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Free Study Guide: The Cider House Rules by John Irving

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CHAPTER 11 - Breaking the Rules

Summary

Melony returned to Bath the same day. She went to the pizza bar, where she looked so forlorn that Lorna joined her. The bum Lorna was with came over and asked if Lorna was back with Melony. Melony had a few words with him that ended with him breaking her arm and her nose. Lorna took Melony to the hospital. This meeting resulted in their moving back in together.

It hadn’t been Wally and Angel after all that came up to the cider house, but Mr. Rose and his daughter, Rose, and her baby girl, whom they hadn’t named. Angel fell in love with Rose instantly. He was shy with girls, and the girls that showed him interest were gossips. Angel liked quiet girls. Rose was the most exotic girl he’d ever seen, and if she had a child, she was more mature because she’d done some other “things,” he thought.

Rose, washing her baby, was startled when Angel approached. She had a knife scar across one nostril and upper lip. The knife had also taken out a tooth. But, even with this flaw, Angel thought she was beautiful. She was only a few years older than Angel, but her maternity was apparent when she dealt with her baby.

Rose’s baby was teething, so Homer had Angel buy pacifiers and some bourbon to numb the baby’s gums. Angel showed Rose how to use both. Later, Angel wrote a list of names for the baby, hoping to impress Rose.

A woman who had tried to give herself an abortion died, and Larch felt responsible and too old, but she had come to late to be saved. Larch soothed himself with ether. The dead body, which would not sit well with the board after receiving their letters exposing Larch, and Larch’s laments of being too old prompted Nurse Caroline to write Homer and tell him to stop being hypocritical and come to St. Cloud’s where he’d be of use. Homer and Wally were worried about Angel’s puppy-like infatuation with Rose, but to Candy it was only puppy-like. She knew Rose had too much experience to allow Angel to get carried away. Homer was worried about Mr. Rose.

Mr. Rose told Angel that Rose was to help him out as they loaded up the tractor. Rose told Angel that the baseball cap he wore made his forehead pale and hid his nice eyes and hair. When he turned it backwards, she told him it looked stupid. The next day he didn’t wear it, but she asked where it was. He told her he lost it, but she said that was too bad because she liked the cap just not on Angel. The next day he gave the cap to Rose, which pleased her.


One of the workers told Angel that he didn’t want to get in the knife business with Mr. Rose. This warning didn’t seem to have any effect; he continued to see her. He started listing baby names for Rose, which she enjoyed. She never knew there were so many names.

Rose received a black eye from her father because of her relationship with Angel. Angel took her to a part of the orchard where they could glimpse the ocean. There they kissed, and Angel learned Mr. Rose had cut her back. Rose told him he shouldn’t have no business with her. A few days later another worker told him he didn’t want to get involved with Rose or the knife business. Angel told his family Mr. Rose had cut his daughter, and they debated what to do.

Melony had sent Homer a letter. In it, she returned the questionnaire to him, still blank, but had written a message: “I thought you was going to be a hero. My mistake. Sorry for hard time.” In response to the letters Larch and Nurse Caroline had sent him regarding the situation in St. Cloud’s, Homer wrote a short note: (1) I am not a doctor, (2) I believe the fetus has a soul, and (3) I’m sorry. Larch wrote back that (1) Homer was a better doctor than he was and knew more, (2) that Homer was playing God by presuming to know what God wants, and (3) that he was not sorry for anything he’d every done or for loving Homer. After sending the letter, he returned to the dispensary and its ether. There in an ether fog, he knocked over the new can of ether filling the room with it and causing his death.

Homer was trying to find out from Mr. Rose about his relationship with his daughter. They sat on the cider house roof and watched as Angel tried to teach Rose how to ride a bike. Homer tried to subtly and tactful ask if anyone was being hurt. Finally, Homer had to admit he was worried about Rose. Mr. Rose says she was happy. He then asked, knowingly, if he, Wally, and Candy were happy. Homer said most of the time, they were.

