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Free Study Guide: The Cider House Rules by John Irving

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CHAPTER 10 - Fifteen Years

Summary

Lorna and Melony lived together for 15 years. They served as superintendents of the woman-only boarding house in which they lived. Melony had learned plumbing and electricity from working in the shipyards, and Lorna continued to work on the assembly line. Lorna also became more domestic and feminine. Melony found her increasingly passive, and Lorna refused to fight. In 15 years, Melony had only been arrested once, when a man called her a dyke, but the charge of assault was dropped to disturbance of the peace.

Then, Lorna told Melony she was pregnant. Melony packed Lorna’s bag and sent her to St. Cloud’s. Melony had not been angry for 15 years and was surprised how quickly her anger had returned. When Lorna returned, Melony had packed her things, so she moved out. They saw each other occasionally, but only spoke once. Melony wanted to know if Nurse Grogan and Larch were still alive. Melony was rich but didn’t live like it. She made good money as an electrician and as superintendent; she lived almost rent free. She didn’t own a car and bought all her clothes at Sam’s Army-Navy Men’s Store.

Melony had kept a newspaper article describing Wally’s rescue and receipt of the Purple Heart. She had it framed and hung it over her bed.

For 15 years, Homer had written and posted the unobeyed cider house rules. Mr. Rose continued each year to bring a picking crew and for a while he came with a large, soft, quiet woman and his baby girl.

Fifteen years ago, Candy had made rules for them. They agreed to share Angel, to live together, and not to move out no matter what, even if Candy chose Wally. They would be a family.

For 15 years, the board of trustees tried to replace Larch, but no one wanted to go to St. Cloud’s. The board couldn’t find a nurse or an administrative assistant. Larch was ninety-something and the board was determined to have him retire before he died. Then, out of nowhere a new nurse arrived, Nurse Caroline. Homer had sent her from the Cape Kenneth Hospital; she shared Larch’s view of the Lord’s work.


Melony had sent a huge coat with Lorna to Mrs. Grogan. In one of the coat pockets, Mrs. Grogan found the exact amount of money Melony had stolen from her when she had left. It was too big and heavy for Mrs. Grogan, but Nurse Caroline, big and strong, would be able to wear it.

Larch wondered how Homer, Wally, and Candy had managed to live together these last 15 years. But who was he to advocate honesty when he created fictional histories.

The last summer Mr. Rose was in charge of the picking crew, Angel was 15 and looking forward to being 16 so he could buy his first cart. Candy had taught Angel how to drive, and he’d driven all the farm vehicles. Angel looked older than he was. He’d be taller than Homer. Angel still thought he was adopted. Angel had Wally’s room, surrounded by Wally’s tennis and swimming trophies. Homer had the master bedroom. Olive had died of inoperable cancer before Wally had been sent home. In her pain-induced stooper, she thought Homer was Wally. She told Homer, thinking he was Wally, to forgive Homer and not to blame Homer or anyone and that blame would kill him. She told Candy it was not right to hurt or deceived someone who’s already hurt and deceived.

Candy and Wally were married less than a month after he returned home. They had the converted bedroom on the ground floor. Homer wrote to Larch telling him that Olive’s death had “fixed” things for them. Larch told him not to worry about Angel not knowing who his father was for if he is loved enough, he won’t miss some idea of who his real father is. If Homer told Angel, it would be because Homer wanted him to know not because Angel would need to know.

Angel, strong enough to carry Wally—up steps or to the beach—often was his companion. Wally was not allowed to swim alone or drive alone. Wally taught Angel how to drive the Cadillac long before Candy taught Angel how to drive.

Homer’s only hobby was following Angel around like a puppy waiting to be played with. But Homer was busy too. He continued to volunteer at the hospital and was an avid reader of medical literature, which Candy didn’t like Angel looking at.

Ray had been killed before Angel had any memory of him. His lobster pound blew up when he was tinkering with his homemade torpedo. Candy regretted not telling her father about Homer and Angel. Though she was sure he already knew. She knew he wanted to hear it from her.

Homer ran Ocean View. But even though he was their boss, the workers felt closer to him because they knew he had come from St. Cloud’s. Grace Lynch had died following a misguided attempt to perform an abortion on herself. It was her death that prompted Nurse Caroline to go to St. Cloud’s. Nurse Caroline had the courage to criticize Larch’s drug habit. Larch found fun at provoking Nurse Caroline, but she could talk circles around him, and her patience infuriated him.

For 15 years, Candy and Homer thought Wally knew and accepted Angel and their relationship, but resented not being told. They had been very careful over the last 15 years. Candy had insisted that they never be caught making love, or they would have to stop forever. They knew Wally would accept what had happened when they thought he was dead, but it was what was happening now that Wally wanted to know, and they couldn’t tell him. They also knew that since Wally was sterile, Candy could not get pregnant. If she did, she made Homer promise to give her an abortion. Homer even had Dr. Larch send him all the equipment he would need.

Then, one day Homer made a mistake. Angel and Wally were throwing a ball to each other. Homer was in the pool. Candy came by and told them that their playing in the middle of a Saturday rubbed it in to the workers. Candy went into the house. And Homer said it, “Go tell your mother that if she changes her clothes, we’ll take her to the beach (emphasis added).” Angel was halfway to the house before Homer realized what he said. Wally replied that he didn’t think that Angel even noticed, and Homer knew that Wally had caught his slip.

