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The Cider House Rules
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message 1: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments Start discussion here for The Cider House Rules by John Irving.


message 2: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (last edited Aug 07, 2014 07:20PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments From LitLovers.com:


Summary
The Cider House Rules is John Irving's sixth novel. Set in rural Maine in the first half of this century, it tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch—saint and obstetrician, founder and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Cloud's, ether addict and abortionist. It is also the story of Dr. Larch's favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Questions
1. The rules posted on the cider house wall aren't read or understood by anyone living there except Mr. Rose, who makes—and breaks—his own set of rules. What point is John Irving making with the unread rules?

2. What rules, both written and unwritten, do other characters follow in the novel? Did most characters violate their own rules? Who stays the most true to his or her rules?

3. Dr. Larch makes the interesting statement that because women don't legally have the right to choose, Homer Wells does not have a moral claim in choosing not to perform abortions. Do you find Larch's argument compelling? Do you think Homer was ultimately convinced or that he needed an escape from Ocean View?

4. In order to set future events on what he believes to be the correct path, Larch alters the history of the orphanage to create a false heart murmur for Homer and changes various school transcripts to create Dr. Fuzzy Stone. What other doctoring of history does Larch do? Do you think Homer, as Dr. Fuzzy Stone, will continue the tradition?

5. St. Cloud's setting is grim, unadorned, and unhealthy, while Ocean View is healthy, wide open, and full of opportunities. In what ways do the settings of the orphanage and the orchards belie their effect on their residents? What did you make of Homer bringing the apple trees to St. Cloud's?

6. As you were reading, what did you expect Melony to do to Homer when she finally found him? Though Homer forgets about Melony for many years, do you think she had more of an impact on his future than Candy did?

7. Larch's introduction to sex comes through a prostitute and her daughter, and his introduction to abortion is given by the same women. Sex with Melony, the picture of the pony, and abortions performed by Larch introduces Homer to the same issues, yet Homer doesn't maintain sexual abstinence as Larch does. Why do you think this is? Do you think Larch substitutes ether for sex?

8. Violence against women forms a thread throughout the novel; Melony fights off apple pickers, Grace receives constant beatings from her husband, and Rose Rose suffers incest. Does the author seem to be making a connection between violence and sex? How do the women's individual responses to violence reflect their personalities?

9. The issues of fatherhood are complex—as seen in Larch's relation-ship with Homer, and Homer's relationship with Angel—but being a good father or good parent is stressed throughout. According to the novel, what are some of the ingredients that make a good father? Is truthfulness one of them?

10. Candy's "wait and see" philosophy contrasts with Larch's constant tinkering with the future to suit his desires. Based on his personality, is Homer better suited to waiting or to working?

11. Herb Fowler's sabotaged condoms are one example of how people and rules in Ocean View are actually the opposite of what they seem. What other examples can you recall?

12. Near the end, Homer's meeting with Melony is a turning point, spurring him to reveal the truth about Angel's parentage and to return to St. Cloud's, where he can be "of use." While reading, did you want to learn more about Melony's adventures during the intervening years or less? Which character do you think drove the novel's momentum?

13. If you saw the film adaptation of The Cider House Rules, discuss the aspects of the story that you think were stronger in the novel, and the portions of the film that were especially potent. What are your feelings about film adaptations of novels in general, and about the adaptation of this novel in particular?

14. What did you find to be particularly effective or well done in Irving's writing? If you've read other Irving novels, name some of the themes that he carries over from novel to novel.
(Questions issued by publisher.)


message 3: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments I read this along time ago and re-read it last month. I enjoyed it both times, but viewed it in a different perspective this time around. It is quite interesting to see how your perceptions of a book change during different points in your life.


Allyson I am enjoying this book so much, I find I am rationing it out because I don't want to finish it. This is my first John Irving book and he is now on my list of favourite authors.


message 5: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments Allyson wrote: "I am enjoying this book so much, I find I am rationing it out because I don't want to finish it. This is my first John Irving book and he is now on my list of favourite authors."

You definitely need to read A Prayer for Owen Meany. It is one of my favorite books.


Allyson Diane wrote: "Allyson wrote: "I am enjoying this book so much, I find I am rationing it out because I don't want to finish it. This is my first John Irving book and he is now on my list of favourite authors."

..."


Thanks, Diane...moving it up on my tbr list now! :)

I loved how the very difficult subject of abortion was handled in this book and I think it would be almost impossible to put down this book without a greater understanding of where both sides of the abortion issue stand.

John Irving did such a great job of making the characters, even difficult ones, likeable and real. Even the ones who did some pretty terrible things, were multi-dimensional.

One of the discussion questions is about the film adaptation which I saw when it first came out, but I am really hesitant about watching it now. I am finding that more and more the movie just can't compare to the book and I would hate for that to be the case here.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 101 comments Allyson wrote: "I loved how the very difficult subject of abortion was handled in this book and I think it would be almost impossible to put down this book without a greater understanding of where both sides of the abortion issue stand. "

Agreed. Regardless of your stance or perspective on this controversial issue, I think it certainly broadens the horizon of perspective, not only about abortion, but also about orphans and adoption, falsifying of information, what "love" really is and living one way and talking another. He tackles a number of very big issues, enough that the controversy of abortion gets softened a bit.


Missy J (missyj333) | 222 comments I finally got around reading the "Cider House Rules". It was my first John Irving book and I was pleasantly surprised, how I enjoyed his writing, how likable the characters were despite their flaws, and how the story culminated in the end.

After reading the book, I proceeded to watch the movie. So, to answer Question 13 above:

Aspects of the story that were stronger in the novel:

Obviously, a lot of characters that appear in the book, do not appear in the movie, because of time limitation. Also, the book spans over Dr. Larch's life and further, whereas in the movie, everything seems to happen within a 1-2 year frame.
I think that in the novel, because time is not an issue, the story becomes richer and the feelings of the characters deeper. This is very difficult to adapt into film.

Portions of the the film that are especially potent:

I actually enjoyed the movie a lot and in particularly the musical score. I read somewhere the John Irving was involved in the making of the movie, and I did feel that the movie was able to bring across the "general idea" of the book. One thing I appreciated was that the "re-writing of history" (e.g. Dr. Larch creating Homer Wells' doctor profile, Mr. Rose stabbing himself to protect his daughter from law enforcement) was especially clear in the movie. I got a bit confused about this part in the book, but the movie clarified some things for me.

Feelings about film adaptations of novels in general:

Most of the times, I enjoy the novels better than the film adaptations, however, there are exceptions here and there.

About the adaptation of this novel in particular:

Very well done. I loved the scenery of Maine, a great cast of actors, who did the characters justice and a wonderful musical score that didn't exist in the book. I recommend this one.


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