe Dr. Larch’s meeting with the board of trustees. Why is this meeting an actual threat to Dr. Larch? What does he ask for?
31. What does Dr. Larch’s imaginary correspondence with Fuzzy Stone deal with? Why is it necessary for him to create these letters?
32. What is Homer’s dilemma at this time?
33. Why does Dr. Larch give fatherly kisses to all the boys?

Chapter 7 Before the War Read more

1. What had Melony experienced in her search for Homer up to this point? How does she defend herself and gain somewhat of a reputation?
2. Why does the foreman allow her to stay after her attack?
3. What are their responses when she tells the workers at York Farm that she is looking for her boyfriend?
4. What were the Cider House Rules? Why were they put up?
5. Why does Homer go up on the cider house roof? What does he find there?
6. Why does Grace Lynch attack Homer in the vat?
7. What does the Worthington family and Dr. Larch deduce from Senior Worthington’s outrageous behavior? Why is Senior Worthington happy about the diagnosis? What do the workers at Ocean View call it?
8. Why did Mrs. Worthington offer Homer a permanent place to stay?
9. What are Homer’s immediate plans for education?
10. Why didn’t Homer think that Snowy Meadow’s suggestion of a reunion was a good idea?
11. What signs are there that Dr. Larch is being pressurized by the board of trustees?
12. How is Dr. Larch able to falsify transcripts for Fuzzy Stone from Bowdoin Harvard Medical School and have them sent to St. Cloud’s?
13. What obvious signs are there that Dr. Larch is suffering from exhaustion?
14. What are Wally’s plans for the future? What did he make Homer promise while he was away at college?
15. What are the common rules regarding sex according to Debra Pettigrew?
16. What are Homer’s views on sexual intimacy?
17. What signs are there that Homer may have a photographic memory?
18. Why did Candy actually get pregnant? How does Homer perceive evil?
19. What does the following quote from David Copperfield mean to Homer? “I have stood aside to see phantoms of those days go by me. They are gone, and I resume the journey of my story”.
20. Describe Homer’s biology class.
21. Why does Dr. Larch cry at “Clara’s”, the cadaver’s, funeral?
22. What made Dr. Larch furious with regards to the questionnaire the board of trustees insisted that each adopted orphan was to fill out? How does Dr. Larch reply through Fuzzy?
23. What was Homer's reaction to the questionnaire?
24. What was remarkable about Arthur Rose? Why do they call him Mr. Rose?
25. What was the picking crew at York Farm like? How did the crew boss, Rather, differ from Mr. Rose?
26. Why did the men at York Farm resent Melony but knew better than to mess with her?
27. What happens when Melony is asked to read from Jane Eyre? Why does she start crying?
28. How does Mr. Rose threaten one of his crew workers at Ocean View after the man drops a cigarette into the cider vat?
29. Why does the crew think Homer is a good story teller when they are on top of the cider house roof?
30. Why does Mr. Rose want to see the Ferris wheel in Cape Kenneth? What takes plave while they are there?
31. What does Mr. Rose do with his knife at the carnival?

Tasks to The Cider House Rules by John W. Irving (2)
Chapter 8 Opportunity Knocks Read more

