Free Study Guide: The Cider House Rules by John Irving

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CHAPTER 9 - Over Burma


Wally was officially listed as missing. Olive and Candy were optimistic, but privately, Ray and Homer agreed that there wasn’t much hope. Homer wrote to Larch and asked him how he should behave with Candy. Homer wanted Candy ideally, meaning he wanted her to choose him over Wally or have Wally’s blessing. With Wally missing and possibly dead, neither was possible. Larch told Homer to take whatever Candy had to give and to be of use to her.

Candy and Homer started working the night shift at the hospital. The moans and cries of the sleeping children reminded Homer of St. Cloud’s, and Candy was drawn to the dark, black curtains. Homer, who had spent years wondering about his mother, was better at accepting Wally’s undefined status. Homer and Candy had taken to meeting in the cider house. Candy had sat too many times on the docks with Wally, which brought back too many memories.

Three of Wally’s crew found their way to a base in China and were flown back to India, but none of them knew what happened to Wally.

Dr. Larch, under the spell of ether, wrote, as he had done many times before, to President and Mrs. Roosevelt asking them to give people the ability to control their families and the right to an abortion. He began to rant, and Nurse Edna had to come into the dispensary to calm him.

Olive sat in Wally’s room in the dark so that Homer wouldn’t see her sitting there. She knew Candy and Homer were at the cider house. Olive told herself not to resent the comfort Homer could give Candy. He could not comfort her. In truth, his presence irritated her, given Wally’s absence. Only rarely did she show her irritation. Olive never would have considered Candy unfaithful even if Candy announced she was marrying Homer. But if Candy did, it would mean she had given up Wally for dead, and Olive would have resented that.

Ray also sat alone thinking of Candy and Homer. He knew how someone’s death could change one’s life. If it were him, he’d take Homer. It wasn’t that he liked Homer better than Wally, but he understood Homer better.

Homer and Candy sat on the cider house roof holding hands. Candy told Homer she thought Wally was alive. Homer told Candy he thought Wally was dead. Homer leaned over and kissed her. They made their way off the roof to a bed in the cider house. Their moans grew louder then the grinding bed springs. Olive wondered what she thought was an owl was hooting about; Ray Kendall could not make himself get up from the dock and go to bed; and Dr. Larch was writing yet another letter to the Roosevelts.

Larch viewed love as a disease. And if he had felt the force of the collision between Candy and Homer and heard the agony and the release from agony in their voices, he would not have changed his mind. Neither Homer nor Candy could move from their embrace. First, the mattress was so narrow, they could only share it joined together. Second, they had anticipated this moment so much and waited to long. This moment meant that at least parts of them had accepted Wally’s death. They shared both love and grief.

It was not until the first mouse scurried across his legs that he realized he had left a whole prophylactic with all his sperm inside Candy. He had broken the fourth rule on Larch’s list of the five “COMMON MISUSES OF THE PROPHYLACTIC.” He removed it quickly, but doubted it had been quick enough. Now, there was something else to wait and see about.

Three months after Wally’s plane went done, the harvest began, and Candy knew she was pregnant. Candy wanted to wait and see before making any decisions. She “was ashamed that Olive would judge her harshly for her insufficient feelings for Wally.” Homer loved Candy, and he was shocked to realize he wanted Candy’s child even more than he wanted Candy. Homer told Candy that after the harvest, they could go to St. Cloud’s. She could have the baby, and they’d come back and tell Ray and Olive they adopted the child. Lying, to Homer the orphan, was not a terrible thing: “to orphans, not every truth is wanted.”

“Whatever is brought to me, whatever is coming, Homer thought, I will not move out of its way. Life was finally about to happen to him—the journey he proposed making, back to St. Cloud’s, was actually going to give him his freedom from St. Cloud’s. He would have a baby (if not a wife, too)…”

Homer wrote to Larch to tell them of their coming. Nurse Angela was very excited that they were going to have a wanted baby at St. Cloud’s. Larch wondered how Homer would be able to go to medical school with a baby.

Homer and Candy left for St. Cloud’s. Olive was very formal when Homer told them he and Candy were going to be of use at St. Cloud’s. Ray was actually enthusiastic, though neither Candy nor Homer acknowledged his enthusiasm. They rode most of the way in silence.

When a baby was born to the Hydes, two orchard workers, Olive with the help of Ray had an open house. Meany Hyde insisted that his baby was a sign that Wally was alive. Another worker insisted that her dream on the same night that the baby was born that she had no legs, meant that Wally was hurt. Olive agreed. If Wally was alive, he had to be injured or they would have heard from him by now, and if Wally weren’t alive, she’d know it.

For Thanksgiving, Olive sent a case of champagne to St. Cloud’s. Larch, who was not a drinker, drank and drank. It felt like his ether inhalation. Larch fell asleep at the table, and Homer wondered if Larch had gone crazy since he left. Because Larch was too drunk, Homer delivered the baby from the woman who came that night. Homer still had his touch.

