Extending the pattern she had developed in Lives of Girls and Women, Munro uses the ten linked stories of The Beggar Maid to explore Rose's personal maturation. But whereas the structure of Lives of Girls and Women pivots on Del Jordan's first-person reflections on her efforts to establish emotional and spiritual links with the people around her, The Beggar Maid relies on an omniscient third-person narrator to provide insights into the relationships and fissures, connections and reconnections that accumulate and interweave to shape Rose's understanding of herself and her world.
Focusing on Rose's childhood and adolescence, the three stories that open the book explore the connections established early in Rose's life. In the opening story, "Royal Beatings," these links are familial. Commencing at a point in Rose's childhood when a "long truce" between Rose and her stepmother Flo has deteriorated badly, "Royal Beatings" traces the lines of tension within this family structure. Replacing the tenuous armistice is an intense "wrangle" which seems to have been "going on forever, like a dream that goes back and back into other dreams," and which culminates when Flo elicits the participation of Del's father in a ritualized act of domestic violence: "Royal Beating. That was Flo's promise." Yet it is Rose's connection with Flo, the only mother figure she has any memory of, which also proves to be the most enduring and the most...
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