1. Why did Melony stay on at York Farm?
2. When did she decide to leave? Where did she go? How did crew feel about her leaving?
3. What does Candy think Wally is selfish?
4. What did Homer master better at school than Mr. Hood, the science teacher?
5. How did Snowy Meadows and Curly Day answer the “Goodhall-Gingrich” questionnaire?
6. What does Dr. Larch write to Homer regarding Homer’s heart condition and the questionnaire?
7. Why are Homer’s so-called heart condition and the mention of stress so ironic at this point to Homer?
8. Why is it hard for Homer to choose between St. Cloud’s and Ocean View?
9. Why does Dr. Larch keep on lying?
10. Does Homer answer the questionnaire?
11. Why does Homer find his Senior Biology class so daunting?
12. What was the work at the shipyard like for Melony?
13. What does Melony tell Lorna about her relationship with Homer?
14. Why did Melony become so attached to Lorna?
15. How do Homer, Candy, Melony, Lorna and Mary Agnes all end up in Bath at the same time?
16. What happens when Homer opens his wallet to pay for tickets in wind? How does Candy react? What does Homer divulge? What are their plan?
17. Why does Homer think he is having a heart attack?
18. When Mary Agnes sees Melony, why is she surprised that Melony is not with Homer?
19. Why did Melony return the barrette that she took from Mary Agnes?
20. How do people react to Pearl Harbor being bombed?
21. How did Homer get out of military duty?
22. Why didn't Candy accept Wally's proposal of marriage?
23. What is the main topic of conversation during Christmas dinner?
24. Where does the military send Wally during this chapter?
25. Why is he a terrible letter writer? What does he ask Candy to do in his letters to her?
26. Why did people at Ocean View start to take care of Homer?
27. What does Lorna say to Melony when she is about to leave the shipyard in Bath?
28. What does Dr. Larch feel he had accomplished concerning Homer?
29. What is Melony’s impression of Curly Day, Roy Rinfret, when she meets him working at Ice Cream parlor? Why do they both resent Homer? How many people are actually looking for Homer at this point?
30. What do Candy and Wally do for the war effort?
31. What did Homer think of the obstetrical procedures at Cape Kenneth Hospital?
32. What was Nurse Caroline's answer to the over use of ether at Cape Kenneth’s Hospital?
33. What does Homer do when a sailor comes in with a knife slash?
34. Why does Homer focus so much on “rules” in this chapter?
35. What rank did Wally finally hold?
36. Why does Homer think he has a right to ask Candy and Wally anything he wants to know?
37. What does Candy say when Homer asks her if she loves Wally?
38. What happens to Wally at the end of the chapter?

Chapter 9 Over Burma Read more

1. Why could the Worthington family feel optimistic regarding Wally's missing plane, Opportunity Knocks?
2. How did people react to Wally missing in action?
3. What advice does Dr. Larch give Homer regarding romantic love, compromise and being of use?
4. Why did the sounds of restless children at Cape Kenneth Hospital soothe Homer?
5. What significance does Meany Hyde put on the birth of his new baby?
6. Why is Homer better at accepting Wally's undefined status?
7. What takes place at Cape Kenneth Hospital when Dr. Harlow refuses to perform an abortion? What does Nurse Caroline usually do?
8. How do Homer and Dr. Harlow differ with regards to keeping the rules?
9. What do they hear from the crew of Opportunity Knocks? Where was Wally?
10. When in August of 194_ Burma officially declares war against Great Britain and the United States, why does Candy want to find a new place to sit on the dock?
11. During the summer, what does Dr. Larch write to the Roosevelts?
12. What was Olive Worthington's dilemma regarding Homer, Candy and Wally?
13. What does Ray Kendall feel about the situation Candy, Wally and Homer were in?
14. When Homer and Candy finally have sex, what does Mrs. Worthington think Homer’s sound of release is?
15. What was Dr. Larch's opinion on love being safe? Why does the text COMMON MISUSES OF THE PROPHYLACTIC come up with Dr. Larch’s discussion on if love is safe?
16. What is meant by Homer and Candy sharing “both a love and a grief”?
17. What else would Homer and Candy have to wait and see?
18. Why weren't Dr. Larch and the remaining orphans glad to see David Copperfield adopted?
19. What takes place in Dr. Larch's ether dreams?
20. Why don’t the people of Maine talk about Candy’s pregnancy?
21. What does Ray Kendall feel about the love between Candy and Homer?
22. Why was Candy afraid of Olive Worthington?
23. What excuses do they give people for escaping to St. Cloud's to have the baby?
24. Who influenced Homer with regards to his telling lies? Why?
25. Why is Homer puzzled by Debbie Pettigrew’s hostility towards his and Candy’s friendship? 26. Why would the journey to St. Cloud's symbolize Home’s freedom from St. Cloud's?
27. How do the reactions of the nurses and Dr. Larch to the birth of Candy’s baby differ?
28. How do Mrs. Worthington and Ray react when Homer tells them that he and Candy are both going to St. Cloud's?
29. Why didn't Homer think he was really betraying Mrs. Worthington?
30. How do the superstitions of the female workers at Ocean View predict what Wally’s fate will be?
31. How is Candy received at St. Cloud's?
32. Why was Homer forced to deliver a baby at St. Cloud’s after the Thanksgiving party?
33. What does Dr. Larch mean when he says that Homer does not need to go to medical school to be a doctor here?
34. How does Homer feel about abortion at this stage?
35. Why was this Christmas considered the best ever at St. Cloud’s?
36. What did Homer discover when he went down to the boys' division?
37. What does Lorna demand of Melony if they are to stay together? How would this influence Melony’s rage?
38. What does Homer intend to plant at St. Cloud’s?
39. Who delivers Candy's baby? What is the child called?
40. What was in the telegram Olive sent to Homer and Candy?
41. Why can we call Wally’s escape an adventure story? What does Dr. Larch compare Wally’s journey to?
42. What does Homer write in answer to Olive’s telegram?
43. What do Homer and Dr. Larch argue about?
44. When they return to Ocean View, why is Homer filled with guilt?
45. Why was Ray building a torpedo?
46. Why can’t Homer and Candy tell Wally the truth?
47. Why does Homer insist that one day they must tell Angel the truth about his parentage?

