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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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7 Local Warehouse Literature- A to Z

The Cider House Rules

by

The Cider House Rules Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Chapter One ? The Boy Who Belonged to St. Cloud?s

In the hospital of the orphanage-the boys? division at St. Cloud?s, Maine-two nurses were in charge of naming the new babies and checking that their little penises were healing from the obligatory circumcision. In those days (in 192_), all boys born at St. Cloud?s were circumcised because the orphanage physician had experienced some difficulty in treating uncircumcised soldiers, for this and for that, in World War I. The doctor, who was also the doctor of the boys? division, was not a religious man; circumcision was not a rite with him-it was a strictly medical act, performed for hygienic reasons. His name was Wilbur Larch, which, except for the scent of ether that always accompanied him, reminded one of the nurses of the tough, durable wood of the coniferous tree of that name. She hated, however, the ridiculous name of Wilbur, and took offense at the silliness of combining a word like Wilbur with something as substantial as a tree.

The other nurse imagined herself to be in love with Dr. Larch, and when it was her turn to name a baby, she frequently named him John Larch, or John Wilbur (her father?s name was John), or Wilbur Walsh (her mother?s maiden name had been Walsh). Despite her love for Dr. Larch, she could not imagine Larch as anything but a last name-and when she thought of him, she did not think of trees at all. For its flexibility as a first or as a last name, she loved the name of Wilbur-and when she tired of her use of John, or was criticized by her colleague for overusing it, she could rarely come up with anything more original than a Robert Larch or aJack Wilbur (she seemed not to know that Jack was often a nickname for John).

If he had been named by this dull, love-struck nurse, he probably would have been a Larch or a Wilbur of one kind or another; and a John, a Jack, or a Robert-to make matters even duller. Because it was the other nurse?s turn, he was named Homer Wells.

The other nurse?s father was in the business of drilling wells, which was hard, harrowing, honest, precise work-to her thinking her father was composed of these qualities, which lent the word ?wells? a certain deep, down-to-earth aura. ?Homer? had been the name of one of her family?s umpteen cats.

This other nurse-Nurse Angela, to almost everyone-rarely repeated the names of her babies, whereas poor Nurse Edna had named three John Wilbur Juniors, and two John Larch the Thirds. Nurse Angela knew an inexhaustible number of no-nonsense nouns, which she diligently employed as last names-Maple, Fields, Stone, Hill, Knot, Day, Waters (to list a few)-and a slightly less impressive list of first names borrowed from a family history of many dead but cherished pets (Felix, Fuzzy, Smoky, Sam, Snowy, Joe, Curly, Ed and so forth).

For most of the orphans, of course, these nurse-given names were temporary. The boys? division had a better record than the girls? division at placing the orphans in homes when they were babies; too young ever to know the names their good nurses had given them; most of the orphans wouldn?t even remember Nurse Angela or Nurse Edna, the first women in the world to fuss over them. Dr. Larch made it a firm policy that the orphans? adoptive families not be informed of the names the nurses gave with such zeal. The feeling at St. Cloud?s was that a child, upon leaving the orphanage, should know the thrill of a fresh start-but (especially the boys who were difficult to place and lived at St. Cloud?s the longest) it was hard for Nurse Angela and Nurse Edna, and even for Dr. Larch, not to think of their John Wilburs and John Larches (their Felix Hills, Curly Maples, Joe Knots, Smoky Waterses) as possessing their nurse-given names forever.

The reason Homer Wells kept his name was that he came back to St. Cloud?s so many times, after so many failed foster home, that the orphanage was forced to acknowledge Homer?s intention to make St. Cloud?s his home. It was not easy for anyone to accept, but Nurse Angela and Nurse Edna-and, finally, Dr. Wilbur Larch-were forced to admit that Homer Wells belonged to St. Cloud?s. The determined boy was not put up for adoption anymore.

Nurse Angela, with her love of cats and orphans, once remarked of Homer Wells that the boy must adore the name she gave him because he fought so hard not to lose it.