Rose finally gave up on learning how to ride a bike. She had fallen and hurt herself several times. Bent over in pain, she finally ran off into the orchard with Angel following. They laid next to each other. Angel told her once again that he was sure it would be possible for her to live with him and his family. He talked about how they could all live together. Rose told him he was crazy. Whether he knew it or not, this was the moment Angel became a fiction writer, making the make believe seem more and more real.

When they got up, Rose bent over in pain. She told Angel she had been trying to hurt herself on the crossbar of the bike. She was pregnant. She’d been trying to rid herself of her baby. She wouldn’t tell him who the father was. She asked him to help her get an abortion. Angel had enough money to pay for an abortion. The money he’d been saving to buy his first car, but he would need Candy and Wally’s signature to get it out of his savings account. He also had trouble finding a doctor. Like Wally years before, Angel asked around for a doctor and was given vague information. He told his family right away, and they speculated on who the father was. They told Angel he’d have to take Rose to St. Cloud’s. Candy even told him she had had an abortion there. Homer knowing about the trouble Larch was having with the board decided to put them on a train as soon as possible. They decided Candy, not Angel, should get Rose from the cider house.

Nurse Caroline answered the phone and with little feeling told Homer that Dr. Larch was dead, and he’d have to perform the abortion himself. Then, she promptly hung up. Homer’s eyes stung sharply, his throat hurt deeply, and pain rushed into his lungs. He thought to himself of times in his life he had felt pain. He thought of the women on their way to the orphanage. He wondered what would happen to the nurses. He thought that if Melony were pregnant, he’d help her. It was at that moment that he knew he was willing to play God just a little. Larch would have told him that there was no such thing as playing God just a little. If you played, you played a lot.

Homer once again thought of the opening lines of David Copperfield: “Whether I shall turn out to be a hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” Homer decided to be a hero.

Homer went downstairs, put his head in Wally’s lap, and told him Dr. Larch was dead. He cried just a little. Homer then got his medical instruments and explained to Angel what he’d been taught by Larch. Angel helped him prepare.

When Candy approached the cider house, everyone was outside. She climbed the roof and talked to the workers. Soon she made out the noises coming from inside the cider house from Mr. Rose and his daughter. He was having sex with her. She quickly climbed down from the roof calling out for Rose. Mr. Rose, still dressing, answered. Candy walked in, gathered Rose, and her baby and left with them. “You comin’ back,” Mr. Rose said as they left. Candy told Mr. Rose not to speak to her. He said, with dignity, that he was speaking to his daughter.

Rose explained that her father had been after her since she became involved with the father of her baby. Wally told Candy Dr. Larch was dead. She asked Homer, who was all business, how he was feeling. He told her he was a little nervous. He told her that to him the tissue was a living being. She told him Mr. Rose was the father and that might help it make it easier for him. Candy assisted Homer during the procedure. Homer knew now that he would not be able to refuse anyone else.

Homer imaged that it was Nurse Angela that had announced to the orphans that Dr. Larch was dead: “Let up be happy for Doctor Larch. Doctor Larch has found a family. Good night, Doctor Larch,” Homer said softly. He wrote her a note telling her that they would have to stall the board. He wanted to finish out the harvest and more importantly tell Angel the truth. He also requested all the available history on Dr. Fuzzy Stone. He also wrote that they did not have to fear Melony.

When Melony was well enough, she and Lorna cruised the familiar spots looking for the man that broke her nose and arm. He was not smart enough to be afraid of Melony. When they found him, Melony snipped off the top of his ear with wire cutters, broke several of his ribs and his nose, and beat him unconscious with a chair.

Mr. Rose refused to work the next day. He sat outside the cider house, wrapped in a blanket. Later, one of the workers, Muddy, told Homer that Mr. Rose wanted to see, not touch, his daughter. Homer said to tell Mr. Rose he’d have to come to the house. That evening, Muddy came to the house stating that Mr. Rose wouldn’t come and that Homer was breaking the rules. Muddy had brought the bike back and when Angel came to look at them, Muddy handed Angel a knife to give to Rose. When Angel gave Rose the knife, he found out she was very good with it. Her father had taught her how to use it very well. Rose decided to name her baby Candy.

