Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Cider House Rules, by John Irving

Having read the book (long) after I'd seen the movie, I can see why Irving might have had good reason to not give his full authorization/blessing to the screenplay of Simon Birch (based partly on A Prayer for Owen Meany). The two versions of CHR are pretty disparate. I definitely preferred the book for its bigger scope, its better-developed characters, and the historical context of women's rights regarding pregnancy. My only caveat regards the extremely graphic nature of the abortion procedures. The squeamish reader may need to skim over these passages; they do, however, make a dramatic impact within the story, and, in my opinion, are very integral to it.

Many of the situations (regarding orphans and abortions) discussed in this book help make a very strong case for choice. With the precarious position this choice has in our country, even after so many years of safety, perhaps it is time for another wave of readers to get inspired by CHR, or perhaps one of the movie channels could air the movie (which doesn't do such a bad job of addressing the issue); I doubt any of the honchos of the broadcast networks would have the guts to show it.

Noteworthy quotes:

p. 10: "There was the human body, which was so clearly designed to want babies--and then there was the human mind, which was so confused about the matter. Sometimes the mind was so perverse that it made other people have babies they knew they didn't want. And when other minds thought they wanted babies but then couldn't (or wouldn't take care of them... well, what were these minds thinking?"

p. 93: "Adolescence, is it the first time in life we discover that we have something terrible to hide from those who love us?"

p. 96: "But if you love no one, and feel that no one loves you, there's no one with the power to sting you by pointing out to you that you're lying."

p. 339: "When you lie, it makes you feel in charge of your life... you feel as if you have cheated fate--you own, and everybody else's."

p. 397: " 'Every time you throw a snail off the dock, you're making someone start his whole life over.'
'Maybe I'm doing him a favor.' "
[I thought this quote was quite telling of Homer, as at this point, he still refused to perform abortions]

p. 569: "The thing about being in love, is that you can't force anyone. It's natural to want someone you love to do what you want, or what you think would be good for them, but you have to let everything happen to them. You can't interfere with people you love any more than you're supposed to interfere with people you don't even know. And that's hard... you want to be the one who makes the plans."

Books cited: Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Jane Eyre, Little Dorrit

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