Once Upon Time By Nadine Gordimer

Once Upon a Social Issue Fairy tales have always been told to us as children;
whether to comfort or entertain us, they always seem to be a part of most
everyones childhood. When Nadine Gordimer was asked to write a childrens
story, she replied with a short story titled Once Upon A Time. Although
the title is characteristic of a fairy tale, she leads the tale to an ending
that is anything other than happily ever after. Gordimer distorts the
fairy tale by dealing with certain issues rather than giving the reader the
usual fairy tale characteristics. Three of the more significant issues Gordimer
likes to deal with in her story are racial discrimination and prejudice,
societys insecurities, and the persuasive way fairy tales have with children.

Gordimers Once Upon A Time has the feeling of insecurity right away. In
the first part of her story, Gordimer reminds us of our own insecurities. She
brings up a familiar situation in which one is awakened by a bump in the night
and cannot go back to sleep because of fear or their own insecurities. Gordimer
writes, I have no burglar bars, no gun under the pillow, but I have the same
fears as people who do take these precautions… So, to better convey this
issue of societys insecurities, she tells herself a bedtime story. In the
story, there is a family who is living happily ever after, yet is seems
it is all that they can do to keep it that way. Rather than putting their
insecurities aside and getting on with their lives, they feel that they must put
their trust in security devices to protect their selves. For a short while, the
family has a sense of security by posting a plaque stating YOU HAVE BEEN
WARNED over the silhouette of a prospective intruder. After a short time the
familys psychological need for more security calls for a number of new
security devices in order to sustain the top level of security. It is in the
familys pursuit of this security that they virtually imprison
themselves. After the installation of burglar bars, Gordimer describes the view
from every window and door in the house where they were living happily ever
after they now saw the trees and sky through bars. One of the less obvious
issues lining Once Upon A Time is racial discrimination. Gordimer first
suggestion that this suburb may be slightly racist is by stating that the plaque
on their gate warning possible intruders didnt designate black or white,
therefore protesting too much the owner of the home not to be a racist. By
adding this statement, Gordimer lets there be evidence for a possible racism
problem in this suburb. Gordimers statement of riots outside of the city was
also supporting evidence toward racism in this place. The only black people that
were allowed in the suburbs were those considered to be trustworthy gardeners or
housemaids, and soon the trustworthy were not the only black people to be
loitering around the suburb. Gordimer writes of the community stating it was
a beautiful suburb, spoilt only by the black peoples presence. With the
coming of these undesired guests, the familys sense of security begins to
weaken yet again. In order to further suppress their insecure feelings, they
decide to raise the walls surrounding the property to a height of seven feet.

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Later, after finding footprints that were not their own on the street side of
the wall, the familys sense of security was further diminished. As a final
attempt at gaining complete security, the family pondered the addition of even
more protection for their outside wall. The familys pursuit of a mental
security booster was finished when they lined the outside walls with razor wire
that formed an unconquerable barrier. Feeling quite safe with their new wire
defense, the mother finally feels secure enough to let her guard down and read
her little boy a fairy tale. The fairy tale, a story about a prince who dashes
through a terrible thicket of thorns to enter the palace and kiss the Sleeping
Beauty and bring her back to life. Children, having the imaginations that they
do, sometimes like to pretend to be a hero as in the fairy tale. So, the next
day, the little boy decides to also save the sleeping beauty by crawling through
the shinny new obstacle atop the outside wall. Once inside the young prince
began to charge through the insurmountable odds, and found them to be


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