Rose left a few mornings after arriving at the Worthington home. Mr. Rose said she hitchhiked away. Later that day, Mr. Rose asked Muddy where his knife was. Muddy said he didn’t know where it was. He then asked where Rose got the knife she had been carrying, and Muddy admitted he gave her his knife. Mr. Rose thanked him. He was glad his daughter had some protection. Suddenly, Muddy screamed for one of the other workers and told him to get Homer. Mr. Rose told him it was too late. Muddy asked where Rose had gotten him, but he didn’t speak. He rolled over on his side and said he didn’t think it would take this long, but it had taken all day. Rose had knifed him in the liver. Livers, Homer knew, would bleed at a moderate rate for hours. Mr. Rose died in Homer’s arms before Candy and Angel arrived. But Rose had made a good escape. Mr. Rose had put his own knife in the wound and told Homer to make sure the authorities were told he had stabbed himself. He told the workers to say that his daughter had left, and he was so sorry she was gone, he struck himself.

The end of the harvest came, and the pickers left. They never had a good crew after that. And the cider house rules were never posted again. In fact, no crews ever sat on the cider house roof; it simply never occurred to them. The only person that ever sat there was Angel. It was on the roof that Homer told Angel the whole, true story. While Homer was telling Angel, Candy talked to Wally at what used to be her father’s dock, which was now a restaurant. She carried Wally to the water and told him her story.

In late November, the board approved Dr. F. Stone as the obstetrician-in-residence and orphanage director. They approved of his manner and his fictitious medical and religious backgrounds. Homer, now Dr. Stone, did tell them that he believed abortions should be legalized; however, he would uphold the law, and if they ever did legalize abortion, he would never perform them. He lied convincingly.

Dr. Stone returned to St. Cloud’s on the train. A young woman in need of an abortion was on the same train. Dr. Stone arrived bringing the Lord’s work with him, as Nurse Edna would say. Candy, Wally, and Angel visited each Christmas. And Angel visited often once he got his license.

They all continued to go about their lives. Candy and Wally threw themselves into apple farming. Angel became a novelist. And Homer began sleeping with Nurse Caroline. One day a cadaver arrived addressed to Dr. Stone. It was Melony. Melony had seen an article with a picture announcing Dr. Stone’s appointment and had told Lorna that she wanted her body sent to St. Cloud’s. She died in an electrical accident. They buried her under the apple trees. Melony had provided Homer with more than he ever expected. Referring to the last time he saw her, Homer thought that “she had truly educated him, she had shown him the light.” He was also educated by Larch’s A Brief History of St. Cloud’s of which he read every word. It was how he and the nurses kept Wilbur Larch alive. Larch’s last entry was: “Tell Dr. Stone there is absolutely nothing wrong with Homer’s heart.” And Dr. Stone knew that there had been very little wrong with the “heart of Wilbur Larch.”

Notes

The novel climaxes with Homer performing his first abortion. Rose Rose, impregnated by her father, is in need of an abortion. With Larch dead, Homer realizes that he must do it. He also realizes that if he can do this for Rose, he can do it for anyone. However, Irving makes it clear that Homer does not fully switch to Larch’s position. In his interview with the board, Homer, as Fuzzy Stone, comments that if abortions were legal, he would not perform them. Irving shows that no matter what side of the issue you are on, no position is absolute. There are people, like Homer, that believe abortion is the killing of a human life, and at the same time believe in a woman’s right to control her body. There are other people who believe abortion is wrong, but in circumstances, such as Rose Rose’s, would not object to an abortion being performed. The abortion issue is complex and is made even more complex when the relationships, circumstances, and feelings of humans become involved.

It is also ironic that the person who seemed to have the least to offer, Melony, proved to most of use. Homer admits that it is Melony that really educated him. Larch said that of everything Melony was, Melony was not a liar. Melony’s ability to tell the truth, despite all her other faults, profoundly changes Homer’s life. He acts on Melony’s example and breaks the web of deceit he and Candy have spun.

Irving ends The Cider House Rules with the lesson that despite the rules that people may live by, despite choices, or the lack of choices, it is what is in the heart that counts. Homer and Dr. Larch’s hearts were above all things well intentioned, driving them to be of use.

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