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The Cider House Rules Directed by Lasse Hallström

The Cider House Rules is a novel by John Irving published in 1985 with a consequent movie adaptation that saw the light in 1999. While the two artistic works differ slightly in the plot development and motivation of the characters, the primary themes concerning human relationships and abortions persist. The narrative is divided into three parts demonstrating different stages of Homer Wells’ life and how it is influenced by the aforementioned topics. The current essay attempts to report the summary of the movie adaptation and discusses the primary ethical subjects encountered in the narrative.

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Summary of the Narrative

The movie commences with the introduction of the two primary characters – Homer Wells, a child growing up in the Maine orphanage, and Dr. Wilbur Larch, the director of the school. Despite the emotional distancing of the doctor from the children, the relationship between these two characters starts to resemble the one of the father and his son. The primary theme of the story, that is the ethical aspect of abortions, starts emerging in the first chapter since Dr. Wilbur Larch is secretly helping women deal with their unwanted pregnancies. It is essential to note that at the time of the novel (and the movie) abortions are illegal in the country, and the doctor has to hide the fact of the procedures. Wilbur assists women from the purest of motives; however, when Homer learns about the secret, he is disappointed since he believes in the value of human life and considers abortions highly immoral. The boy has a hard time comprehending the necessity of such operations; and, thus, leaves the orphanage shortly after.

The second half of the novel concerns the youth and adulthood of Homer Wells and his changed perspective on the ethics of abortion. The young man is becoming friends with Wally Worthington and Candy Kendall who came to the orphanage to have an operation. Consequently, he starts living with them at Worthington family apple orchard (Ocean View Orchards in the novel) and develops feelings for Candy. At the time, Wally is sent to the military front to fight in the Second World War, and Candy and Homer have an affair and become much closer. However, Wally does survive in the action and comes back to the orchard to reunite with his partner.

The ultimate part of the movie differs drastically from the narrative of the novel and concerns the story of Rose, a girl living and working at the Worthington orchard. As the story unfolds, Homer learns that Rose has been raped by her father and got pregnant. The protagonist agrees to perform an abortion operation, hence, taking the perspective of Dr. Wilbur Larch that he used to disagree with beforehand. Consequently, Homer decides to return to the Maine orphanage and takes the position of the supervisor of the school. After the demise of Dr. Wilbur Larch, Homer continues this line of work and assists women in dealing with unwanted pregnancies. Therefore, the narrative has made a full circle from Homer denying the necessity of abortions due to its immoral nature to accepting the procedure and taking in the role of Dr. Wilbur Larch.


As mentioned prior, the primary ethical issue of the novel concerns abortions and discusses whether such operations are moral or not. This subject is highly complicated and concerns not only ethical standards but also governmental policies since abortions are illegal in some parts of the world. The primary perspectives on the matter are pro-life, which advertises the value of life and denies abortions, and pro-choice, which respects the judgment of the woman. As seen from the movie, Homer used to align with the pro-life policy in his youth; however, he has adopted the pro-choice perspective later in life. There is a number of ethical questions concerning abortions, such as whether the fetus has human rights or whether the procedure is a murder or not. Nevertheless, despite the seeming immorality of abortions, such procedures are rarely delivered out of personal wishes. Frequently, the women who decide to have an abortion have health complications or are victims of rapes and sexual assaults. Overall, the subject of abortions is highly complex from the ethical perspective, and just like Homer Wells, one should critically analyze the different positions and decide for themselves.


Summing up, The Cider House Rules is an excellent example of an artistic work that revolves around the relevant societal and individualistic issues and makes readers reflect on the topic. The subject of abortions is a highly controversial since everyone has their own opinion on whether it is ethical to deal with unwanted pregnancies this way. The topic is further complicated if the government of the country considers abortions illegal which may lead to a high number of unqualified operations resulting in saddening statistics. The protagonist of the story has come a long way in his understanding of the topic, from the complete rejection of abortions to the acceptance of the procedure and taking the position of the doctor. The author of the story, John Irwing, does not state whether this approach is correct ethically; however, he does demonstrate that both main characters agree to assist women with unwanted pregnancies and honor their choice.

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