Free Study Guide: The Cider House Rules by John Irving

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CHAPTER 8 - Opportunity Knocks


Melony stayed at York Farm for a few days after the harvest was over, but the day the outdoor shower was frozen, she decided to move on. She began walking and soon a young man in a truck, which smelled of wood stain, offered her a ride to Bath. A city that was much closer to Ocean View and whose residents could direct her to Heart’s Haven or Heart’s Rock, though Melony didn’t know this.

Wally returned for Thanksgiving. Though Candy had been home on several weekends from school, neither she nor Homer had found a way to initiate a meeting without Wally. The Kendalls, Worthingtons, and Homer spent Thanksgiving together. Homer was still seeing Debra Pettigrew but not getting very far sexually. Only if he marries her, he told Wally, would he ever be intimate with Debra.

Dr. Larch and the nurses received an enthusiastic review from Snowy Meadows questionnaire from the board of the orphanage, but Curly Day’s questionnaire, who believed Homer stole Candy and Wally from him, showed nothing but resentment. Nurse Angela wrote Homer telling him the least he could do was send back his questionnaire and not forget where he came from.

In light of the board’s mettling, Larch wrote to Homer about his fictitious heart condition. Larch told him not to worry and that Homer could lead a normal life; he only had to avoid extreme stress and exertion. Homer wondered if being in love with his best friend’s girlfriend was extreme stress. He also believed that his relationship with Melony had been extreme exertion. He missed them all, including Melony when he thought about her.

He answered the questionnaire, praising St. Cloud’s. He lied to Nurse Angela and told him he lost the first questionnaire, and when he received the second copy, he sent back the one he filled out. Homer taped the second, blank questionnaire to the wall of Wally’s room. Much like the cider house rules, it “occupied a position of ignored authority.”

Life at St. Cloud’s and Heart’s Rock and Heart’s Haven continued as normal as winter descended. Candy came home for the weekend, and she and Homer drove and hour to Bath to see a Fred Astaire movie. A movie he refused to take Debra to.

Bath, dominated by its shipyards, was a workingman’s town. Melony worked on an assembly line of a factory that specialized in movable parts, such as sprockets. Melony became friends with Lorna, a thin, pale woman, with a quick, sarcastic wit. They agreed to go see the Fred Astaire movie.

Mary Agnes was adopted by a young couple that sold and restored antiques in Bath. The first thing the couple did was to take Mary Agnes to the movies.

Homer had never opened his wallet in a winter wind. When he did, out came the clump of Candy’s fine pubic hair he had been keeping. Candy seized the clump tightly, and Homer’s hand closed immediately over it. He wouldn’t let go, but Candy knew not only from the hair itself, but Homer’s expression what it was. She suggested they go for a walk. Homer never let go of her hand.

When questioned, Homer admitted it was her hair and that hers was the only hair he had ever kept. She asked why and told him not to lie. He had never say the words “I am in love with you” before. The weight of those words and the recent news about his heart caused him to let go of her hand and put his hands to his chest. Candy concerned told him not to say anything. Homer croaked, “I love you.” And Candy admitted she loved him and Wally. She also told him they all knew about his heart. She told him his keeping her hair was peculiar but romantic. They decided not to see the movie and instead drove back to sit on her father’s dock.

On the long walk to the theater, Mary Agnes spotted the Ocean View apple on the van Homer and Candy had taken to the movie. She looked for the beautiful people and Homer. She spotted Melony and watched her through the entire movie. When the movie ended, she walked up to Melony in the lobby and said hello and asked her where Homer was, assuming he’d be with Melony. Melony instantly commanded Mary Agnes to show her the van, but it was gone.

On the dock, Candy told Homer everything would be OK— his heart, the fact that he loved her, and she loved both he and Wally. “You have to wait and see,” Candy said. “For everything—you have to wait and see.”

On the dock, Candy told Homer everything would be OK— his heart, the fact that he loved her, and she loved both he and Wally. “You have to wait and see,” Candy said. “For everything—you have to wait and see.”

Wally was at the University Maine watching the Fred Astaire movie, Ray and Candy Kendall were returning from Candy’s school in his Chevy, Olive Worthington was baking an apple pie, and Homer was reading when the news of Pearl Harbor came over the radio. The war had finally come.

Wally, when he heard he news, danced out into the streets; his wish to fly a bomber in the war just might come true. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps before Christmas, but he was able to spend Christmas at home. It would take the Army more than a year to teach Wally to fly, and he told Olive and Candy that the fighting will probably be over by then. Wally asked Candy to marry him, but she said no. She would wait for him. Candy said she’d be Wally’s wife not his widow. Both Olive and Candy were very unhappy about Wally’s decision.

Homer continued to work and learn at the orchard. When one of the workers told Homer he’d enlist if he was his age, Homer told him about his heart condition. From that point on, the rest of the workers watched out for Homer and his bad heart, just as Larch would have wanted.

When the weather warmed, Melony left Bath in search of Homer Wells. She moved from orchard to orchard. Working just long enough to find out that no one had heard of Ocean View.

Mr. Rose and the pickers came again. The men in their prime had enlisted, so the group was older and younger than before. This year there was a woman named Mama, who wasn’t old enough to be anyone’s Mama. She was obviously Mr. Rose’s woman, doing what she wanted and what Mr. Rose wanted of her.

Nothing much changed at the orphanage. When Larch despaired about the orphanage or his age, or when the ether was too overpowering, he saved himself by thinking about how he saved Homer from the war. Homer didn’t feel saved. Homer was in love and unsatisfied about how that love was returned. He felt “he’d been singled out for special persecution.”

Wally continued to move from base-to-base in training but would be home for Christmas. Ray was building torpedoes in the Navy Yard. He hired some local boys to keep his lobster business from sinking and worked at Ocean View on the weekends. Candy and Homer volunteered at the Cape Kenneth Hospital. Homer was appalled and angered at the condescension of the staff and how improperly they handled the patients.

The tension between Homer and Candy grew. On the way home from the hospital one day, Candy warned him not to show off his medical knowledge or he might get Dr. Larch in trouble. Homer sulked. She told him like showing off, sulking was unbecoming. He told her he was just “waiting and seeing.” At her home, she snapped back that this was not enjoyable for her either, loving him and Wally. She slammed the door, came around to his side of the van, and indicated that he should roll down the window. She leaned inside, kissed him on the mouth, yanked his hair hard, tilted his head back, and bit him on the throat. She banged her head on the window frame when she pulled back but refused to cry. Homer went back to the hospital. He needed something to do after that. He then awed a young doctor and nurse with his medical knowledge when a young sailor who had been knifed came in.

Wally, after being delayed, returned home for Christmas for 48 hours. He returned and finished his training. He then went on bombing runs in India. Wally made captain and began flying supplies. In the summer, after the Fourth of July, Wally was shot down over Burma.


In this chapter, Homer and Candy confess their love for each other. But Candy also admits she also loves Wally. Candy cannot choose between them. Instead, she wants to “wait and see.” As shown in later chapters, Candy takes this stance often. It is one of the rules that she lives by. Candy would rather let time take its course in the hopes that complex situations will work out rather than take action herself. This “wait and see” attitude does not sit well with Homer. His love for Candy, like Melony’s love for him, goes unreturned. The difference between the two situations is that at least Homer knows that Candy does love him. Perhaps that is worse than Melony not knowing where Homer is and knowing that he did not care for her enough to keep his promise. Being in such close proximity to a person he loves and not being able to have her truly frustrates Homer. He feels persecuted: an orphan and the sufferer of unrequited love.

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