30 September 2009
A.P. English Literature and Composition 12
“Once Upon a Time” Literary Analysis
“Once Upon a Time” is a reverse fantasy story written by Nadine Gordimer. The concept of a reverse fantasy is a tale that one expects to end happily ever after but has a plot twist where the ending is cruel or injust. The structure of this story begins as the narrator writes that they are asked to contribute to an anthology of children’s literature. The next moment, while lying in bed, they are abruptly awakened by an unfamiliar noise in his house which rests upon a hollow foundation. In order to calm himself, he begins to create a bed time story in his mind (Gordimer 220).Although the first part of the short story does not yet seem to fit into the artistic unity of the plot, it is essential for understanding the theme of the entire work.
The second half of the story begins with the explanation of a family living “happily ever after” in a suburb. The second story quickly establishes the protagonists, who are the husband, wife, and their little boy. Although having a large sign that reads, “YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED,” the wife, especially, is very paranoid about keeping their house safe and secure from the looming drunkards and riots, which are frequent in their area (Gordimer 222). The trusted house maid continues to give her advice about how to keep their belongings and lives robber-free. The plot moves on to explain that the husband’s mother, or “the wise old witch,” buys a metallic coil with shards encircling it to top their fence, which lines the entire perimeter of the family’s property (Gordimer 223). Left to wonder what will happen to the cat, which often comes as goes as he pleases, the story explains that even the cat rests just within the walls and does not try to challenge the wall. Quickly the ending of this plot becomes an unhappy, surprise ending when the little boy wants to play make believe after listening to...
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