A Ghost of Liberalism Past: The Cider House Drools

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by Luke Hamilton

It is easy to forget past beliefs which were held and then rejected. Then, when you encounter them again, stumbling over them like a child’s sneakers lurking in the dark hallway, it is hard to fathom that you once held such beliefs. I recently had just this experience when I recommended The Cider House Rules to my wife on movie night. Originally published in 1985, it is one of America’s most-celebrated author’s best-known books. It spawned a stage play and a film of the same name. The film, chock-full of stars like Michael Caine, Toby McGuire, Paul Rudd and Charlize Theron, garnered 2 Academy Awards from 7 nominations.

I read the book in college and had kept the film in my queue for seemingly a decade, always intending to watch it at some point. When asked what sort of film it was, I positively affirmed to my wife that it was indeed a “chick-flick”. (Author’s note: I am not a glutton for punishment. I do not seek out opportunities to inflict the cinematic equivalent to water-boarding on myself. However, knowing that Christmas approaches and a Die Hard marathon is right around the corner, I saw the opportunity to pay it forward by pre-loading some chick-flickery onto the account.) What quickly became apparent was that The Cider House Rules is not a chick-flick…or an anyone-flick, for that matter. It’s a steaming pile of moral relativism, served up on a hot plate of self-righteous liberalism, delivered by a hatchet-faced waitress with a mole that would make Uncle Buck blanch.

The story takes place in Maine during the first half of the 20th century. The story centers around a young man, Homer Wells, who grows up in an orphanage without being adopted. He is mentored by the head of the orphanage, a doctor who is an ether addict and teaches Homer his craft, when he isn’t sleeping with one of the head administrators. Homer is horrified by the doctor’s casual willingness to perform secret abortions on the girls who visit his orphanage for that purpose. Homer’s assertion that perhaps the women should have chosen not to engage in activity which could lead to pregnancy is ridiculed as naïve.

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