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The Cider House Rules

February 12, 2017

tchra pro-abortion movie adapted by John Irving from his own novel, Michael Caine, gives one of his finest performances and won his second Oscar for best supporting actor. He plays a doctor who is also the director of the St Cloud’s orphanage in Maine during the Second World War.

There he takes in unwanted babies and performs abortions on demand. The abortion aspect split audiences in America but Caine justifies his actions by saying that he is saving women from the dubious activities of backstreet butchers.

The star of the piece is Tobey Maguire, who arrived at the orphanage as an unwanted baby, was twice adopted and returned to become the director’s protégé. Caine teaches him everything he knows about medicine, hoping that ­despite having no formal medical training — the young man might succeed him when he retires. Maguire learns quickly but refuses on moral grounds to assist in the abortions.

So life goes on until Charlize Theron turns up for an abortion with her fiancé Paul Rudd, a pilot, and when they leave, Maguire goes with them, saying he wants to see more of the world than just the orphanage.

Rudd returns to war and Maguire takes a job picking apples on the pilot’s family orchard, where he lives in a bunkhouse called the Cider House with a team of migrant African-American pickers led by Delroy Lindo. Theron works there, too.

At this point the Cider House rules, drawn up by the orchard’s owners, come into play. They are simply a set of instructions, such as “No smoking in bed” or “No getting drunk on the roof”, and the workers never read them anyway.

In the winter Maguire works at the lobster farm owned by Theron’s family, again along with Theron. The pair fall in love and begin an affair. More vitally, there is incest and a violent death among the migrant workers, and Maguire’s anti-abortion principles are tested.

The film deals with such themes as love, family and the need to find a place and purpose in life, and does so sensitively thanks to Irving’s script, which won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay.

The orphan that gets into the pie dough and eats all of it and is shown throwing up all over the orphanage is named ‘Steerforth’. Steerforth is the name of one of the main character’s friends in the Charles Dickens book “David Copperfield” which Homer reads to the children in their bedroom.

A nurse prays over her girls at the orphanage before they go to sleep each night. On the other hand, Larch comments that they have no need for Christians in their work.

Dr. Larch’s repeated line “Goodnight, you princes of Maine, you kings of New England.” may come from the Book of Micah 3:1 “Hear…O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel”

[first lines] Dr. Wilbur Larch: In other parts of the world young men leave home and travel far and wide in search of a promising future. Their journeys are often fueled by dreams of triumphing over evil, finding a great love, or the hopes of fortunes easily made. Here in St. Cloud’s not even the decision to get off the train is easily made, for it requires an earlier, more difficult decision – add a child to your life, or leave one behind. The only reason people journey here is for the orphanage.

Dr. Wilbur Larch: I came as a physician to the abandoned children and unhappily pregnant women. I had hoped to become a hero. But in St. Cloud’s there was no such position. In the lonely, sordid world of lost children, there were no heroes to be found. And so I became the caretaker of many, father of none. Well, in a way, there was one. His name was Homer Wells.

Dr. Wilbur Larch: I know it’s against the law. I ask you, what has the law ever done for this place?

[Homer reads the actual Cider House Rules to the illiterate workers] Peaches: What do they think, go up to the roof to sleep? They must think we’re crazy. They think we’re dumb niggers, so we need some dumb rules, is what they think.

Rose Rose: That’s it? It don’t mean nothin’ at all. And all this time I been wonderin’ about ’em.

Arthur Rose: They outrageous, them rules. Who live in this cider house? Who grindin’ up those apples, pressin’ that cider, cleanin’ up all this mess? Who just plain live here, just breathin’ in that vinegar? Well, someone who don’t live here made those rules. Those rules ain’t for us. We are supposed to make our own rules. And we do. Every single day.


[Candy is sitting on a dock: inconsolable after receiving the news about Wally] Homer: Just tell me. I’ll do whatever you wanna do.

Candy Kendall: Nothing.

Homer: Isn’t that like waiting and seeing?

