Once Upon a Time Questions and Answers
by Nadine Gordimer

Once Upon a Time book cover
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How is the structure of the story "Once Upon a Time" similar to a fairy tale? What elements do they share? Cite details from the text to support your analysis.

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Fairytales take place outside of historical time or place: "Little Red Riding Hood," for example, walks through a forest, but we don't know which forest or when. Also, the main character is identified not by her name but by what she is wearing, and the grandmother is only identified as Grandmother.

Gordimer follows these elements of the fairytale genre in her short story. While it clearly alludes to the situation in South Africa at the time, the story is set in no particular country, city, or specific time period. The characters are likewise unnamed except generically as the husband and wife and little boy, and though there are clearly two castes of people, race is never mentioned. Even the name of the company that puts up the razor wire has a fairytale sound. We learn that the family:

Consult [s] DRAGON'S TEETH The People For Total Security.

As in a traditional fairy tale, this technique universalizes Gordimer's tale, making the situation broadly applicable. This isn't, therefore, a...

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