Themes and message
Fear and prejudice
The short story “Once Upon a Time” by Nadine Gordimer explores the theme of fear and prejudice in the context of the apartheid system in South Africa. In the outer story, the theme of fear caused by prejudice is explored through the writer who believes that someone has entered her house at night and is going to kill her. The narrator’s fear increases, until paranoia makes her see herself as a victim.
In the inner story – the bedtime story the writer tells herself – the theme of fear and prejudice is associated with the white family’s racism. The white family lives in a suburb together with other white people, and they all develop a fear of black people, whom they consider violent. The white family does not focus on the real reasons behind the bl...