The Struggle for Acceptance in The Cider House Rules
In The Cider House Rules, John Irving brings the orphan Homer Wells to vivid life in a rather unusual way. Homer’s life and existence are part of a large symbolic link to the actual book itself. Homer’s life as an orphan struggling for acceptance and to “Be of Use” is shadowed by The Cider House Rules struggle for acceptance in the mass literary market and its need to purvey its views on abortion.
After writing his first few books, Irving was left disappointed that although the literary critics embraced them, for the general masses his books fell on deaf ears. (Hill 250) Unfortunately it is the general case that the masses and the elite are not in agreement on what is worth reading. With this in mind, Irving set out writing The Cider House Rules with the intent of reaching not only the critics but the general populace as well. Similarly, Homer starts life accepted only within the narrow confines of the orphanage he has grown up in. His first several attempts have ended with failure, leaving Homer only the comfort of familiar arms. When Homer sets out several years later, with the maturity of one who has stared life’s failures and unwanted, he hits the world head on and starts to make gradual steps toward full acceptance.
If asked, Irving will flatly deny that he had any ulterior motives in the creation of The Cider House Rules. He will claim that the thought of abortion did not even enter the picture until he was well into the process. (Twayne’s 12) However, like Homer, this book was purposefully designed with abortion on the mind of the nurturer. Homer’s Dr Larch is a man who feels morally obliged to perform abortions, so that they are done by a professional and not by a hack with a hanger. Irving is a man who feels morally obliged to give digestible information about abortions, so it is done by a decent writer and not by a hack with a typewriter. Rather than write a pamphlet destined for the racks of the local obstetrician’s office, he writes a something much more marketable. He attempts to write the “responsible soap opera”, a form of fiction that is arguably most sought after and hardest to attain. (Hill 251) Irving uses his typical sledgehammer technique of pounding home his message, while wrapping it in a beautiful story. The two are not fully integrated: His pro-legalized-abortion stance could survive independent of Homer and his life, and Homer did not need to replace Larch at the orphanage. However, without the assistance of the other thread in the book, each side does seem rather pale. Unless the abortion issue directly affected ones self, there is no reason to go out and find information on it. As Irving recognized the synergistic value, it snowballed into what only Irving himself can adequately describe: “I honestly believe that this book is different from anything I’ve ever...