Chapter 11: Breaking the Rules
Melony goes back home to Bath, telling her ex-girlfriend Lorna of her disappointing visit. “He was someone I thought was going to be a hero,” she laments. “[W]hen he was a boy, he had that kind of bravery that’s really special…. And now look at him, bangin a cripple’s wife, lyin’ to his own son” (491–492).
Meanwhile, Homer Wells attempts to straighten out his affairs. He writes one final note to Dr. Larch, telling him he is not a doctor and that he believes the fetus has a soul. After sending a response, Larch retires to his dispensary for a dose of comforting ether. However, he overdoses himself and drifts off, never to wake again.
That summer, Mr. Rose has returned for what is to be his final harvest season at Ocean View. He brings his daughter, Rose Rose, a girl about Angel’s age who has a baby daughter. Angel falls in love with Rose, but when Mr. Rose sees them together, he gives his daughter a black eye. Angel also finds razor cuts all over Rose’s back. She warns him not to get involved with her, but he continues to woo her, weaving stories about a future together. She confesses a secret: she is pregnant again, and doesn’t want the baby.
Angel asks Homer and Candy for help, and Homer calls St. Cloud’s, only to learn from a distraught Nurse Caroline that Dr. Larch has just died. Homer, who has all the necessary tools sent to him by Larch, prepares to give the girl an abortion himself. That evening, Candy arrives at the cider house and finds all the workers outside. Inside the house, Mr. Rose is having sex with his own daughter. They now know the awful truth: Rose Rose is carrying her father’s child.
Candy seizes Rose Rose and the baby and brings them both into the house, where Homer gives her an abortion. As she is in the house recovering, another worker, Muddy, comes with the message that Mr. Rose wants to see his daughter. Muddy also brings a sharpened blade, which he tells Angel to give to Rose Rose, “Just so she have one” (539). The next day, Rose Rose and her baby are gone. Mr. Rose sits wrapped in an old blanket. It is not until the end of the day that everyone realizes he is dying—fatally wounded by Rose Rose’s knife. He dies, begging the others to tell the police he has killed himself.
It is now time for a change in Homer Wells’s life. Now that Dr. Larch is gone, he has decided to take on the persona of Dr. Fuzzy Stone, the zealous missionary and anti-abortionist. The board will surely embrace him, and he will be able to continue Larch’s work in secret. Before leaving for St. Cloud’s, Homer tells Angel the truth about his parentage, and Candy tells Wally.
With matters in order at Heart’s Rock, Homer returns to St. Cloud’s to meet with the board of trustees. They believe his story about having just arrived from a mission in India, and are duly impressed. The board unanimously approves him as Dr. Larch’s replacement.
Homer Wells (now Dr. Stone) is embraced by the Mrs. Grogan and the nurses like a long-lost child. Candy and Wally continue apple farming, and young Angel grows to become a novelist. One day, Melony’s body arrives at St. Cloud’s. Having died suddenly in an electrical accident, she left behind a will saying she wanted her body to be used for medical study. Homer, however, has her buried in the cemetery at the orphanage, where she is home at last.
Reading through Dr. Larch’s memoirs, Homer is comforted to find a note informing him that after all, there is nothing wrong with his heart, and never has been.
Analysis of Chapter 11
The title of Chapter 11 is “Breaking the Rules,” and it is in this final, climactic chapter that Homer breaks the rules to do what he believes is right. When Homer chooses to use his knowledge to help Rose Rose, he becomes the hero of his own life—the hero Melony expected him to be.
In giving an abortion to Rose Rose, Homer accepts that he has no choice but to help women in need. If he doesn’t do it, someone else—likely a back-alley butcher with dirty tools—certainly will. He truthfully explains his position on abortion when he is interviewed by the board of trustees. He believes that abortions should be legal so that women can have a choice. If abortions were legal, he says, he would not perform them.
Although the main topic of The Cider House Rules is the morality of abortion, the book deals with morality in general. The message is that there is no black and white—no absolute right and wrong—but some measure of ambiguity in all moral decisions. At the beginning of the novel, Dr. Larch refuses to perform an illegal abortion, and ends up with blood on his hands when the woman dies of a botched abortion performed on the streets. Later in the novel Dr. Larch lies to the board of trustees, but his lies provide the means to a positive end. In other words, the “right” decision can sometimes be the wrong one, while a seemingly immoral act can be a benevolent one.