What are some symbols about life being an illusion in "Once Upon a Time"?

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In “Once Upon a Time” by Nadine Gordimer, a secure life is depicted as merely an illusion. The house in the safe neighborhood, the security gate, the alarms, the high walls, the bars on the windows, and the metal coil on the wall are all symbols of this illusory safety in life that turns out to be not safe at all.

The husband, wife, and little boy at the center of the story want to live in safety in a world that is not safe. There are riots outside the city, and people are drifting into their neighborhood looking for work and handouts. The wife becomes especially nervous about the situation, particularly when some of their neighbors' homes are broken into. All of a sudden, their perfect house in their safe neighborhood is no longer as secure as it once seemed.

The family, therefore, installs security gates and high walls and burglar alarms. Yet these measures do not help make anyone feel more secure. The cat can easily go over the walls, and it triggers the alarm. The neighbors' alarms go off, too, and the burglars take advantage of the chaos to break in. Security remains an illusion.

The family takes another step, installing bars on the windows and doors in the hopes that these will keep people out of the house at any rate. But still, no one feels secure. The safe life is not safe at all. In fact, it feels more and more dangerous all the time.

Finally, the wife decides that her family must have “Dragon's Teeth,” sharp metal coils and blades, on top of their walls. This, she thinks, will finally give her the secure life she longs for and has not been able to find. This will keep those dangerous people out of their little area of happily ever after. Unfortunately, the family's desire for safety only leads to tragedy when the little boy becomes tangled in the sharp metal and is cut to pieces.

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