Free Study Guide: The Cider House Rules by John Irving

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The conflict is between the two protagonists of the story, Homer Wells and Dr. Larch. Homer is against abortion, while Larch is not. An orphan, the only thing Homer truly has, the only thing his mother gave him, is life. It is fitting that he would be against ending the life of someone else. Larch, on the other hand, believes that women should have the right to a safe abortion and that unwanted children should not be brought into this world. This conflict in views drives Larch and Homer apart.

Protagonist / Antagonist

Both Homer Wells and Dr. Larch could be considered each othersí protagonist and antagonist in this novel. Some may argue that Homer is the chief character in the novel. However, a large portion of the early chapters focus on Dr. Larch and how his views are shaped. Additionally, Irving continues to bring us back to St. Cloudís and Larchís actions even when Homer is living in Heartís Rock. In fact, it is Larchís fictions that allow Homer to return to St. Cloudís as Dr. Fuzzy Stone to continue Larchís work. Even as Homer breaks from Larch, the only father he has ever known, Larch influences his actions.

What may be considered the true antagonist of the novel is the issue of abortion, which is the source of conflict between the two characters. Larch, pro-choice, wants Homer to follow in his footsteps and become an obstetrician and an abortionist. Homer, pro-life, cannot perform an abortion until he feels he must give Rose Rose one. Even then, Homer does not embrace his role as abortionist. Homer does come to terms with human reality-the simple fact the women are in need of the right to have a safe abortion.


The climax of the book takes place when Homer performs his first abortion on Rose Rose. Homer has just learned that Dr. Larch has died. He finds he cannot refuse to give Rose Rose, who has been impregnated by her father, an abortion.


Homer realizes that he is willing to play God and that, as Dr. Larch said, there is no such thing as playing God a little. He could not refuse Rose Rose so how could he refuse others in need. Homer decides that he can and will return to St. Cloudís to do both the Lordís and the Devilís work. Though he holds true to his beliefs that the ďproducts of conceptionĒ are a living human being, he believes that there are women in need, and they should have the right to choose for themselves.


The Cider House Rules is the story of Homer Wells, an orphan who fails to be adopted and as a result grows up in the orphanage of St. Cloudís. It is also the story of Dr. Larch and his life at St. Cloudís, his work as an obstetrician and an abortionist, and his love for Homer Wells.

This novel is has 3 main parts. In part one, we experience Homerís childhood, or lack of, as he grows up at the orphanage. We also learn of Dr. Larchís background, his strong convictions regarding abortion, what has shaped his convictions, and his beliefs on what is good for the orphans under his care. In part two, the setting shifts away from St. Cloudís to Heartís Haven and Heartís Rock. Homer pulls away from Dr. Larch. He solidifies his view of abortion and life. Homer believes that abortions end human lives. He learns to disagree with Larch but not condemn Larchís actions. Homer begins to find out about the world outside of St. Cloudís. He experiences love and the uncertainty associated with it. Homer almost has a family with the Kendalls and Worthingtons and, eventually, his own son.

The novel ends with Homer coming full circle. He still holds his views on abortion and life, but he also believes that women have the right to choose. Homer returns to St. Cloudís to take up where Larch has left off, delivering babies and "delivering mothers" (a metaphor for performing abortions).

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