Chapter 10 Fifteen Years Read more

1. How long had Lorna and Melony been a couple? Who was the handy one and who was the domestic one?
2. Why didn’t Lorna fight back?
3. How had Melony changed at the age of forty-something?
4. Why did she break the college boy’s nose?
5. What does Melony do when Lorna says she is pregnant? What does she hand Lorna to give to Mrs. Grogan at St. Cloud’s?
6. What was in the newspaper article that Melony had put in the antique framed?
7. Sum up Homer's life for the past 15 years? How had he changed the cider house rules?
8. Why do Mr. Rose and his crew deface and refuse to obey the cider house rules? Why does Homer continue to put them up each year?
9. What were the rules regarding Angel that Candy and Homer agreed to 15 years ago?
10. What does family mean to Homer?
11. Why couldn’t the board of trustees find a replacement for Dr. Larch?
12. How did Mrs. Goodhall and Dr. Gingrich plan to replace Dr. Larch? What label did they attach to him?
13. How do Mrs. Goodhall and Dr. Gingrich and Homer and Candy misinterpret each other at the hotel in Ogunquit?
14. Which new nurse comes to St. Cloud’s in the nick of time? Why did she come? Who had sent her?
15. What was in the gift from Melony?
16. Why did Dr. Larch have trouble with the word, “angel”? What was his opinion of “honesty in relationships”?
17. What was Angel Wells like at the age of 15?
18 Why did Homer tell his son that he had no reason to feel adopted?
19. When Olive Worthington is dying of cancer, what are her last word to Candy? What is said in her drug-related confusion?
20. According to Dr. Larch, why doesn’t Angel really need to know who his real father is?
21. What were some of the rules regarding Wally?
22. What is Homer’s advice to Angel with regards to “rules”?
23. What was Homer’s life like during this period? How does everyone take to his running Ocean View?
24. How do Candy and Wally react to Angel’s interest in the medical literature that Homer reads?
25. How had Ray Kendall died? Why did Candy feel guilty?
26. What was Dr. Larch’s opinion of religion?
27. Although Nurse Caroline and Dr. Larch agree that women should be able to have abortions, they disagree on it becoming legal. Explain?
28. Does Wally know that Homer is Angel’s father? What event brings up the question?
29. What did Candy make Homer promise if she got pregnant again? What precautions had they taken over the years?
30. Why did Homer ask Dr. Larch to send him medical equipment? What did Dr. Larch think he wanted it for?
31. How did sex and love differ to Homer?
32. What was Wally’s reaction to Homer’s slip of the tongue when he refers to Candy as Angel’s mother? What does this prove?
33. What does Mrs. Goodhall accuse Dr. Larch and Nurse Caroline of? How does Larch respond to this?
34. What unexpected question does Angel ask Homer during their conversation about masturbation?
35. Why is Melony surprised when she arrives at Ocean View and sees Angel? How does the situation at this point prove to be awkward for all of them? How does Melony behave?
36. What impact did Melony have on Angel?
37. Why does Melony demonstrate grief and disappointment instead of rage and anger towards Homer?
38. Why did Melony's theft of the questionnaire alarm Homer?
39. Why is telling the truth to Angel and Wally so important to Homer at this point?
40. At the ball game, what is it that Wally says he misses most? What does he thank Homer for?
41. What answer does Homer give when Angel asks him “What’s the thing you love best and the best thing you ever did”?
42. What was in the package Dr. Larch sent Homer the same day Melony arrived?
43. What does Candy fear most about revealing the truth about Angel’s parentage?
44. What becomes so clear to Homer at this point?
45. What is Dr. Larch’s final plan for St. Cloud’s? How does he accomplish his final vision with the help of the nurses? What does the entire plan revolve around?
46. What final arguments regarding abortion does Dr. Larch use to bring Homer back to St. Cloud’s?

