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Environment in “Royal Beatings” Short Story by Alice Munro

Alice Munro’s “Royal Beatings” is a story that describes the life of a poverty-seeking society and families at the time of the Great Depression. The main characters of the tale Rose, her father, her stepmother, and her half-brother, present the image of the average family occupied by all hardships of that time. The narrative shows considerable transformations of the main characters and the impact of the physical and social environment on this process.

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In the story, readers could observe the role of the physical environment in identifying the nature and composition of the narrative. Physical division and separation experienced by the main characters lead to social and personal transformation. This review will discuss social and physiological factors that influenced the story’s outcome in detail. Moreover, the division between public and private representations would clarify the objectives of the central characters. It would be argued that the social environment plays a more prominent role in the narrative, while the physical environment helps express the characters’ emotions.

The influence of the social environment is more fundamental and broader. The first thing that creates a comprehensive vision of the story is the difference between the impoverished and affluent part of the population. At this point, visual and sensory detailing of the report helps to see a more profound picture. Additionally, Munro (n.d.) mentions the social construct prevalent in those times and the highly patriarchal structure of that society.

The community and her family recognize Rose as the property of her father. Obtaining the supreme position over his daughter, her father applies physical violence against her physically and emotionally, affecting her well-being (Munro, n.d.). In this situation, Rose tries to reveal and hide this fact because of condemnation and ignorance of society to her fate. The family presented as the micro-society introduces the standard pattern of violence, ignorance, mental separation of poor communities (Munro, n.d.). On the other hand, Flo is the party who wants to prevent the conflict but does not possess enough authority to do so.

The physical environment plays a critical role in defining the story’s atmosphere: physical location and surroundings help create specific emotions and responses of the main characters to their conditions. For example, the bathroom door emphasizes Rose’s maturity and emotional separation, which was successfully ignored previously. Moreover, the house’s interior highlights the division and distinction between family members, such as an item of massive furniture, her father’s workplace place (Munro, n.d.). The physical environment determines the connection between past and present events, establishing the initial points for changes. This is clearly defined in the following lines: “the person who spoke these words and the person who spoke to her as her father were not the same, though they seemed to occupy the same space” (Munro, n.d.). A physical environment is a tool for decorating and creating the dramatic effect of the story.

To conclude, it could be said that the role of physical and social environments vary based on their function in the story. From one side, the physical environment is used to facilitate the connection between the narrative and emotions of the characters. At the same time, the social climate predicts the future behavior of the characters in the given conditions. Although the impact of the social environment is more considerable for the narrative, the physical environment provides emotions and feelings of the characters.


Munro, A. (n.d.). Royal Beatings. Buried Print. Web.

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