Nurse Caroline’s socialist views added to the board’s fire. One member was not only sure that Dr. Larch, at ninety-something, was a nonpracticing homosexual, but that Nurse Caroline would brainwash them all with her political views. The board’s ever threatening presence prompted Larch to dig out his old medical bag, have it engraved with the initials F.S. for Fuzzy Stone, and send it to Homer.

Each year, Melony took a whole month off during harvest time; it made her feel good or perhaps young to pick apples. This year she headed to Ocean View. When Melony arrived at the mart, Homer was discussing masturbation with his son. Angel’s bed sheets, Candy said, showed evidence of his emerging sexuality. Homer, assuring Angel that this was completely naturally, emphasized the point that masturbation happened long before sex should. Angel asked Homer why he didn’t have a girlfriend. Homer told him about his bad start with sex in his relationship with Melony and told him a little bit about his feelings for Candy.

One of the workers told Homer that a new fat woman was at the mart to see him. When Homer and Melony saw each other, it was not Homer whom Melony looked at but Angel, who was the spitting image of the boy she had once known. Melony commented that there was not doubt who Angel was, but Homer told her he was adopted. Melony was disappointed that Homer would try to deceive her. Candy entered between Angel and Homer, and Melony recognized instantly the parts of Angel she hadn’t recognized in her memory of Homer. Then, Wally entered and was introduced as Candy’s husband. Melony didn’t know what to do or say. It was hard for her to see that there was no love, enthusiasm, or curiosity in Homer’s eyes for her. Angel broke the silence by asking Melony if she’d like to see the pool.

While Homer and Candy waited for Melony in the house, Homer told Candy that Melony knew that Angel was their son not because he told, just because Melony just always knows. Melony asked to use the bathroom. She spent a long time in the bathroom trying to sort out her feelings. She ransacked it, threatened to cut herself, and vomited twice. When she finally came downstairs, her disappoint with Homer was almost at the level of grief. She thought he would do better in life than have sex with a crippled man’s wife and pretend his child was adopted, she said. She told him she thought he’d end up a do-gooder like Larch, but instead he was just a creep. And then, she left. Homer went upstairs and vomited; the truth had hit him hard. He noticed that Melony had taken the questionnaire about St. Cloud’s, and he immediately called the orphanage to warn them.

After dinner, Homer told Candy that it was time for them to tell everyone everything. Candy protested, but Homer told her they were doing the wrong thing and now was the time to do everything right. That night Candy and Homer met in the cider house. Before he went there, however, Homer went to the apple mart for the mail and opened Larch’s medical bag with the initials F.S. It was then that Homer detected something of the identity that Larch had created for him. “‘Doctor Stone,’ Homer said aloud.” Candy had made up a bed in the cider house. Candy said that there was a lot to do at harvest time. Homer said they could wait six weeks until the harvest was over; after all, they had already waited 15 years. Candy wondered where Homer would go. Homer asked if he’d have to go. Candy imagined he would. They heard a car pull up. Homer was sure it was Wally, though he wondered how he had gotten in the vehicle by himself. When he heard the voices, he realized that Wally must have had Angel bring him. He could hide no longer. He tripped on the medical bag on the way to the kitchen and carried it with him. He turned on the light in the kitchen ready to face the truth. It was at this moment that he knew with Larch’s bag in hand where he’d go—back to St. Cloud’s.

After finding out that Melony had taken the questionnaire, Larch called a meeting, put the finishing touches on Fuzzy Stone’s history, and wrote Homer’s obituary. Larch told them to assume that Melony would some day answer the questionnaire. Because she was angry and because she was not a liar, Melony would tell the board about the abortions so they had to head them off and tell the board themselves. Nurse Caroline found only one flaw in their plot to overthrow the board and retire Larch—what if Homer would not come back, pretend he was Fuzzy Stone, and perform abortions. Homer believes in Larch’s right to perform them, she said, but he also believes it is killing someone.

Mrs. Grogan said that Melony might not expose him, but Larch said that it didn’t matter. He didn’t have a lot of time, and he didn’t want to leave it up to Melony, old age, or ether. He’d rather take his chances with Homer. The nurses did their parts. They signed the letters to the board that Larch had written. Larch wrote Homer and told him everything and told him because abortion was illegal, the women had no choice and neither did Homer.

Notes

For 15 years, Homer and Candy keep their secret. They live by Candy’s rules. Rules that allow them to share Angel, live together, and even have sex. Here, we have another situation of an individual’s rules taking precedence over society’s rules of acceptable behavior. Even Melony, a woman who lives by her own unacceptable rules, finds Homer’s behavior appalling. Melony’s disappointment at Homer’s failure to claim his own son and to live what in effect is a lie is immeasurable. The hero she had once known became nothing more than a creep. Her ideal was shattered by someone else’s personal set of rules. It is Melony’s visit that jars Homer out of this web of deceit. Melony, unreasonable in so many ways, becomes Homer’s voice of reason.

In this chapter, we also find evidence again of a wait and see attitude, and once again the issue of choice arises. Candy’s “wait and see” attitude dictates their actions. They have waited for 15 years for the perfect time to tell Wally and Angel, and it has still yet to come. And Larch reminds Homer that as long as abortion his illegal, he does not have a choice. He is trained and capable and as such should be of use to these women who have no other alternative.


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