Discuss the characters in "An Ounce of Cure" by Alice Munro.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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“An Ounce of Cure” by Alice Munro explores the theme of growing up in 1960s America as a teenage girl.  Teenagers have choices to make as they become more independent from their parents and forget that for each choice that is made there is a consequence.

The narrator of the story is an unnamed fifteen year old girl who has been reliable and respectful toward her responsibilities. She and her mother are the primary characters in the story.

The mother

The mother in the story would be considered a flat character.The narrator describes her mother as “forthright and unemotional.” The mother’s primary concern is alcohol.  She does not drink, nor do her friends drink.     

The narrator’s mother has given the girl the impression and that she does not have a lot of confidence in how she will be when she grows up. In addition, the mother uses quotations and platitudes to make her points. Even when the girl has been dumped by her boyfriend, it takes a while for the mother to notice that there is something wrong.  When the narrator tells her what has happened, the mother states:

Well so much the better for that. I never saw a boy so stuck on himself.

The mother does help her daughter when she comes home after the incident.  She buys a replacement bottle of liquor in another town and brings it back to the Berrymans.  Then, she explains that her daughter is backward in her emotional development.    

The protagonist

The narrator of the story is an unnamed fifteen year old girl who has been reliable and respectful toward her parents and responsibilities. The protagonist is a round character. The story is told as a flashback by the adult narrator. 

 Throughout the story, she encounters many situations that require the right decision.  It is true that a person has to make their own mistakes, but several times, with no adult information and a lack of mother /daughter communication, the narrator struggles to know what to do.  No other children are mentioned in the story, so she does not have siblings with which to discuss problems.  She is naïve and sometimes a little dramatic.

The events that she experiences are emotionally devastating to a teenage girl:

  •  Falls for Martin and receives her first kiss 
  • Martin drops her for another girl in the drama class 
  • Makes a suicide attempt with six aspirins
  • Goes to babysit the Berryman children
  • Decides to drink a full glass of rye and with scotch mixed into the drink
  • Throws up on herself and all over the bathroom
  • Calls a friend to help 
  • Washes her clothes and cleans up the bathroom
  • Berrymans home early  
  • Fire her and take her home
  • Tells her mother everything.

The incident was irresponsible since she did have children that she was to be watching. The entire school knows of the situation. For a while, she is labeled as the bad girl; however, she survives. 

She is forced to grow up by her mother ensuring that she faces the consequences of her actions. She regretted what she did and moved on from the mistakes she made.

It is human nature to look for a way to kill the pain that one experiences.  The narrator’s “ounce of cure” turned out to be a difficult experience, and yet it did change the girl and helped her mature.

The character did what she thought would give her a particular effect, but she did not necessarily get that, instead she gained knowledge and growth in the process.  The author showed how a teenage girl moves from being an observant in life to a participant.

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