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Films >> Cider House Rules, The (1999) >>

1) The Cider House Rules is a didactic novel. The nature of Doctor Larch's argument with Homer Wells is polemical, and Larch wins the argument in the end. Larch is a polemicist raving against an entrenched moral doctrine of his day. (John Irving 27)

2) They [actors in the film at the Academy Awards] are being applauded for surviving the practices celebrated by the movie. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Orwellian. (William F. Buckley)

3) How likely must death be? Must death be certain if the abortion is not performed? Is it enough that a woman could not undergo birth without an ascertainably higher possibility of death than would normally be the case? What if the woman threatened suicide if the abortion were not performed? How imminent must death be If the abortion is not performed? Is it sufficient if having the child will shorten the life of the woman by a number of years? These questions simply cannot be answered. (The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, response to initial Roe v. Wade hearing)

4) Homer realizes that his very existence is the result of an unwanted pregnancy and of his anonymous mother's refusal to terminate that pregnancy. It's a relevant point, and the film's refusal to give it a hearing reveals how heavily the rhetorical deck is stacked in favor of abortion rights. (Rod Dreher)

5) Dr. Larch: I have been given the choice of playing God or leaving practically everything up to chance . . . practically everything is left up to chance much of the time; men who believe in good and evil . . . should watch for those moments when it is possible to play God--we should seize those moments. There won't be many. (John Irving 97)

6) The Cider House Rules is a feel-good abortion flick. (Chris Weinkopf)

7) Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, it’s an old joke, but when a man argues against two beautiful ladies like these, they’re going to have the last word. (Jay Floyd, Texas Attorney General)

8) Only radical feminists seem to have claimed an actual liking for abortion, regarding it in the same way that better-adjusted women regard childbirth. (Steven Mosher 143)

9) When the text of Irving's novel is contrasted against that of the screenplay and then the film itself, the omissions are significant. In the novel Homer experiences several conflicts about Larch's abortion practice. Although Homer is not identified as having come from any religious background, his moral qualms about assisting Larch with abortions are covered in several passages. . . . Homer's position against killing the unborn quickly changes, however, for several reasons. . . . Homer's abortion of the baby created by incest coalesces his principal moral belief that he should be "of use" in the world. . . . In the film, however, and the companion screenplay, these moral musings are reduced to quick one-word and one-line ruminations, poorly expressed and even more poorly dramatized. (Jeff Koloze)

10) A self-described Right-to-Lifer approached me in a bookstore where I was signing copies of my ninth novel. . . . She didn't want my autograph. She'd come to the bookstore with her own agenda -- namely, to tell me that I misunderstood the Right-to-Life movement. "We just want people to be responsible for their children," she told me, giving my hand a little pat. I patted her hand right back. I said to her what Dr. Larch says in The Cider House Rules: "If you expect people to be responsible for their children, you have to give them the right to choose whether or not to have children." (John Irving 40-41)

11) More than fifteen years after the decision, and some would say in spite of it, abortion remains a great unresolved issue in American society. It is an issue for which there is no solution that will satisfy both sides. (Marian Faux, Roe v. Wade)

12) This is the most sinister aspect of “The Cider House Rules”: To become a real man, just say yes to abortion. Only after performing an abortion can Homer return to the orphanage. (Paul McNellis)

13) Drawing the lines at birth also resolves many of the problems associated with the abortion right since the Roe decision. It protects the woman from unwarranted government intrusion. It avoids issues that cannot be controlled, such as how the government would go about policing a pregnant woman’s uterus. (Marian Faux, Roe v. Wade)

14) A compassionate man, the doctor never “interferes” in such choices [to give birth or abort]: “I do not even recommend,” he says. “I just give them what they want: an abortion or an orphan.” (Imagine as a general rule of medicine, a doctor who never recommended anything). (Paul McNellis)

15) A young woman who had come to the orphanage after a botched abortion presents Larch with an opportunity to confront Homer about his opposition to abortion. Larch emphatically asks Homer what he would have done if the young woman came to him a few months earlier, and one must think deeply to recognize the inherent either/or fallacy of the question. Homer could have ignored the young woman's request for an abortion or could have performed one on her. However, a third option was possible: she could have given birth to the child, which exercise of her freedom of reproductive choice could have led to two other choices (either raising the child herself or getting married and having her husband help her in raising the child). (Jeff Koloze)

