Alice Munro primarily explores class differences among white Canadians. She mainly focuses on Rose's rural, working-class family.
Rose's father has a furniture repair shop, and her stepmother operates a store in a small town. Flo, the stepmother, is verbally abusive to Rose, who is an intelligent child. Despite enduring a sub-standard education and a cruel teacher, Rose earns a scholarship to college and goes away to study.
Her relationship with Patrick, who is equally intelligent and plans to become a professor, emphasizes the vast class differences in almost every aspect of their lives; the only thing they have in common is that they are both students. Patrick fancifully thinks of himself as rescuing a damsel from a painting or a fairy tale; he has difficulty understanding the reality of her upbringing or her need to chart her own course.
In this respect, the story emphasizes both class and gender differences. One reason that Rose wanted to leave her town was because the desperate power dynamic between herself and Flo strained their relationship. A similar relationship between a rich man (Patrick) and a poor woman (Rose) might produce the same result.