Once Upon A Time Thematic Essay
Leaving in fear creates a prison of one’s own making. In “Once Upon a Time,” by
Nadine Gordimer, a couple lives a happy life together with their little boy, cat, and dog in a
South Africa. But their happiness is disrupted by rumors about riots in another part of the city of
men of different color. For this reason, they follow the advice of the wise old witch, who is also
the mother of the husband, of not letting anyone in and placing a sign at their gates that state,
“YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED” (11), Also, the story opens up with a frame involving the
author herself. It takes place at a point in her career when she has been asked to compose a short
story for a children’s book as part of her "duty" as a writer. She rejects that idea. She has written
a phenomenal short story about a young girl (the narrator) that is unable to fall back asleep, she
begins to tell herself self a “bedtime story” (12).
The night following her rejection of the story, the character Gordimer is awakened by a
noise that she can’t at first identify. According to the text, "I have no burglar bars, no gun under
my pillow, but I have the same fears as people who do take these precautions…"(11). To better
convey the idea of society's preoccupation with safety, Gordimer begins to tell herself a bedtime
Despite all this, the family slowly becomes more and more paranoid about the events going on
outside their house. There are riots and burglaries in the non-white parts of the town they live in.
To allay her fears, the husband installs more security around their house, this time he erects a
wall and electronic gates....