Discuss the story "An Ounce of Cure" by Alice Munro.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first love is hard to get over especially when the love is not reciprocated.  Alice Munro’s “An Ounce of Cure” describes a teenager’s reaction to being dumped by her first boyfriend. How the main character handles her problem is the crux of the story.


The setting of the story is a small town in the 1960s.  This town is conservative and does not promote alcohol.   The two primary setting are the main character’s home and the home in which she baby sits—the Berrymans. 


The narration is first person point of view. The narrator is the protagonist of the story: an unnamed teenage girl.  The story is told primarily as a flashback from the adult narrator.  As a result, the narrator can tell her story with playfulness, self-deprecation, detachment, and even fondness.  While the incident caused her genuine pain at the time, she has long since come to terms with it.  


The protagonist has been dumped by Martin. She is forced to see him with his new girlfriend which adds to the pain that she is already experiencing.  Crying all the time, she decides to commit suicide; however, she stops after taking six aspirins.

Her mother does not help. Noticing that something is wrong with her daughter, the girl tells her what is wrong and the mother responds that it is a good thing that the broke up. 

The girl has to baby sit at the Berryman’s.  When they leave her, she feels such pain and loneliness.  The Berrymans are new to town, and they do drink. After putting on some moody, sad music, she decides to fix herself something to drink to kill the pain. She drinks a full glass of rye with an ounce of scotch.  In the beginning, she feels a little better.  Then, she becomes drunk and starts vomiting all over the bathroom, herself, and the new rug.

Realizing that she needs help, she calls her friend to come over and help her. Her friend brings another girl and two guys with her.  The girls clean her up and place a blanket around her until her clothes dry.  The Berrymans come home early and discover the situation.  The narrator tells the Berrymans everything including the suicide attempt.   They fire the narrator immediately.

Oh, no, Mr. Berryman I beg of you, my mother is a terribly nervous person I don't know what the shock might do to her. I will go down on my knees to you if you like but you must not phone my mother...

Mr. Berryman drives her home and tells her that she has to tell her mother or he will.

When she walks in the door, she falls to her knees.  Finally, she tells her mother everything that has happened.  After her initial shock and “cry of pure amazement,” the mother handles the situation rather coolly.  She seems to accept some of the responsibility, perhaps believing she has been too absent from a daughter’s life—she only heard about all the events the night of the drunkenness, and she believes that she had made “a great mistake” letting her daughter date.  

Everyone in school knows about the incident; the narrator now is ostracized by everyone for a while until another student does something stupid.  The episode is one of those revealing and embarrassing moments in teenage life when the person is forced to confront how unsophisticated and how self-absorbed he is. 

The last incident in the story occurs when the narrator comes back after college, marriage, and children.  She returns home for a funeral.  Martin is the undertaker.  They exchange knowing looks.