Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Susan's Shuso Blog: The Cider House Rules

I like to pick up films at the video store that are adaptations of books I have been meaning to read. Last night I chose The Cider House Rules which was made from a novel by John Irving. I think it was written in the '50s. I say that because I am curious about the values it presents. . . Where do these values come from and were they acceptable at the time? It raises questions about lying. Is it acceptable to lie when the lie can lead to a greater good? Do we lie to protect the feelings of self and other and do we get to decide when another person needs protection from the truth?

I am reflecting back to the 1950's when I was a young adult, married with young children. I remember being a part of a “don't tell” culture. Often people were not told, even by their doctors, that they had cancer or that they had only a few months to live. I had a friend who became ill with Huntington's Chorea. She didn't want anyone to visit her. She didn't want to discuss it. This was a more painful time than it might have been if her illness could have been out in the open.

I think of this history while I watch The Cider House Rules. Rules are pasted on the door of the cider house where the workers live. They decide the rules are not for them because someone else made them. They tear them down. Who makes the rules and who gets to decide whether they are followed or not?

The story begins in an orphanage in Maine where the doctor/administrator performs illegal abortions for the health and well being of the mother. The morality of his actions are not considered.

The same administrator falsifies documents so that a protegee of his can succeed him after he retires.

One of the orphans dies because of breathing complications. The children are told he has been adopted by a good family.

One of the precepts we are studying in our Russian River Zendo practice period is Not Lying. The cider house rules are an entry point for further discussion.


  1. Susan, It was written in 1985,,, TP

  2. Susan,

    In order to throw some light on the subject of lying, I can highly recommend Bill Cain's play Equivocation. I am sure the play can be found at your library. Better to see it on stage but still well worth experiencing the ideas in any form. Not to give too much away, it is important to understand what question is really being asked.