Once upon a Time

This study guide will help you analyze the text “Once upon a Time” by Nadine Gordimer. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, theme and message.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Once upon a Time”
Author: Nadine Gordimer
Date of Publication: 1989
Genre: Short Story

Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014) was a South African writer of novels and short stories, who received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1991. The author was a strong anti-apartheid activist and many of her literary works focus on social issues related to apartheid (a discriminatory segregation system between whites and blacks) in South Africa.

Excerpt 

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Title

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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