Althoughthe title is characteristic of a fairy tale, she leads the tale to an endingthat is anything other than happily ever after. Gordimer distorts thefairy tale by dealing with certain issues rather than giving the reader theusual fairy tale characteristics. Three of the more significant issues Gordimerlikes to deal with in her story are racial discrimination and prejudice,societys insecurities, and the persuasive way fairy tales have with children. Gordimers Once Upon A Time has the feeling of insecurity right away. Inthe first part of her story, Gordimer reminds us of our own insecurities.
Shebrings up a familiar situation in which one is awakened by a bump in the nightand cannot go back to sleep because of fear or their own insecurities. Gordimerwrites, I have no burglar bars, no gun under the pillow, but I have the samefears as people who do take these precautions. . . So, to better convey thisissue of societys insecurities, she tells herself a bedtime story.
In thestory, there is a family who is living happily ever after, yet is seemsit is all that they can do to keep it that way. Rather than putting theirinsecurities aside and getting on with their lives, they feel that they must puttheir trust in security devices to protect their selves. For a short while, thefamily has a sense of security by posting a plaque stating YOU HAVE BEENWARNED over the silhouette of a prospective intruder. After a short time thefamilys psychological need for more security calls for a number of newsecurity devices in order to sustain the top level of security.
It is in thefamilys pursuit of this security that they virtually imprisonthemselves. After the installation of burglar bars, Gordimer describes the viewfrom every window and door in the house where they were living happily everafter they now saw the trees and sky through bars. One of the less obviousissues lining Once Upon A Time is racial discrimination. Gordimer firstsuggestion that this suburb may be slightly racist is by stating that the plaqueon their gate warning possible intruders didnt designate black or white,therefore protesting too much the owner of the home not to be a racist. Byadding this statement, Gordimer lets there be evidence for a possible racismproblem in this suburb. Gordimers statement of riots outside of the city wasalso supporting evidence toward racism in this place.
The only black people thatwere allowed in the suburbs were those considered to be trustworthy gardeners orhousemaids, and soon the trustworthy were not the only black people to beloitering around the suburb. Gordimer writes of the community stating it wasa beautiful suburb, spoilt only by the black peoples presence. With thecoming of these undesired guests, the familys sense of security begins toweaken yet again. In order to further suppress their insecure feelings, theydecide to raise the walls surrounding the property to a height of seven feet.
Later, after finding footprints that were not their own on the street side ofthe wall, the familys sense of security was further diminished. As a finalattempt at gaining complete security, the family pondered the addition of evenmore protection for their outside wall. The familys pursuit of a mentalsecurity booster was finished when they lined the outside walls with razor wirethat formed an unconquerable barrier. Feeling quite safe with their new wiredefense, the mother finally feels secure enough to let her guard down and readher little boy a fairy tale. The fairy tale, a story about a prince who dashesthrough a terrible thicket of thorns to enter the palace and kiss the SleepingBeauty and bring her back to life. Children, having the imaginations that theydo, sometimes like to pretend to be a hero as in the fairy tale.
So, the nextday, the little boy decides to also save the sleeping beauty by crawling throughthe shinny new obstacle atop the outside wall. Once inside the young princebegan to charge through the insurmountable odds, and found them to be