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Analysis on Short Story “Once upon a Time” by Nadine

In the short story “Once Upon a Time” by Nadine Gordimer, we can derive the following
given social isssues as racism, insecurity, freedom, over protectiveness. Gordimer may be
exploring the theme of apartheid. The couple and their son live in a wealthy colony,
where black people are not allowed to enter. There should be an issue of equality,
therefore black people are considered inferior to white people. If anything with apartheid
came racism and black people being only trusted to do low status jobs. The man and his
wife assume like their neighbours that it must be black people who are invoved in crimes,
even though they have no proof. They would prefer to distance themselves from black
people hence their living in a wealthy colony in which black people are not allowed nor
are they employed unless they come with references.
The title of the story may also be significant as one would expect a story that begins with
‘Once Upon a Time’ to have a happy ending. This however is not the case with the son
killed after trying to act out a story that his mother had gifted him to read. We can
assume easily that the over protectiveness, feeling of insecurity and security devices
installed in the house are the main cause to the death of their beloved son. And it
becomes clear that the boy is killed by the fencing that is attached to the wall of his
parent’s home. The security measures taken by the man and his wife highlight to the
reader the insecurities that they feel due to what is happening in the neighborhood.
However they do not realize that they are turning their home into a prison like fortress.
The results of which are disastrous to the man and his wife.
What is also interesting about the story is the fact that the man and wife appear to be
living their life in fear. They are also pushed along by the man’s mother who may be the
mainly responsible of the fear. Though only briefly mentioned in the story she has a large
impact on the narrative of the story. The man’s mother, the man and his wife are being
crazy. Unfortunately, their son is not so matured to understand and he ends up paying a
heavy price for his innocence.
The fact that all the characters in the story (including the narrator) remain nameless may
also be important as by not naming individual characters, Gordimer may be suggesting
that the issue at hand is global. All judgments that the reader makes also come from the
individual actions of each character. Though the man may feel as though he is just
reassuring his wife. The reality is that he controls everything that is happening. He is
attempting to control his environment and attributing blame to a certain section of society
(black people). Although he has no proof or evidence that black people are the
responsible for the deterioration in the community. Rather the man is adhering to
commonly held beliefs to be responsible for the said deterioration by black people.