What is the theme and purpose of the story "Royal Beatings" by Alice Munro?

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Munro's "Royal Beatings" explores family dynamics in the context of poverty and the frustrations of limited resources, showing that beating—and victimizing—a child who can't fight back is a complex situation. The speaker examines the situation from a plethora of angles rather than one-dimensionally.

The story is set in the Depression era. Rose's father is a furniture repairman, while her step-mother Flo runs the family store. Her father, despite his working class profession, has a poetic turn of mind and she overhears him one day quoting from Shakespeare's The Tempest: "The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces." The rest of the quote points to one of the story's main themes: one day everything we know will "dissolve" like an "insubstantial pageant," leaving nothing behind. In writing the story, the adult Rose's purpose is to capture the nuances of some piece of her childhood—and her parents' lives—before it all fades away.

Both Flo and the speaker's father are depicted as...

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