Homer lived with Candy at St. Cloud’s “wielding an ideal of marriage and family like a club.” He thought that the sacredness of their union and their good intentions would surround them with radiance and light.

Larch started teaching Homer about pediatrics as his obstetrical procedure was not in need of practice. Candy found it hard to understand that though Homer believed that abortion was wrong and would never perform one, he believed that people had the right to personal choice.

It was the best Christmas ever at St. Cloud’s. Olive sent lots of presents. And Candy’s example of a happily pregnant woman was a present to them all.

A false spring came in March. It was in the spring that Melony and Lorna became lovers, but only after Melony promised to stop looking for Homer. Melony told Lorna she wanted her but told her not to ever leave her.

Homer returned to Heart’s Rock without Candy to get some apple trees to plant on the hill beside the orphanage. In April, Angel Wells, named after Nurse Angela, was born, a healthy 8 pounds, 7 ounces boy. Candy and Homer were very happy.

Olive sent them a telegram when she found out. Wally had been found alive. He was paralyzed. Wally with a separated shoulder, sprained ankle, a fever, and without the use of a machete or compass traveled the wrong way into Burma instead of to China. But his fever was so high, he didn’t care. He drifted down the monsoonswelled river. He was taken in and fed by native after native. It wasn’t until the fever and chills were gone and he stopped vomiting that he noticed the paralysis. He couldn’t move his arms or legs. He was delirious for 2 or 3 weeks. He had trouble eating and speaking. His Burmese rescuers continued to move him from family to family. They disguised him as a woman. They catheterized him, giving him an infection and making him sterile.

By the time they got him to a Japanese doctor in Mandalay, he had regained the use of his upper body, but his legs were still paralyzed. He had caught encephalitis, a disease of the nervous system, from the mosquitoes. They got him to a plane with a British pilot who took him to Ceylon. Wally’s journey was 10 months long and what he would remember of it “would never make as much sense as an ether frolic.”

Homer telegrammed Olive and told her he had adopted a baby boy. Candy telephoned her father who told her it could be weeks or months before they would be able to move Wally. Candy told Homer that she’d have to wait until she saw Wally to know whether she loved him, Wally, or both.

In May, Candy and Homer returned to Heart’s Rock. Homer dropped Candy off and took Angel with him. The next day Candy told Homer they’d have to find a way so they could both be with Angel. Olive had a crib and more baby things than could have been collected at all of St. Cloud’s. She greeted Homer as if she were his mother. For the first time, Homer felt adopted, and to his horror, saw that Olive loved him. Homer and Angel were to stay in Wally’s room, and the dining room would be made into a bedroom for Wally.

Homer and Candy’s consciouses were bothering them. On a corner of a newspaper, Olive had written the remark INTOLERABLE DISHONSETY, and Homer was sure it was written to him, although it could have been written about one of the articles. Candy overheard her father say “It’s not wrong, but it’s not right.” She thought he was on the telephone and drifted back to sleep, but the sound of his leaving her bedroom awoke her, and she knew he knew. Candy and Homer debated when they would have to tell the truth. They wondered how long they could wait.

Wally wrote to Candy in the summer. Telling her that he had to gain some more weight and master a few exercises before he could journey home. He wrote that he was afraid she wouldn’t marry a cripple. The letter devastated her. In her bed, she thought of the line Dr. Larch had been reading from Great Expectation when she and Homer had arrived, “I awoke without having parted in my sleep with the perception of my wretchedness.”


As many people do in times of need, Candy and Homer found comfort from the people closest to them. Wally’s disappearance and the uncertainty as to whether he was alive draw Homer and Candy closer together. Finally, they give into their feelings and make love. But, the intimacy of the act causes Homer to forget to protect himself and Candy from the most ironic mistake, an unwanted pregnancy. Here, again Candy’s response is to wait and see. She refuses to make a decision; she refuses to make a choice when it’s presented to her. Unlike Homer, who has had so few choices in his life, Candy’s life has been filled with choices. Instead of embracing the opportunity to choose, Candy shrinks from the responsibility. As a result, she allows Homer to make the choices. Homer chooses to keep the child and devises a scheme allowing them to hide the fact from Olive and Ray. Larch’s words about an orphan learning deceit come true. Lying is not as taboo for an orphan as it is for those with families whom they have to face.

Irving also exposes more of Larch’s view of love. Larch, who has given up love, except for the fatherly love he feels for Homer, views love as a disease. Love is not safe as shown by the results of his work. Love, in fact, was very dangerous. It was love for Homer that was making Larch irritable and tentative. It was the realization that Olive loved him that horrified Homer. With love comes the “results of love,” whether that is a baby or the responsibility to love someone back.

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