“An Ounce of Cure” and “The Quiet One” Essay or Narrative

Ned, in the “The Quiet One,” spends a good deal of time worrying about being “a different breed” from his friends. By Contrast, the protagonist of “An Ounce of Cure” agonizes over the “painful banality” with which she behaves while in love with Martin Collingwood. Both, however, are shocked out of their dramatized feelings by what Munro calls, “the terrible and fascinating reality of … the way things happened.”

  1. Analyze and compare the incidents that startle the two adolescents out of their more or less self-inflicted miseries. What do the two incidents have in common? In what ways do they differ? How would you feel if you had experienced these incidents? Do you think they would change your life? If so, in what way? Now, compare what the two protagonists have to say about how they were affected by the incidents. Are you convinced by what they say their experiences did to them? Explain why or why not in an essay.
  2. Imagine that Ned, in the “The Quiet One,” attends the same school as the narrator of “An ounce of Cure.” Their English Language Arts teacher has instructed them to work together as a group to analyze the pressures adolescents unwittingly exert on each other. Write a narrative in which your characters discuss the pressures their peers do or do not exert on them.

Moebius Strip

  1. Cut a strip of paper 27cm long and 2cm wide.
  2. Print the following on one side, using equally spaced words formed of capital letters with no punctuation: IN THE MIND BUT THEN THE MEANING IS.
  3. Now turn the paper over by turning it away from you. On this side print: IN THE WORD BUT THEN THE MEANING IS.
  4. Make a moebius strip by twisting the paper once and gluing the ends together.

You have just create a circular sentence. Read the sentence carefully. What does it suggest about the process of reading? About the process of rereading? About the relative importance of the word and the reader’s response to that word? And finally, consider the sentence as a physical object, as a moebius strip, a three-dimensional circle. Can the insides and the outsides of the strip be distinguished from each other? If not, what does this suggest about our search for the “real” location of a story’s meaning? And about the relationship between the “inside” mind of the reader and the “outside” words of the story?


View the NFB film Prairie Women by Barbara Evans. What does this film add to your understanding of Ann’s situation? Quote lines from the film that, to you, most accurately summarize Ann’s experience. In your post, use one film clip that you feel most vividly captures the life of a farm wife on the prairies.


Extending the Text

News Article

Write a news article based on the outcome of the story. Remember that news articles…

  • strive for factual, objective writing;
  • use denotation instead of connotation;
  • are organized in an inverted pyramid structure;
  • each have a lead paragraph that contains the most important details;
  • have headlines;
  • must be newsworthy (proximity, timeliness, novelty); and
  • incorporate quotations.

Post your news articles to your blog and share your articles with your group. Comment on others’ posts.




Choose ten words, phrases, or images from a favourite section of the story. Create your own free verse poem (no rhymes). (Your poem need not be specifically about the story.) Share your poem.




Formally debate the following resolution: BIRT no one is to blame for what happens at the end of the story.


Fatal Inquiry Report
Imagine you are an Alberta Judge (and the events in the story occur in Alberta) write a Fatal Inquiry Report into John’s death.

After an inquiry is complete, the presiding judge provides the Minister with a written report that:

  • identifies the deceased
  • outlines the date, time, place and circumstances of death
  • may recommend how to prevent similar incidents, but
  • cannot make any findings of legal responsibility

Exploring the Text

  1. Why is Ann dissatisfied with her married life and with John’s plans for the day? Do you think her complaints are valid? Why or why not?
  2. Why is Ann seduced by Steven? I he to blame for what happens? Why or why not? Do you think he will feel guilty?
  3. Why is it crucial to the story’s effect that the reader perceive events from Ann’s point of view?
  4. What do you think Ann will do with the rest of her life? She had planned to make amends to John, but now he’s not there. Will she be able to keep the farm? Will she involve Steven? Will she tell the townsfolk why John really died? Will she live with John’s father? Justify your answers with references to the story.
  5. In what ways is the reader prepared for the discovery of the smear of white paint at the end of the story? Give specific examples. Should Ann have been surprised? Why or why not?
  6. Of what importance is each of the following to this story?
    • the painted door
    • the double wheel around the moon
    • the ticking clock
    • the horse
    • the encroaching cold
  7. Why does John go back into the storm without speaking to Ann? DO you think he is right to do so? Why or why not?


“The Painted Door” by Sinclair Ross (Canada)

Read “The Painted Door” by Sinclair Ross.

Write an essay in which you develop your thesis from one of these topics:

  • man-woman conflict
  • the role of nature
  • fate and irony
  • the place of art and beauty
  • the possibility of redemption and atonement
  • the possibility of communication
  • the effects of loneliness on the self and on relationships


“The Painted Door” is partly an anatomy of a sin – and of a repentance that comes, tragically, scant hours too late. As the recorder of that sin, Ross is severe, portraying Ann as a woman just good enough to be fully culpable, in a way that the handsome but morally vacant Steven is not and cannot be. Indeed, the reader may ask whether the two crucial elements in Ann’s tragedy – her contrition and regained love for John, and John’s grief-stricken retreat back into the storm – are reasonable to be predicted given what we know of the characters, or are imposed on the story as part of Ross’s indictment of Ann as a woman unworthy of John.

