Cider House Rules:Summary of Chapter 7-8

Chapter 7: Before the War 


Melony travels north, looking for Ocean View Orchards. At another orchard, the tough Melony beats two would-be rapists and steals their truck. The foreman of the orchard gives her a job for the harvest season. Although disappointed that nobody at the orchard has heard of Ocean View, Melony stays. She becomes known as a hard worker, and the men leave her alone. At night, she reads to the other pickers from Jane Eyre. 


At Ocean View, Homer helps the workers clean up the cider house, which is where the apple-picking crew will bunk for the harvest season. On the wall by the light switch, he notices a list headed “CIDER HOUSE RULES.” These are the rules posted by Olive for the pickers, among them, prohibiting smoking in bed and drinking on the roof. “Nobody pays no attention to them rules,” one of the workers comments. (273). Homer goes up to the roof and sees all the broken beer and rum bottles left from the season before. 


Wally’s father, Wallace Worthington Senior, is known in town as a drunkard. His behavior is getting worse and worse. He behaves rudely and sometimes violently, and seems to forget where he is. Homer guesses the truth: the man suffers not from alcoholism, but from early Alzheimer’s disease. He writes Dr. Larch to describe Senior Worthington’s symptoms, and the doctor agrees. Senior is taken to a specialist and diagnosed. Shortly thereafter, Senior Worthington dies. All are grateful that he has died with some dignity, without the stigma of being a drunkard—thanks in large part to Homer’s instincts as a doctor. While Homer helps with the apple harvest, Olive arranges for Homer to attend biology class at the local high school. He studies the anatomy of a rabbit.


The board members send out a questionnaire to former residents of St. Cloud’s Orphanage, hoping to gain support for retiring Dr. Larch. Meanwhile, Dr. Larch furthers his plan regarding Fuzzy Stone. He falsifies transcripts for Fuzzy from Bowdoin and Harvard Medical School, and establishes a P.O. box at Harvard for Fuzzy. When the board members write Fuzzy with their questionnaire, they receive a glowing letter (actually penned by Dr. Larch) testifying as to how well Fuzzy loved St. Cloud’s. Homer receives the questionnaire, and likewise composes a praise-filled response—stretching the truth more than a little.


The picking crew, a group of African American migrant workers from the South, arrives at Ocean View. The crew boss is a tough man named Mr. Rose, who is quick with a knife. Homer sits up on the cider house roof with the other pickers one night. In the distance, they see a Ferris wheel from the carnival at the resort town of Cape Kenneth. Homer is surprised to learn that none of the pickers know what a Ferris wheel is. They think it is something from outer space, or perhaps a military contraption. When he tries to explain it to the crew, Mr. Rose stops him. “You got to understand,” he tells Homer. “They don’t want to know what that thing is. What good it do them to know?” (313). Mr. Rose, however, asks Homer to take him on the ride, just once. A crowd forms to stare at Mr. Rose, and a young bully confronts them once they are off the ride. Mr. Rose whips out his knife. Before the boy knows what has happened, his jacket is slit from collar to waist. Homer and Mr. Rose leave the fair. Homer realizes that Mr. Rose was right: the African American apple pickers are not welcome at the fair, so it does them no good to know what the Ferris wheel really is.  


Chapter 8: Opportunity Knocks


At the beginning of Chapter 8, apple-picking season is over. Melony leaves the orchard to find a job in the city of Bath. She finds work in a factory at the shipyards, putting together sprockets on an assembly line. Melony makes a close friend, a spitfire of a girl named Lorna.  


Wally and Candy come home for Thanksgiving. World War II is escalating in Europe, and Wally confesses that he wants to drop out of college to go to flying school. He wants to fly a fighter jet in the war in the event that the United States joins the war. Dr. Larch, a veteran of World War I, has taken pains to ensure that Homer will never have to fight in a war by falsifying records to show that Homer has a heart defect. In a letter, he tells Homer about his “condition,” but is sure to emphasize that Homer will be able to lead a perfectly normal life.


