“Once Upon a Time.” by Nadine Gordimer

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2008

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"Once Upon a Time" was first published in 1989. Nadine Gordimer was born in 1923 near Johannesburg, South Africa. She graduated from the University of Witwatersrand. A prolific writer, Gordimer has published more than twenty books of fiction. When Nadine Gordimer was asked to write a children's story she replied with a short story called "Once Upon a Time". Although Gordimer's title is typical of a fairy tale, the story she weaves is anything but typical. Instead of dealing with characteristics synonymous with fairy tales, the author injects an issue that plagues modern day society: security, fear and peace of mind. Gordmier also comments on racial discrimination (that was and is still a problem for South Africa and nearly all other countries).

The story opens with Gordimer awakened by a bump in the night and cannot go back to sleep due to her fear (a similar situation many people have experienced).

"I have no burglar bars, no gun under my pillow, but I have the same fears as people who do take these precautions…" To better convey the idea of society's preoccupation with safety, Gordimer begins to tell herself a bedtime story. In the story there is a family who is "living happily ever after"; they live in the suburbs, have a mini-van, pets and a little boy. Everything seems so blissful, except the family's fixation with their own security. The family feels they must put their trust in security devices in order to feel at peace. For a brief while, the family feels secure by posting a plaque stating "YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED" over the silhouette of a prospective intruder. Not too long after this, the old, familiar feeling of uncertainty and discomfort creeps back in. The family then decides to install burglar bars in their home.