Chapter 11 Breaking the Rules Read more

1. What is Melony’s opinion of Homer when she returns to Bath? Why does she think he is no longer a hero? What are her thoughts concerning men?
2. What does Lorna’s “sexual entanglement”, Bob, do to Melony at the pizza bar?
3. Why do Melony and Lorna move back together? Why won’t Melony press charges against Bob?
4. How old was Mr. Rose’s daughter, Rose?
5. What evidence is there that Mr. Rose knows what Homer and Candy were doing in the cider house together?
6. Why are the number of times Homer and Candy made love since Wally came back from the war significant?
7. Why does Angel fall in love with Rose Rose? Why didn’t he like the girls in Heart’s Rock and Heart’s Haven?
8. Why does Angel start taking such an interest in Rose Rose’s baby, her teething and naming her? What does reciting baby names really mean for Angel and Rose Rose?
9. Why does Mr. Rose throw a pebble at Angel?
10. What different problem was Dr. Larch facing?
11. What does Dr. Larch’s ether dream consist of?
12. What does Nurse Caroline write to Homer in her letter?
13. Why are Candy and Wally concerned about Angel’s infatuation with Rose Rose?
14. What was one of Mr. Rose’s rules concerning the crew hurting each other?
15. Why did Rose Rose warn Angel not to get involved with her? Who was the baby’s father? 16. When Rose Rose receives a black eye, why won’t Mr. Rose admit it to Angel?
17. What does Angel discover on Rose Rose’s back when he takes her swimming? What does Muddy warn Angel about?
18. Why won’t Candy,Wally and Homer report what is happening to Rose Rose to the police? What examples of racism do we find in this chapter?
19. What had Melony written to Homer? Why hadn’t she filled out the questionnaire?
20. What does Homer specify in his answer to Dr. Larch and Nurse Caroline? What is Dr. Larch’s rebuttal to Homer’s letter?
21. What type of ether dream does Dr. Larch experience after delivering the letter to the stationmaster? What causes Dr. Larch’s death? How do the nurses at St. Cloud’s interpret his death?
22. When Homer tries to discuss rules with Mr. Rose in order to approach the question of Rose Rose’s mutilation, what does Mr. Rose pull out of his pocket?
23. Why is Irving’s description of the bike riding lesson important to this chapter?
24. Why is Angel’s description of the future to Rose Rose so unrealistic?
25. What is Homer’s advice to Angel when he tells Homer that Rose Rose wants an abortion? 26. Who tells Homer the news that Dr. Larch is dead when Homer calls St. Cloud’s? How does this seal Homer’s fate?
27. According to Homer, how would he “be a hero”?
28. What story does Homer tell Angel about helping Dr. Larch?
29. Why were the picking crew men on top of the cider house roof? Why had they refused to speak to Candy? What was the sound she had heard?
30. What does Mr. Rose say to Rose Rose when Candy takes her out of the cider house bunk room?
31. What had Mr. Rose done to the father of her baby girl? Why?
32. Why does Homer finally make up his mind to give Rose Rose an abortion? What does he realize during the operation?
33. What old story regarding love does Wally tell Angel?
34. Why does Homer like babies so much?
35. Why does Homer ask for Nurse Angela to stall the meeting with the board of trustees? 36. How had Melony taken her revenge on Bob for breaking her arm and nose?
37. Why did Mr. Rose go on strike? What does he want?
38. How is Homer breaking Mr. Rose’s rules? Whose rules is Homer following
39. Why does Muddy ask Angel to give Rose Rose his knife? Why did she leave?
40. What does Muddy point out to Angel when Angel says he loves Rose Rose?
41. Why did Mr. Rose die of? How did he make it look like suicide?
42. What “whole story” does Homer finally tell Angel? Where are Candy and Wally at the time?
43. How does Homer, as Dr. Stone, fool the board of trustees?
44. Describe his new persona.
45. Why had Melony sent her cadaver to Homer/Dr. Stone? How had she died?
46. Who were the real Princes of Maine, Kings of England?

Literary Analysis
Literary Analysis to The Cider House Rules by John Irving

Settings and descriptions of various milieus play an important role in this novel.
1. During what periods in time does the story take place?
2. How do the settings and seasonal changes affect the overall atmosphere of the story?
3. How do the seasonal changes affect the characters? Give examples.
4. Describe St. Cloud's, Heart's Haven, Heart's Rock, Ocean View Apple Orchard and York Farm.

