Free Study Guide: The Cider House Rules by John Irving

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The Cider House Rules takes place in two distinct settings. The majority of the action happens in St. Cloudís, Maine. St. Cloudís began as a logging camp in a low river valley. It was initially called Clouds because in the low valley, there was fog until midmorning and a constant mist from the waterfalls. It became St. Cloudís because of the habit of Catholics of adding the word saint before so many things. Eventually, St. Cloudís became a mill town, perpetually covered in sawdust. It was in spring, or rather the mud season, when the town was immobilized by the thawing mud, and future orphans were conceived. At St. Cloudís, children are delivered of their mothers and mothers delivered of their children. When the Ramses Paper Company had cut down all the trees in the area, they closed down the mill, leaving an abandoned town filled with deserted prostitutes and the orphanage founded by Dr. Wilbur Larch.

Action takes place in St. Cloudís throughout the novel between the 1920's and the 1950's. However, a little over 15 years of the novel also takes place in the two closely knit Maine towns of Heartís Haven and Heartís Rock. Unlike the abandoned town of St. Cloudís, Heartís Haven and Heartís Rock represent the life that exists outside the isolation of the orphanage. The towns show the life that is possible for an orphan. A life where one has the necessities of life and love. However, these towns and the people living in them show that life, no matter where it is or how much one has, can still be filled with difficulties. The well to do live in Heartís Haven. Heartís Haven is inland of Heartís Rock, named for an uninhabitable rock island that floated in the middle of its otherwise perfect harbor. Connecting Heartís Haven and Heartís Rock was the Ocean View Orchards, a place where the main character, Homer, would spend many years.


Major Characters

Homer Wells
The father of Angel Wells. Homer is an orphaned boy who ďbelongedĒ to St. Cloudís. Homer is adopted four times before becoming a permanent member of St. Cloudís. Always of use, Homer becomes Dr. Larchís protégé, learning to perform obstetric procedures including abortions. However, Homer disagrees with Larchís view of abortion. Homer believes that the ďproducts of conceptionĒ is a human life. Homer leaves St. Cloudís with Candy Kendall and Wally Worthington and spends the next 15 or so years with them. Eventually, Homer returns to St. Cloudís to continue Dr. Larchís work.

Dr. Wilbur Larch
Founder and director of the St. Cloudís orphanage as well as St. Cloudís self-appointed historian. Early in his medical career, Dr. Larch learns unwanted pregnancies know no class boundaries, but the availability of a safe abortion does. Larch is an obstetrician-- delivering babies, the Lordís work-and an abortionist--delivering mothers, the Devilís work. Larch is Homerís only father figure, and Homer is the only person or thing that Larch loves.

Candy Kendall (Worthington)
Daughter of Ray Kendall, mother of Angel Wells, wife of Wally Worthington, and in love with Homer Wells. Candy is a loyal, strong, and independent woman. She has an abortion at St. Cloudís, where she and Wally meet Homer. She loves both Wally and Homer. She begins a relationship with Homer when Wally is missing and presumed dead in World War II. When Wally returns, she marries him. She insists on keeping her relationship with Homer and the fact that she is Angelís mother a secret.

An orphan of St. Cloudís. She was abandoned at the age of 4 or 5. She had six foster homes. She searches for a home and a hero. She is strong, tough, and aggressive physically and mentally. She is Homerís first sexual partner. She makes Homer promise not to leave her, and when he does, she searches for him. She is clear in her purpose and acts decisively and quickly.

Minor Characters

Wally Worthington
The son of Olive and Senior Worthington and husband of Candy Kendall. He is handsome, boyish, and playful. His one ambition is to be a pilot. He joins the Air Force and his plane is shot down over Burma. Over a year later after being missing and presumed dead, he returns paralyzed from the waist down and sterile.

Angel Wells
The son of Homer Wells and Candy Kendall. He believed he was adopted until he was 15. He grows up to be a novelist. He falls in love with Rose Rose.

Nurses Edna, Angela, and Caroline
Nurses at St. Cloudís orphanage. They supported and assisted Dr. Larch in both the Lordís and the Devilís work.

Olive Worthington
The mother of Wally and wife of Senior. She grew up poor but taught herself the manners of the rich. She was a smart business woman who ran their apple business well. She dies of cancer before Wally returns from the war.

Senior Worthington
The father of Wally and wife to Olive. For years, he unknowingly suffers from Alzheimerís disease.

Ray Kendall
The widowed father of Candy. He was a jack-of-all-trades that worked with his hands. In addition to his lobster business, he worked on the machinery of the Ocean View Orchard and built torpedoes during the war.

Mr. Rose
The boss of the picking crew every year. He had his own rules, which he enforced with the blade of a knife. He sexually abused his daughter, Rose.

Rose Rose
The daughter of Mr. Rose. Angel was in love with her. She was sexually abused by her father. Homer performed his first abortion on her. She killed her father before leaving Ocean View.

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