Here are the main features that will help you with the analysis of the short story “Once Upon a Time” by Nadine Gordimer.
The short story does not have a traditional structure and is instead presented as a story within a story. In the outer story, the narrator talks about how she was asked to write a children’s story and about her fear when she hears noises around the house at night. The inner story, however, is structured chronologically and has a traditional plot. Moreover, it contains typical fairy-tale elements, which are distorted.
The main character in the outer story is an unnamed narrator. In the inner story, the main characters are the husband and wife. They are not named, and their main trait is their fear and paranoia born out of racism and prejudice.
The physical setting of the story is not explicitly specified. However, the narrative indicates that the events take place somewhere in South Africa, during apartheid. The social setting shows the consequences of prejudice and racism, and class differences during apartheid in South Africa.
The story is also told in a non-traditional manner, having two narrators. The outer story has a first-person narrator, while the inner story is told by a third-person narrator.
The language is formal. A feature that stands out is the use of fairy-tale language, which is distorted by irony.
A full analysis of the short story can be found in the following pages.