1. Make a character table of the following major characters using the character traits below: Dr. Wilbur Larch, Nurse Edna, Nurse Angela, Mrs. Grogan, Homer Wells, Melony, Candy Kendall, Wally Worthington, Olive Worthington.
• Age and physical appearance
• Personality traits
• Strengths and weaknesses
• Stereotype
• Static character/developing character
2. What do they symbolize?
3. What is it that you like or dislike about them?
4. What picture do they give of human nature?
5. Who are the villains in the story?
6. Who are the heroes/heroines
• What side of human nature do they represent?
7. Which minor characters did you like or dislike the most. Why or why not?

Plot and Structure
1. Sum up the plot of the story
• Explain any symmetry in the plot of the story
2. How is the novel structured?
• Include the various periods of Homer’s life
3. Turning points
• Where do they take place?
• Where does the climax take place? Why?

Conflict or tension
What is/are the main conflict/s in the story?

1. Which scenes or episodes can be said to be most tragic?
2. Which scenes are the most violent?

Which scenes or episodes can be said to be humorous?

1. What elements does Irving use to build up suspense in the novel?
2. Which scenes are the most exciting?

Narrators and Point of View
1. Who are the narrators of the story?
2. How do they differ in point of view?
3. Does the author speak through them?


Choose one of the following themes and write an essay where you discuss and exemplify how the theme is developed in the novel. Read more

• defining and breaking rules
• abortion vs. abandoned children
• the right to choose
• good and evil
• violence and injustice against women
• child abuse
• love triangles
• homosexuality
• incest


1. Language • Dialogue and slang. Read more

Are there any special characteristics to the way the different characters speak? Can you find any stock phrases or expressions that are individual to our characters which show their social status, working conditions or level of education?

2. Tone
• Describe the tone of the story
• Are there any shifts in tone during the novel?

3. Symbols
What do the following symbols or images represent?
• Ramses Paper Company
• the snake and hawk in Chapter 3
• the cider house rules
• the wind in Chapter 5
• the sea gull in Chapter 5
• the Bedouin in Chapter 6
• the Ferris wheel


Discuss the following topics with a partner: Topics

1. Are Dr. Larch’s methods of bringing up orphans always wise? What would you do differently; if you were an administrator of an orphanage
2. Discuss the statements: delivering babies is considered “the Lord’s Work” while performing abortions is considered “the Devil’s Work”.
3. Based on the quote from David Copperfield, “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show”, discuss whether the orphans were actually heroes of their own lives? .
4. Discuss the significance of the book’s title. What are the cider house rules? What message does Irving wish to present with regards to breaking or keeping them?
5. Discuss the impact Melony had on Homer and his future?



Choose ONE of the following topics and write an essay: Topics

1. How are arguments for and against abortion presented through the characters of Dr. Larch, Homer Wells and Nurse Caroline in The Cider House Rules? Who do you agree or disagree with? Why/why not?
2. The rights of women to have abortions are questioned in The Cider House Rules. In what ways were various female characters able or unable to influence their situation?
3. Dr. Larch rewrites the history of St. Cloud's, gives Homer a false heart condition and changes school transcripts to create Dr. Fuzzy Stone. Discuss John Irving's treatment of lying in this novel?
4. Explain Irving’s message of how race and class may affect a person’s chances at happiness in life.
5. When Homer leaves St. Cloud’s, a great portion of the novel is given to Dr. Larch’s attempts at bringing him back to become his replacement. What event finally brings him back to St. Cloud’s? Why do you think he finally accepts his calling?
6. John Irving mixes tragedy with black humor throughout his novels. Give examples where this takes place in The Cider House Rules. Why do you think he does this?
7. Searching for one’s family is a theme that is quite prevalent in The Cider House Rules. Discuss how Irving defines” family” in this novel?
8. Irving quotes many passages from Jane Eyre to describe Melony's shifting moods. Find examples and discuss how she develops throughout the novel.

Diary Entry

Choose one of the characters and write an entry for his or her diary for one day.

Book Review
Write a book review as it would be presented in a literary magazine.

Write an Interview
Choose your favorite character and write an interview for TV or radio. Together with a partner, you may record the interview using a sound editor (e.g.audacity).