16) I have even heard members of the pro-life movement pronounce it “a beautiful movie.” I’ve heard no one describe it as cynical and pernicious. It is both. (Paul McNellis)

17) Abortion isn't mentioned in the trailer or in advertising for "The Cider House Rules," the recent film from John Irving's acclaimed 1985 novel. Considering that abortion is the central moral issue in the story, this omission is about as strange as if promotional material for "Saving Private Ryan" had left out the little matter of, oh, World War II. (Rod Dreher)

18) Well, they’ve found a way to market it; the least we can do is expose Cider House for what it truly is: abortion propaganda. (Maria McFadden)

19) The novel began as a conception of a father son relationship between a man and a boy who were not literally, biologically, father and son. But I wanted to make that relationship more like a father and son relationship than many father son relationships are. More loving, more conflicted too. (John Irving)

20) The movie was promoted as an uplifting, All-American film about first love and adorable children (it takes place in an orphanage). Once the lights went down, however, audiences were treated to a fractured morality tale with the abortionist as hero. (Maria McFadden)

21) Homer Wells thinks he’s leaving the orphanage to go into the outside world but what he finds is another small, confined world where people have their own, very narrowly circumscribed set of rules. (John Irving)

22) Irving . . . exposed the film’s true purpose when, on Oscar night, he thanked the National Abortion Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood for their support. (Planned Parenthood held special screenings and discussion groups around the country to celebrate the film and “educate” viewers”). (Maria McFadden)

23) Roe v. Wade was the first decision in which the woman’s right to abortion had been the primary issue. Other recent decisions had touched on the woman’s right but always in a way peripheral to the primary issue of the doctors’ right to do abortions. (Marian Faux, Roe v. Wade)

24) One morning at the orphanage, one of the orphans finds a twelve-year-old girl sleeping on the ground near the incinerator -- she's not an orphan. The next we see of the girl, she's in the operating room; Edna, Homer, and Dr. Larch are attending to her. It's too late. The girl is going to die. But before she dies, she will inspire the most direct confrontation between Homer and Dr. Larch on the abortion issue. . . . this is the most political scene in the film. (John Irving 158-59)

25) How could judges answer this question, Blackmun inquired, when doctors, philosophers, and theologians “are unable to arrive at any consensus” on life’s first moments? Judges did know, however, that “the word Person, as used in the fourteenth amendment, does not include the unborn.” Therefore, states could not ban abortions in the early stages of pregnancy; only when the fetus reaches the point of “viability” could they prevent its abortion. (Peter Irons, A People’s History of the Supreme Court)

26) When we cast out the law -- by which I mean the idea of objective moral truth -- we choose blindness. If we don't consider ourselves subject to moral teachings that exist independent of our own perceived needs and desires, morality becomes a matter of contingency, of expediency, of situational ethics -- and the weak will almost always suffer. (Rod Dreher)

27) Yet The Cider House Rules seems equivocal, as though sensing that it is caught on the crochet hook of moral dilemmas. Writing what he intended to be a didactic Victorian novel about a Dickensian orphanage, Irving presses hot-button issues of abortion and race, but the movie behaves almost as though the buttons are never pushed. (Alison Booth 303)

28) Abortion reformers often compared their struggle to the abolitionist’s efforts to free the slaves, and in the context of the times, pro-choice reform was a natural extension of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. But while these comparisons were accurate, abortion was also something more complex and involved than other social issues…In the civil rights movement, for example, most people felt it was wrong (regardless of how one felt personally) to discriminate against other human beings, whereas the lines between right and wrong could not be drawn so easily with abortion. A civil rights worker could look an opponent in the eye and in good conscience tell him he was dead wrong, but most pro-choice reformers found it impossible to do the same to someone who personally found abortion repugnant. (Marian Faux, Roe v. Wade)

29) The Cider House Rules. That’s the movie that’s a paean to the abortion industry. (William F. Buckley)

30) Think of the Right-to-Life movement today. It is fueled by something stronger than a concern for the rights of the unborn (Proponents of the Right-to-Life position show very litle concern for children once they’re born.) What underlies the Right-to-Life message is a part of this country’s fundamental sexual puritanism. Right-to-Lifers believe that what they perceive as promiscuity should not go unpunished; girls who get pregnant should pay the piper. (John Irving 38)