Homer, with his background in anatomy, excels at his biology class. While he knows much about the anatomy of rabbits, his steady date Debra Pettigrew offers only limited access to her anatomy. She teaches him the “rules” of petting. There are certain places he is allowed to touch, and others he cannot. 


One night, Homer takes Candy out instead of Debra. They plan to go to the movies in the town of Bath, but just before going inside, Candy discovers something inside Homer’s wallet—a clipping of her own pubic hair, which Homer had kept since the day of her abortion. The two skip the movie and go for a walk. They confess that they love each other, but Candy loves Wally, too. She says they must wait and see what happens after Wally returns from the war. “You have to wait and see,” Candy says. “For everything—you have to wait and see” (341). Homer feels his heart ache. Is this the defect Dr. Larch warned him about, or is it love?


Inside the movie theater, watching the film that Homer and Candy meant to see, are Melony and Lorna. Another orphan, Mary Agnes, happens also to be there. She spots Melony and tells her that an Ocean View Orchards van is parked outside and Homer may be nearby. But when the women go out to look, the van is gone. Melony is more determined than ever to find Homer Wells.


That December, in 1941, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, and the United States enters World War II. Wally enlists in the Army Air Corps and leaves for a year of training in Texas. He asks Candy to marry him before he leaves to the training, but she wants to wait until after the war is over. Once his training is finished and Wally earns his commission as Second Lieutenant, he is sent to India. In his plane, which he dubs Opportunity Knocks, Wally flies over Japanese-held Burma, bombing railroad bridges and warehouses. 


While Wally is away, Candy and Homer volunteer at a hospital as nurses’ aides. Homer’s medical expertise is noticed by the doctor and nurse, Dr. Harlow and Nurse Caroline, but Candy warns Homer not to show off too much of his knowledge, lest he get Dr. Larch in trouble. At the end of the chapter, Candy and Homer learn that Wally’s plane has been shot down over Burma.


Analysis of Chapters 7–8


Candy’s philosophy of life—“Wait and see”—runs directly counter to that of the proactive Dr. Larch and of Wally Worthington. Larch is not content to wait and see, but rather plans and schemes to make things happen. He makes a conscious choice to break the law, and consciously bends rules or makes up lies to suit what he thinks is right. Wally Worthington is likewise a person of action. He chooses to risk his life by going to Asia to fight in World War II. Candy, on the other hand, simply lets life happen as it will. Her lies are lies of omission; her rule-breaking is done by default. Homer is frustrated with Candy’s philosophy, but he adopts it as his own for many years to come.


In Chapters 7–8, Irving develops the theme of the benevolent lie. Dr. Larch lies to Homer about his heart condition, but it is for a good reason—to spare the boy from being sent away to war. Larch’s scheme to make Fuzzy Stone a doctor is certainly lying, but it is for a good cause, as well. Through his elaborate deception, he hopes to qualify Homer to take his place. Having trained Homer himself, he knows that the boy has practically gone through medical school already, so there is no harm, and only good, in the lie. Homer told his first benevolent lie when Fuzzy Stone died, and he told the younger boys that Fuzzy was adopted. In Chapter 7, at the prompting of Mr. Rose, Homer lies to the African American apple pickers about what the Ferris wheel really is. There is no use for them to know about such a wonderful ride, since racial prejudice will prevent them from enjoying it. 


The story of Wally Worthington’s war adventures was inspired in part by Irving’s family history. Irving’s biological father was a member of the Army Air Forces in World War II, and his plane was also shot down over Burma. He survived, but when Irving was two, his parents divorced. Irving never knew his biological father. The information about apple orchard care is taken from Irving’s experience, as a teenager, working at apple orchards in New England.


The subplot about Melony and Lorna creates suspense, as the reader wonders when, or if, Melony will find Homer again—and what will happen when she does. Melony’s character was omitted from the film version of Cider House Rules because Irving felt she was too strong a character and would overwhelm the plot of the shorter screenplay.