Project Work

Choose ONE of the following topics: Topics

1. Prepare a debate. Today the debate in many countries is not whether a woman should have the right or not to have an abortion, but whether it is ethical to abort a fetus if it proves to have genetic disorders such as Downs Syndrome. Go online or search news media for authentic articles and information. Make up a manuscript for broadcasted interview or debate for a talk show for radio or TV where you take up the different sides to the problem. Record the actual debate

More About the Author
John W. Irving - the Author
John Winslow Irving, novelist, screenplay writer and lecturer, was born in 1942 in Exeter, New Hampshire. His biological father, John Wallace Blunt, whom he was first named after, was shot down over Burma during World War II. He survived but divorced John's mother. His mother, Frances Winslow Irving was remarried to a Russian history teacher at Phillip's Exeter Academy, Colin F.N. Irving. After his step-father adopted him when he was six, John's name was legally changed to John Winslow Irving. As a young student, he attended the same boys' prep school where his step-father taught. Having been diagnosed fairly late for his dyslexia, John W. Irving's academic accomplishments can only be described as mediocre. Nevertheless, he excelled in two subjects, writing and wrestling. John Irving has stated in several interviews that some of his greatest influences came from the loss of his biological father, his writing teacher and wrestling coach. The fact that he was brought up during his formative years by a single parent also influenced his writing. We recognize New England's academic life, prep-schools and wrestling milieus as settings for many of his novels, i.e. The World According to Garp (1978), A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989) and In One Person (2012). He received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of New Hampshire, and took his Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Iowa. It was here during the late 1960's at the University of Iowa Writers' that he studied with another famous author, Kurt Vonnegut. During the 1960's and 1970's, Irving both studied and worked at various universities as assistant professor, writer and teacher. While studying in Vienna, Austria he met his first wife, Shyla Leary, with whom he had two sons, but later divorced. His second marriage in 1987 was to Janet Turnball, a literary agent. His third son was born in 1998. Although his teaching ebbed over the years, his love of wrestling and coaching did not. In 1992 he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

John Irving’s Novels
His first novels, Setting Free the Bears (1968), The Water-Method Man (1972) and The 158-pund Marriage (1974) did not receive much public acclaim. However, a great admirer of Charles Dickens even as a teenager, (his favorite book was Great Expectations), Irving focused on developing extremely complex plots and characters. In his breakthrough novel, The World According to Garp (1978), Irving pays great attention to the physical descriptions of his characters, their births, background, development, movements, dress, habits, education and death. The novel became an international bestseller and even achieved cult status. Irving kept to the Dickensian method of storytelling in his next novel, The Hotel New Hampshire (1981). An eccentric family saga comes to light as Irving mixes humor with themes of sexuality, incest, rape, cruelty and injustice. The Cider House Rules (1985) won critical acclaim and demonstrates the most obvious of Dickensian influences. As with many of his novels to come, addresses modern social issues through eccentric characters, unusual milieus and parallel storylines. The Cider House Rules is a sprawling epic centered on St. Cloud’s Orphanage in New Hampshire, Maine. In this novel Irving writes about the controversial issues of abortion vs. abandoned children. Another novel set in New England, A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989), unfolds through the characters of John Wheelwright and his lifelong friend, dwarfish Owen Meany. Irving discusses faith in God and religious hypocrisy. Many of his novels have been often slaughtered by literary critics, only to become popular best sellers and made into film.

In the 90’s John Irving published A Son of the Circus (1994) and A Widow for One Year (1998). In Irving’s novel, Until I find You (2005), the main protagonist, Jack Burns, searches for his father in tattoo parlors around the world. Here Irving revealed biographical elements of his own life such as the fact that he had been sexually abused at the age of 11 and his search for his biological. Another novel, Last Night in Twisted River (2009), is about a boy and his father who escape the logging community of Twisted River, New Hampshire after a tragic accident. While on the run from a sadistic sheriff, the boy becomes a famous writer and novelist. His progress and development as a writer is said to mirror Irving’s own. His most recent novel, In One Person (2012) focuses on the themes of bisexuality, transgender and AIDS. As readers we recognize recurring settings and elements used in other novels; nevertheless, John W. Irving’s comments on modern social issues will always remain fresh in our minds.
Last updated 12/22/2017
Written by: Carol Dwankowski

Learning content

Literature after 1900

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External resources

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