31) Every person applauding [at the Academy Award ceremony] owed his/her life to the parent’s determination to bring on a survivor of the abortion clinic. That made for some artistic confusion, making heroes and heroines out of the people whose determination to have children, rather than abort them, comprised the jubilant audience and the millions of Americans who cheered on the movie that seemed to be celebrating a movement to reduce the audience. (William F. Buckley)

32) If you asked me what type of film it was -- is it a comedy? A tragedy? It’s not any of those and it is all of those. (Michael Caine)

33) "Cider House" certainly doesn't merit protest from the usual suspects. It's a serious, artistically accomplished film, well adapted by Irving from his worthy novel. It makes a compelling case for abortion rights. And while I doubt that any pro-lifers will be converted, they must come to grips with the excruciating moral dilemmas at the heart of "Cider House." (Rod Dreher)

34) Much of the plot in Cider House revolves around the issue of abortion. The ongoing battle that takes place between Dr. Larch and his apprentice Homer is a central tension in the text; Homer is opposed to it, while Dr. Larch is consistently proud and stubborn about practicing the then-illegal procedure. Homer's fate involves coming to realize--as Dr. Larch has set out to convince him--that if pregnant women do not have choices regarding their own children and bodies, then how can he, with knowledge of abortion techniques, even consider whether or not to help them? As the novel concludes, "he knew now that he couldn't play God in the worst sense. . . . How could he refuse anyone?" (Amanda Waibel)

35) The film invites moviegoers to be happy for Homer Wells, the orphan who has at last found his home. It tempts them to partake in his corruption. The darling foundlings, the pacific music, and the resplendent scenery all conspire to spread the rot from subject to audience. By perverting the wonders of life, The Cider House Rules promotes the culture of death. Viewers never know what hit them. (Chris Weinkopf 131)

36) It’s about the difference between real life, life in reality, and life in theory, and the clash of the two. (Delroy Lindo)

37) When Weddington called her [Norma McCorvey] several days later to ask how she felt knowing that she had changed so many women’s lives, McCorvey replied, “It makes me feel like I’m on top of Mt. Everest.” (Marian Faux, Roe v. Wade)

38) The cider house rules I think represent those rules that are imposed on us, rules that are made by others who know very little about the circumstance of our world, and therefore it’s important to oppose those rules and question them. (Lasse Hallstrom)

39) It was probably just as well that Weddington was unaware of the Court’s view of this momentous day in her life. Court employees were jokingly referring to it as “ladies’ day at court,” and the “ladies” who were arguing the case were slightly irked, on their part, to discover that there were no toilet facilities for women in the lawyer’s lounge. (Marian Faux, Roe v. Wade)

40) To take everything in a novel like The Cider House Rules and compress it into a movie that runs two hours, or two hours and thirty minutes, is a daunting, difficult job; it’s a heartbreaking job. And the most valid reason that a writer has to do that is because he can go home at night, at the end of the day, when the job is done, and say “I took out the stuff that I thought could go. And I don’t have to go back and look at what somebody else did and say ’Oh my god, they butchered my book.’” (novelist Stephen King)

41) Irving cleaned up, sanitized, and dulled his own story to create a screenplay that would garner an acceptable (PG-13!) rating, while still promoting his original message that . . . abortion rules. (Maria McFadden)

42) Blackmun devised a plan to satisfy both critics, who came at him from opposing sides…His trimester scheme, Blackmun wrote in his final opinion, would protect the pregnant woman’s right to choose abortion over childbirth, but also leave “the State free to place increasing restrictions on abortion as the period of pregnancy lengthens.” (Peter Irons, A People’s History of the Supreme Court)

43) That the Roe decision has managed to raise the hackles of both conservatives and liberals in probably to its credit, proof that it is not in any sense a radical decision. Its greatest strength – and ours – is its own centrist position. (Marian Faux, Roe v. Wade)

44) Roe v. Wade was a unique statement of moral principle linked to clear, pragmatic bright line rules based on the trimester system set out by Justice Blackmun that included, for the first time, the concerns of women in constitutional discourse as a fundamental right. Webster, Rust, and Casey, and all other decisions which cut back on Roe, are just cider house rules. (Bruce Rockwood 322)

