In Once Upon a Time by Nadine Gordimer, what is the symbol that represents society coming together and finding common ground?

2 Answers | Add Yours

durbanville's profile pic

durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In Once Upon A Time by Nadine Gordimer, a family desperately tries to protect itself from a threat which it cannot quite define but which affects all its decisions and hovers over it until it eventually reveals itself not in the form of the "people of another color" or the "loafers and tsotsis" (a word that is commonly used in South Africa meaning hooligans which is derived from the Sotho language) as the family expect, but in the barbed wire installed to ironically protect the family. 

The little boy in the story plays in the garden on his tricycle, walks the dog with his parents and listens to a "bedtime story" which inspires him to be like the prince in Sleeping Beauty. In his secure environment, he has no idea that his parents have gone to such extreme measures and sees the barbed wire as just like the thorns in the fairy story. He is too young to recognize the danger and his parents overlook the potential and the risk as they are too busy protecting him from external forces instead of looking inside themselves and realizing that they are contributing to the problems on the outside of the wall.

It is the little boy who symbolizes the coming together of society because, when he gets trapped in "the razor-teeth" of the barbed wire , everyone runs to save him. The story does not say who actually freed the "bleeding mass" of the boy because it is immaterial. The story ends in tragedy as "they carried it--the man, the wife, the hysterical trusted housemaid and the weeping gardener into the house." The real tragedy is that it takes such a terrible event and an extreme situation to make society rally together. 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,924 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question