In "Once Upon a Time" by Nadine Gordimer, what is the next increase in security, after the installation of a burglar alarm and how does the husband's mother contribute?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The family in this story are presented as a fairly average family, trying to do the right thing, trying to be neighborly, trying to be fair to " people of another color," within the context of Once Upon a Time.

In an effort to protect themselves, they take certain security measures beginning with very sensible insurance policies and such things. Having installed a security wall, electronic gates, burglar bars on the windows and an alarm system which appears to cause it's own fair share of insecurity, in fact - thus foreshadowing the tragic events that will conclude this story - the family decide to higher the wall.

There is an increased presence on the streets of unemployed persons and those who work shorter hours than before and the family's ever increasing paranoia leads the husband to discuss raising the wall. His mother, a“wise old witch,”  who made the original observations about taking steps to maintain their lifestyle, buys some bricks. The significance of them being a Christmas present, together with the storybook she buys her grandson, adds irony to the story and makes the outcome even more unfortunate and tragic.  


kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Once the family has installed the burglar alarm, the next step is to have burglar bars installed on all of the windows and doors. This happens after a local housemaid is tied up while burglars steal every possession from her employer's home. The installation of the bars gives the family a sense of relief, but their home now resembles a prison, with bars obscuring their view of the outside world.

Next, the family decides that they must increase the height of the wall, which runs around the property, to prevent burglars from climbing it and gaining access to the garden. This is where the husband's mother comes in: she offers to pay for the additional bricks as a Christmas gift to her son and his wife. The couple duly accepts her gift, and the wall is heightened. Their home now resembles a fortress.