Exploration of Social Issues in Once Upon a Time

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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 everyone's childhood. When Nadine Gordimer was asked to write a children's 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, society's insecurities, and the persuasive way fairy tales have with children.

Gordimer's "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 society's 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 family's 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 family's pursuit of this "security" that they virtually imprison...
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