Once upon a Time

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Once Upon a Time” by Nadine Gordimer. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Once Upon a Time” (1989)
Author: Nadine Gordimer
Genre: Short story

Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014) was a South African writer of short stories and novels. In 1991, she received the Nobel Prize in literature for the impact of her literary works. The majority of Gordimer’s literary works deal with social issues related to apartheid in South Africa.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 


The title of the short story is ironical and misleading at first, as readers might assume the story is a fairy-tale with a happy ending. However, the author only mocks the idea of a fairy-tale because the story uses a fairy-tale language to explore a real social issue, the irrational fear the whites in South Africa had of the black population, during the apartheid regime. Elements of fairy-tale that you can identify in the story are ironical and satirical, mocking the genre.The title is all the more ironical as the story does not have a happy ending, but a tragic one: because the family has taken extreme precautions measures against a possible intrusion of the natives on their property, their son ends up dying in their own trap.

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Once upon a Time

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