Candy Kendall: No. Nothing’s nothing. I want Wally to come home. I’m afraid to see him too.

Homer: I know. [Homer starts to put him arm around her and pull her close]

Candy Kendall: Oh, don’t do that, Homer. [Dejected, he puts both hands in his own lap] I just want to sit here and do nothing.

Homer: To do nothing. It’s a great idea, really. Maybe if I just wait and see long enough, then I won’t have to do anything or decide anything, you know? I mean, maybe if I’m lucky enough, someone else will decide and choose and do things for me.

Candy Kendall: What are you talking about?

Homer: But then again, maybe I won’t be that lucky. And it’s not my fault. It’s not your fault. And that’s just it. Someone’s gonna get hurt, and it’s no one’s fault.

Candy Kendall: I don’t want to talk about this.

Homer: If we just sit here and, we wait and see a little longer, then maybe you won’t to choose, and I won’t have to *do* anything!

Candy Kendall: What do you want from me? Wally’s been shot down. He’s paralyzed. What do you want me to do?

Homer: Nothing. I’m sorry. You’re not the one who has to do anything.

Dr. Wilbur Larch: You don’t find it depressing that Homer Wells is picking apples?

Homer Wells: I’m not a doctor. I haven’t been to medical school; I haven’t even been to high school.


Buster: [digging grave of botched abortion victim] What did she die of?

Dr. Wilbur Larch: She died of secrecy. She died of… ignorance. Homer, did you expect to be responsible for their children, you have to give them the right to decide whether or not to have children. Wouldn’t you agree?

Homer: I’m not excepting people to be responsible enough to control themselves to begin with.


[We see Homer writing to Dr. Larch and hear the words in his voice as we are shown variously relevant scenes] Homer: Dear Dr. Larch. Thank you for your doctor’s bag, although it seems that I will not have the occasion to use it, barring some emergency, of course. I am not a doctor. With all due respect to your profession, I’m enjoying my life here. I’m enjoying being a lobsterman and orchardman. In fact, I’ve never enjoyed myself as much. The truth is, I want to stay here. I believe I’m being of some use. [We hear the words Dr. Larch writes back to Homer in response]

Dr. Wilbur Larch: My Dear Homer: I thought you were over you adolescence – the first time in our lives when we imagine we have something terrible to hide from those who love us. Do you think it’s not obvious to us what’s happened to you? You’ve fallen in love, haven’t you? By the way, whatever you’re up to can’t be too good for your heart. Then again, it’s the sort of condition that could be made worse by worrying about it, so don’t worry about it.  [the back and forth correspondence continues interwoven with scenes from Homer’s life at the time]

Homer: Dear Dr. Larch, What I’m learning her may not be as important as what I learned from you, but everything is new to me. Yesterday, I learned how to poison mice. Field mice girdle an apple tree; pine mice kill the roots. You use poison oats and poison corn. I know what you have to do. You have to play God. Well, killing mice is as close as I want to come to playing God.

Dr. Wilbur Larch: Homer, here in St. Cloud’s, I have been given the opportunity of playing God or leaving practically everything up to chance. Men and women of conscience should sieze those moments when it’s possible to play God. There won’t be many. Do I interfere when absolutely helpless women tell me they simply can’t have an abortion – that they simply must go through with having another and yet another orphan? I do not. I do not even recommend. I just give them what they want. You are my work of art, Homer. Everything else has been just a job. I don’t know if you have a work of art in you, but I know what your job is: you’re a doctor.

Homer: I’m not a doctor.

Dr. Wilbur Larch: You’re going to replace me, Homer. The board of trustees is looking for my replacement.

Homer: I can’t replace you. I’m sorry.

Dr. Wilbur Larch: “Sorry”? I’m not sorry. Not for anything I’ve done. I’m not even sorry that I love you. [Cut to scene of Dr. Larch sitting on a hospital bed reading Homer’s letter. He is crest-fallen and one of his nurses sits down to console him]

Dr. Wilbur Larch: [Speaking to the nurse] I think we may have lost him to the world.

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