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An Ounce of Cure by Alice Munro: Themes & Literary Devices

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  • 0:00 Memories in ''An Ounce…
  • 0:41 Major Themes in ''An…
  • 2:27 Literary Devices
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Damon Barta

Damon has taught college English and has an MA in literature.

This lesson will identify some major themes in the short story 'An Ounce of Cure' by Nobel Prize-winning author Alice Munro and examine how Munro uses literary devices to develop these themes.

Memories in ''An Ounce of Cure''

Can you remember an embarrassing incident from high school? Many of us have a story about one. Alice Munro's reminds us that the painful moments of our pasts don't always stay in the past.

''An Ounce of Cure'' is narrated by an unnamed adult woman recalling her high school days in a small town. She tells of her first unrequited love affair with a local boy and her terrible first experience with alcohol that ensued. We learn that she's lived in this same town throughout much of her life, but she was not moved to recall her catastrophe while babysitting for the Berrymans until she exchanges a glance, many years later, with her first love at a funeral.

Major Themes in ''An Ounce of Cure''

Coming of age is one major theme in Munro's story. Like much of Alice Munro's fiction, ''An Ounce of Cure'' relates a movement from innocence to experience in a young girl's life. The narrator discovers the pain of unrequited love, the judgment of others, and the consequences of naivete, but she becomes savvier adult in the process.

Another theme is the constraints of small town life. Munro explores some of the confining features of small town living. These include dissatisfaction with limits, and the effects of rumor and reputation among a small group of isolated people. For example, the Berrymans come to the town for employment, but feel the need to travel to a ''bigger, livelier'' city to enjoy themselves. Also, the narrator's babysitting career is destroyed by the widespread knowledge of her incident at the Berrymans and she has the ''most sinful reputation in the whole high school'' until someone commits a greater scandal.

Munro's story also demonstrates the theme of imagination versus reality. This difference between imagined expectations and real life is perhaps the most compelling theme in the story. The narrator grows up imagining life as a kind of scripted performance until she discovers that ''the plots of life'' are ''improvised,'' unlike the ''fictions'' she has grown up with.

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