Book Report: Cider House Rules

Topics: Abortion, Abortion law, Fetus Pages: 13 (4846 words) Published: November 8, 2013
Independent Study Unit Log
The Cider House Rules
Social Issue Identification and Discussion
The Cider House Rules a novel by John Irving focuses on abortion. It develops the issue by having characters with various viewpoints on abortion. The setting of the novel lends itself well to the issue as it is primarily set in an orphanage where the head doctor, Dr. Larch performs abortions (Irving 8). It is revealed that Dr. Larch is performing these abortions illegally (12) as he believes the law is unnecessary, "I know it's against the law. I ask you, what has the law ever done for this place?" (24). As the plot moves along a woman is admitted to the hospital whose baby dies as a miscarriage as it was too late for an abortion but because the woman did not seek proper medical attention out of fear of the effect it would have on her reputation (29). The woman had attempted to abort the child herself as there is a "crochet hook" lodged inside her that was responsible for killing the child. Upon witnessing Dr. Larch questions Homer; an orphan who had trained under Dr. Larch and is against abortions, "if that woman had come to you four months ago what would you have done? Nothing! It means someone else is going to do the job, some moron who doesn't know how." (32) This is a very significant quotation as it uses the issue of abortion to develop the theme of the choices people make with their own bodies.

Despite the fact that abortions are illegal, Dr. Larch believes people will attempt them regardless of the law out of desperation. The issue manifests itself as a channel through which the theme of choice and lack thereof is explored. Had the woman had the choice of getting a proper abortion without the risk of legal consequence or societal judgment the woman may have not suffered such extreme pain and a fever of "one hundred and four degrees" (30). As Dr. Larch stated "someone else is going to do the job" meaning when people have no choice they will take drastic measures in order to avoid consequences. Dr. Larch does not believe removing a fetus is ending a life as he says "a fetus can't sustain itself on its own, so it's not alive". (33)

Although, Homer does not criticize Dr. Larch's right to perform abortions he refuses to perform them himself, "I have no problem with you [Dr. Larch] performing them" (32), he believes abortions are wrong as they are "illegal" (32). As the novel progresses the theme of individual duties trumping societal rules arises. Homer is working at an apple orchard and living in a cider house, he learns that his crew boss has raped his daughter and she is now pregnant with a baby "she doesn't want" (279). At first Homer is reluctant to perform the abortion despite knowing how and plans to send Rose to Dr. Larch. Upon learning of Dr. Larch's death Homer realizes he must take on the responsibility of his mentor and "help Rose" (283). In summation, The Cider House Rules presents two main viewpoints on abortion, abortions are wrong as they are illegal and that safe abortions are necessary to prevent medical problems. High Impact Quotations

"When Mrs. Eame's daughter died – before Dr. larch could operate on her without her having further words with him (Beyond the "Shit or get off the pot!" note that was pinned to her shoulder) [Dr. Larch says], she was angry with me for not giving her an abortion". (61)

In this quotation a younger Dr. Larch, prior to the events of the book hesitates to operate on a prostitute out of "pride" (61). Dr. Larch's not operating on the prostitute resulted in prostitute resorting to a back alley abortion that resulted in her dying. The note was directed at Dr. Larch who the prostitute believed should either "shit" perform operations or "get off the pot" stop operating. This event demonstrates what women must resort to when professional medical care is not available to them for their abortion procedure. This demonstrated to Dr. Larch the dangers of non-medically supervised...

Cited: Irving, John. The Cider House Rules. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2001. Print.
Jones, Harry P., Dr. "The Abortion Debate." BBC News. BBC, 4 May 2012. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.
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