From Homer's point of view, this is a coming-of-age story. After a childhood spent "being of use" as a medical assistant to Dr. Larch, Homer follows the classical Platonic arc from erotic love through love of family to love of civitas. This arc begins when Homer decides to leave the orphanage with Candy Kendall and her boyfriend Wally Worthington, a young couple who work at the Worthington family apple orchard. Wally leaves to fight in World War II, but his plane is shot down over Burma. Believing Wally to be dead, Homer and Candy have an affair and Candy subsequently becomes pregnant. Candy secretly gives birth to a boy named Angel at the orphanage where she becomes the first mother to take her own child home with her. Subsequently, Wally is found alive, and so Candy and Homer return home. They lie to the family about Angel's parentage, claiming that Homer decided to adopt him. Wally and Candy marry shortly afterwards, but Candy and Homer maintain a secret affair that lasts some 15 years.
In contrast, Wilbur Larch's coming-of-age, told in flashbacks, in a sense follows the Platonic arc in reverse. After a traumatic misadventure with a prostitute as a young man, Wilbur turns his back on sex and on love, choosing instead to serve the community by helping women with unwanted pregnancies give birth and then keeping the babies in an orphanage. He makes a point of maintaining an emotional distance from the orphans, so that they can more easily make the transition into an adoptive family, but when it becomes clear that Homer is going to spend his entire childhood at the orphanage, Wilbur trains the orphan as a doctor and then comes to love him almost against his will.
Wilbur's and Homer's lives are complicated by the fact that the former is also secretly an abortionist at a time when abortion is illegal. He believes that he is doing the world a service because "one way the poor can help themselves would be to be in control of the size of their families." He comes to this work reluctantly, but is driven by seeing the horrors of back-alley operations. When Homer learns about this secret, he considers it evil, which leads to some angry interchanges between Homer and Wilbur.
Many years later, when Angel is a teenager, he makes friends with Rose Rose, the daughter of a migrant worker at the apple orchard, who becomes pregnant with her father's child, and Homer performs an abortion on her. Homer decides to return to the orphanage after the death of Dr. Larch, and works as the new director. This is the culminating love-of-civitas step in Homer's life. Homer and Candy eventually tell Angel that they are his biological parents.
The novel also follows a sub-plot of Melony, who grew up alongside Homer in the orphanage. She was Homer's first girlfriend in a relationship of circumstances. She eventually becomes an electrician and takes a female lover, Lorna.
REP'S `CIDER HOUSE' AN OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION DIRECTION, STAGING, PERFORMANCES ALL STRIKING.(Entertainment)(Review)
Jan 18, 1997; If humanists had a god, ``The Cider House Rules'' would be their Sistine Chapel ceiling. Michelangelo painted the Christian God...