From the Paperback edition. Copyright 1997 by John Irving

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Magnolia Rando, April 27, 2012 (view all comments by Magnolia Rando)
Cider House Rules is a story of Homer Wells, an orphan born in the St. Cloud orphanage in 1930 something and the doctor who delivered him, Dr. Wilbur Larche. The supporting characters are many and each has their own imperfections. As with A Prayer for Owen Meany (Vietnam), Irving sets his story around a controversial theme, for Cider House Rules, it is abortion. Unlike the Vietnam war controversy in Owen Menay, Irving viewed the abortion issue from both sides. A person with strong anti-abortion feelings will probably not like this book. Yet for someone who is indifferent, it gives them an interesting view to both sides.
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starsky7, December 4, 2007 (view all comments by starsky7)
the cider house rules is one of my favorite novels. it's a melancholy liberal awakening that adds more character to its pages than any other writing of the 1900's. john irving has put a new standard to classic american literature and brought forth a divine truth and essence into the minds and mouths of his creation, and a fresh imagination to the term fiction.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780345417947
Author:
Irving, John
Publisher:
Ballantine Books
Location:
New York :
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Novels and novellas
Subject:
Literature
Subject:
American fiction (fictional works by one author)
Subject:
Abortion
Subject:
Physicians
Subject:
Orphanages
Subject:
Physicians -- Maine -- Fiction.
Subject:
Orphanages -- Fiction.
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
fiction;abortion;novel;maine;orphans;american;new england;coming of age;literature;20th century;usa;orphanage;historical fiction;movie;contemporary;medicine;contemporary fiction;adoption;american literature;orphan;america;made into movie;love;american fic
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
312
Publication Date:
19970631
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
640
Dimensions:
8.27x5.58x1.29 in. 1.13 lbs.

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The Cider House Rules Used Trade Paper
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Product details 640 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345417947 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Superb in scope and originality, a novel as good as one could hope to find from any author, anywhere, anytime. Engrossing, moving, thoroughly satisfying."
"Review" by , "Witty, tenderhearted, fervent, and scarifying....This novel is an example, now rare, of the courage of imaginative ardor."
"Review" by , "John Irving's sixth and best novel....He is among the very best storytellers at work today. At the base of Irving's own moral concerns is a rare and lasting regard for human kindness."
"Review" by , "An old-fashioned, big-hearted novel...with its epic yearnings caught in the 19th century, somewhere between Trollope and Twain....The rich detail makes for vintage Irving...straightforward and tender."
"Review" by , "Irving is in top form in this capacious novel of personal discovery....Deft realism in both scene and characterization...The Cider House Rules is a mature, entertaining novel."
"Review" by , "A moving, sometimes hilarious, and unfailingly entertaining story."
"Review" by , "John Irving is the most relentlessly inventive writer around...A truly astounding amount of artistry and ingenuity....Entertaining and affecting."
"Synopsis" by , Raised from birth in the orphanage at St. Cloud's, Maine, Homer Wells has become the protege of Dr. Wilbur Larch, its physician and director. There Dr. Larch cares for the troubled mothers who seek his help, either by delivering and taking in their unwanted babies or by performing illegal abortions. Meticulously trained by Dr. Larch, Homer assists in the former, but draws the line at the latter. Then a young man brings his beautiful fiancee to Dr. Larch for an abortion, and everything about the couple beckons Homer to the wide world outside the orphanage...
"Synopsis" by , First published in 1985, The Cider House Rules is John Irving's sixth novel. Set in rural Maine in the first half of this century, it tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch — saint and obstetrician, founder and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Cloud's, ether addict and abortionist. It is also the story of Dr. Larch's favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted.
"Synopsis" by , First published in 1985, The Cider House Rules is set in rural Maine in the first half of the twentieth century. The novel tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch-saint and obstetrician, founder and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Clouds, ether addict and abortionist. This is also the story of Dr. Larchs favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted.
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