45) Although everyone has been slow to recognize it, the Roe decision did in fact settle the issue of abortion to the extent that it can be settled. It permitted individual choice, the only course open, Douglas wrote in his dissenting opinion in Vuitch, when as issue is so volatile: “It is resolved by the moral code which an individual has.” Lost somewhere in the struggle over abortion is the fact that, in their wisdom, the justices wrote nothing in the Roe decision that compels a woman to undergo an abortion if she does not wish to do so. (Marian Faux, Roe v. Wade)

46) The first thing to say about The Cider House Rules is that it is not literature, but pro-abortion propaganda. . . . To prove [this] point -- and incidentally to dispel any lingering notion that the book might be worth reading -- I provide an outline, compiled during a careful second reading. If what follows sounds trashy, degenerate, ghoulish, and exaggerated, look to the original for comfirmation. (Steven Mosher 137)

47) At the heart of controversy over Roe v. Wade was one issue about which everyone, pro- or antilegalization, seemed to have an opinion. Was Roe a good or bad ruling? Had the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, hammered out the best-possible decision? The answers did not line up predictably according to which side one supported. (Marian Faux, Roe v. Wade)

48) Scarcely beyond boyhood as Maguire portrays him, Homer resists performing abortions not because he takes the public’s punitive view of the unwed mothers, but because he identifies with and as a fetus who was allowed to live. (Alison Booth 304)

49) The idea that a woman could be injured by pregnancy or that pregnancy was destructive to some women’s lives was fairly radical. (Marian Faux, Roe v. Wade)

50) "The Cider House Rules" takes its name from a list of regulations tacked to the wall of the barracks where the apple pickers live. And it's here that we get to the heart of the movie's moral message. The rules are judged by Homer and his fellow workers to have little or nothing to do with the lives they actually live and with their true needs. So they discard these outdated rules and embrace rules that complement the way they want to live. (Rod Dreher)

51) Of course, I remember the majesty of the courtroom setting. When you enter at the back, there are pews where the lay people sit. And they tell you not to chew gum and not to write and not to talk and not to put your arm on the back of the pews. It’s just like church. (Sarah Weddington)

52) Homer’s circumstances suggest that he should be pro-life, but he is the literary creation of John Irving, who so disdains the “shrillness” of the right-to-life argument that he refused to include it in his pro-abortion film. (Chris Weinkopf 125)

53) Dr. Judy Tyson . . . is fond of telling her medical students that she could teach standard surgical-abortion procedure to a chimpanzee in less than an hour. (John Irving 40)

54) Abortion concerns nothing less than the value we place on human life. Those who oppose abortion believe that the value must be held collectively, that one standard must apply to everyone and to all circumstances, while those who support the abortion right believe that the choice can only be made individually. (Marian Faux, Roe v. Wade)

55) Literature serves its end when a writer follows an inner vision, not an external purpose. When a writer enslaves his craft to ideology, propaganda -- not literature -- is the inevitable result. (Steven Mosher 141)

56) The movie utterly fails, though, to account for the enormous implications of dethroning "the law." (Rod Dreher)

57) In accomplishing this monumental task of narration, Irving has made the implausible seem plausible, the legal unjust, and the criminal violations at St. Cloud's the act of a saint. He has shown us how rules are made, enforced, and evaded, not in the abstract, but in a context, and that the context is one that cannot be described in generalities, but only shown by the flow of concrete examples which, over time, allow the reader to recognize both the legitimacy of diverse viewpoints on the issue of abortion, and the essential point -- that a law governing abortion that does not permit women a personal choice is not legitimate, not worthy of respect, and no law at all, but only another set of "cider house rules," unread, irrelevant and ignored, a symbol of absent authority whose enforcement is either impossible or only accomplished at great and pointless price. (Bruce Rockwood 319-20)

58) No such alternative [to abortion] finds a voice in this film, and Irving has made it clear why. Any attempt to restrict abortion, he has argued, is a form of fascism, an expression of “religious fervor run amok.” Thus the film presents the only alternative worth of serious consideration: choice for the chooser, regardless of its consequences for anyone else. (Paul McNellis)