Exploring the Text

  1. Respond to this story in any way you like but keep the following questions in mind: How old do you think the narrator was when this incident took place? At what point in the story did you feel most amused by something the young girl said or did? At what point did you feel most sympathetic towards her? Did anything in this story remind you of an experience you had in your early teens? Explain. Share your ideas with one other student.
  2. On what maxim is the title of this story based? Account for the changes the author made in this maxim. Explain the significance of the title with regard to the story. In what two ways could the word cured be interpreted? Of what, and in what way, is the narrator cured?
  3. Focusing on three specific incidents, analyze the mother-daughter relationship in this story. What conclusions can you draw about the mother’s character from what we are told about her?
  4. The narrator says she “showed the most painful banality” in her whole relationship with Martin Collingwood. Do you agree? Explain why or why not.
  5. Reread the section of the story which begins with the protagonist phoning her friends and ends with their departure from the Berrymans’. Explain why Kay Stringer was “exactly the person” the narrator needed at this point.
  6. Work with at least two other students on this assignment. Explain clearly what is meant by three of the following excerpts from the story, and use an example—not necessarily from the story—to clarify each of your explanations:
  • “the unaccountable past” (p. 32)
  • “the elaborate and unnecessary subterfuge that young girls delight in” (p. 36)
  • “oh, delicious moment in a well-organized farce!” (p. 37)
  • “covering up the ignominy of their departure with a mechanical roar of defiance” (p. 38)
  • “I gave him a gentle uncomprehending look in return” (p. 40)

Personal Response

Munro says adults are often tempted to refer to their adolescent behaviour with irony, humour, and amazement, but she implies that it is not always fair to one’s younger self to do so.  She says she did “all the stupid, sad, half-ashamed things…that people in love always do.”  And then she gives a list of examples.  Are you in love now?  Have you been love?  Have you done some of the “stupid, sad, half-ashamed things” Munro speaks of (pp. 32-33)?  Describe the experience, with as much detail as possible, in your journal.  Try to avoid speaking of yourself in a derogatory way; after all, as Munro  says, this is what people in love always do.


Fill in the blanks in the paragraph below with whatever words seem most appropriate.  Then compare your choices with those of two other students.  In each case, decide which of the three choices you find most effective.  Then compare the group’s results with Munro’s (p. 31).  Explain why you do or do not find her choice of words (her diction) more effective than your own.

My father would drink a beer on a hot day, but my mother did not join him, and—whether accidentally or _______________________—this drink was always consumed outside  the house.  Most of the people we knew were the same way, in the small town where we lived.  I ought not to say that it was this which got me into difficulties, because the difficulties I got into were a _______________________ expression of my own _______________________ accomplishment (my departure for my first formal dance, I mean, or my hellbent preparations for a _____________________  on college) with an expression of ___________________ and
_______________________ despair, as if she could not possibly expect, did not ask, that it should go with me as it did with other girls; the dreamed of spoils of daughters—orchids, nice boys, diamond rings—would be borne home in due course by the daughters of her friends, but not by me; all she could do was hope for a lesser rather than a greater ___________________—an elopement, say, with a boy who could never earn his living, rather than an ________________________ into the _____________________ _____________________ trade.

“The Hobby” and “The Sea Devil” Essay

In The Hobby , the old man’s hobby is recreating a world similar to the one he knew for sixty years.  In The Sea Devil,   the man’s hobby is fishing—a world that contrasts with the man’s regular occupation.  What do the two hobbies have in common?  In what way do they differ?  Referring to at  least three details from each story, compare the two works.

“The Sea Devil” and “The Tower” Essay

The man in The Sea Devil, and Caroline in The Tower, both begin adventures in the late afternoon or evening.  In one way or another both come up against an evil force that seems to be bent on their destruction.  Work with the two stories, analyse (a) the nature of this force, (b) the protagonist’s method for dealing with it, and (c) why the force did or did not triumph in the end.

“The Hobby” and “A Report For An Academy” Essay

Both the old man in The Hobby  and former ape in A Report For An Academy  have dedicated their lives to a learned behaviour.  McCormack calls the old man’s obsession with railroads a hobby—though it is obviously far more than that.  Could the former ape’s obsession with living the life of a human also be called a hobby?  Compare both obsessions, focusing on the following ideas (and any others you may think of):  what the “hobbyist” in each case was before he knew anything of the world he came to be absorbed in; how he learned to be what he now is; what personal price he paid for his success; and what effect his hobby has on others.

“The Hobby” and “Another Part of the Sky” Essay

Both the old man in The Hobby and Collins in Another Part of the Sky have become dangerously absorbed in their work.  The old man has clearly passed the point of being able to extract himself from the world of the railways; Collins may have been saved from a similar fate by the experience Gordimer describes in this short story.  Write a couple of paragraphs describing how the old man might, upon learning of the boy’s death, have been as shaken as Collins is at the end of Another Part of the Sky,  or describing how Collins might, as a widower enduring forced retirement, look back on his work and on his marriage if he had not had this experience of shattering self-recognition.

“Invasion of the Airline Stewardess” and “Fairy Tale” Essay

In Invasion of the Airline Stewardess, Ritter remarks on a group of employees, almost exclusively female, who are at once denatured, defined, and curiously empowered by the ersatz language they speak.  In Fairy Tale, Elliott portrays a writer who builds a world, a family, asocial life, that runs exactly the way she wants it to; but not for long, for even her characters rebel, leave, fade out.  Compare what Ritter and Elliott seem to be saying about women, words, and power.  Do you think either story (or both) would work as well if the stewardesses were stewards, or the “good woman” were a “good man”? Explain.

“The Hobby” and “Fairy Tale” Essay

Write a concise essay agreeing or disagreeing with one or both of the statements below. Be sure to present a balanced account, using quotations from the text to support your ideas.

  • Like The Hobby, Fairy Tale is structured as a story within a story. But whereas in The Hobby it is the fiction’s fiction–that is, the train–that winds up containing all else, including its maker (the author), in Fairy Tale it is the author who, in the last analysis, still contains all her stories. It could be said that the fundamental difference between the two stories is one of perspective.
  • McCormack’s old man is wholly immersed in the completion of his railway plans, whereas Caresse can never finish any of the competing versions of her fairy tale because she is always too aware of herself at the typewriter.

“The Hobby” and “The Sea Devil” Essay

The Hobby and The Sea Devil focuses on the relationship between a man and his hobby. Compare the two stories under the following headings: the nature of the two hobbies; their relative importance to each of the protagonists; the pleasure derived from each hobby; the danger associated with each hobby; and the conclusions of the two stories—what, if anything, has each protagonist learned?