But the story can also be seen as a portrayal of a seduction – or perhaps a series of rapes culminating in a barely noticed seduction. For Ann’s moral will is assaulted by the storm, and her nerves and mental balance are battered by isolation, long before Steven arrives to confront her with nothing more aggressive than clean-shaven jowls and an easy smile. In fact, during the hours of mounting sexual tension beside the stove, Ann seems to be seduced not so much by Steven as by her own overstrained, terrified, feverish imagination; the “act” is so understated, and Steven so passive throughout, that it is possible to miss that point that Ann and Steven have not just bundled together for warmth. Her storm-induced hallucinations, then, are powerful, even decisive agents in her seduction; but in the end it is Ann, not the elements, whom Ross taxes with kindness.

Other topics for discussion:

realism, surrealism vs classicism, romanticism

Apollonian and Dionysian Dichotomy

“Temptation of Eve”

Jeanne d’Arc

Wild Geese vs After the Harvest

Dream Interpretation

Sheryl Sandberg



Golden Age, Golden Mean, Golden Rule

Persistance of Memory


“The Hobby” by Eric McCormack (Canada)

Eric McCormack’s “The Hobby” is a story about age and retrospection; it is also about artistic creation and, more broadly, about love. What does a person do when she/he looks back at the largest, most consuming, work of his/her life and knows it to be over? One response, of course, is to take up a hobby. Another is to withdraw; yet another, to deny one’s work is over: to “rage against the dying of the light”-to use Dylan Thomas’s phrase-or, as McCormack puts it, “[to defy] the darkness.”  The retired engineer in this short fiction can be said to adopt all three responses at once.

What is it to care about something as deeply as this man does? To wish it carefully and passionately into being? Surely there is some creative power in such a love, in such a hope. Is this not the hope that inspires legends of sub-creation from the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea to the story of The Velveteen Rabbit? But there is a flip side to this kind of creativity: if the world of one’s creation were to come to life (see Brian Moore’s The Great Victorian Collection) might it not draw people out of their own world-perhaps onlookers, perhaps the artist himself? And what would happen then?

In “The Hobby,”  this possibility is given a double spin, since the author as well as the old man and his hosts are sucked into the world of the old man’s creation. And it is a world not without its terrors, for though it is possible that the tunnel is just a tunnel, it seems more likely that it is a metaphor for the final darkness into which first the old man-but eventually his hosts and the author-must eventually travel.

Look for a definition of the word hobby, and then compare it with the following definitions:

In the 1400s the word hobby referred to a shaggy, medium-to small horse or pony. In the 1500s the similar word hobbin or dobbin was often used by workers as a name for a plough horse. By the 1700s it could also refer to a small wooden horse on which a child might ride. Children often spent many hours rocking on these horses.

By 1760 Laurence Sterne in Tristram Shandy used the word metaphorically to describe a person who had, in the perceiver’s eyes, an excessive interest in something. Certainly the concept of an all-consuming passion for some project is given memorable attention in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1817).

By 1840, having a hobby was seen as a respectable and desirable way of passing one’s time. It was said of a certain nobleman of the period that “the library was one of his hobbies.”

Eric McCormack, 1939-

In 1966 Eric McCormack left his homeland of Scotland to attend the University of Manitoba. He decided to teach English, and in 1970 he joined the staff of St. Jerome’s College in Waterloo, Ontario, where he still teaches, specializing in seventeenth century and contemporary literature. He has contributed stories to various literary magazines; among them Malahat Review, New quarterly, Prism International, and West Coast Review. His first collection of stories, Inspecting the Vaults, was published 1987 by Penguin Books. His first novel, The Paradise Motel, was published two years later.

Exploring the Text

  1. Some people who read this story react strongly to the final paragraph: What’s going on? What can it mean? What happens next? We are so used to reading stories that close neatly with the last word, we are surprised, and sometimes a little frustrated, when they do not. Explain how you reacted to the last paragraph of this story. Describe your feelings in one concise paragraph.
  2. Argue for or against the following statement: McCormack’s “The Hobby” is a story about one man’s “defiance of the darkness.” Begin by deciding what the word darkness suggests. Share your findings with one other student. Make certain you locate this phrase in the story and that you consider its meaning in context.
  3. Reread the paragraph beginning, “That boy wore me out”(76). Explain the function of this paragraph in relation to the rest of this story.
  4. In the final paragraph of the story there is a sudden shift in point of view that suggests we might want to rethink what the whole story is about. Who might the “me” be in the final paragraph? (Hint: The old man created the train and the train station, but who created the old man?) What might the author be suggesting about the relationship between a person and the thing that person builds or creates?