What are the metaphors used in "Once Upon a Time"?

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In "Once Upon a Time," Nadine Gordimer uses a razor-wire topped wall around a single-family home as a metaphor for South Africa's apartheid. Like the family in the story, which is trying to stay "safe" by turning its room into a fortress, the white minority in that country...

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In "Once Upon a Time," Nadine Gordimer uses a razor-wire topped wall around a single-family home as a metaphor for South Africa's apartheid. Like the family in the story, which is trying to stay "safe" by turning its room into a fortress, the white minority in that country was, at the time, trying to keep itself "safe" from its black majority by strictly separating blacks and whites. Blacks had to live in different areas, attend different schools, and were cut off from most of the amenities of modern life, while the whites lived in great comfort.

Gordimer very much opposed apartheid, and the story becomes a cautionary metaphor for how the entire white society is going to end up ripping itself apart, destroyed by social structures meant to keep it safe, just as the little boy is ripped apart by the razor wire that is supposed to keep him safe.

The motif of the fairy tale is another metaphor for South Africa's apartheid. Gordimer is likening the way the whites live to living in a fairytale. All the safety and security they think they are buying for themselves is nothing but an illusion. Just as the family is less safe because of the razor wire, so white society is less safe, not more, because of the cruel social structures it has established to keep blacks out.

This metaphor can be extended universally, as the story is carefully not set in any particular place and time. Is building a wall to keep a feared 'other' out ever going to make people safer or is that whole idea a fairytale illusion?

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The most dominant metaphor in the story is the sign on the house.  I feel that this is used as a constant reminder to so many.  The family use this as a warning to potential intruders.  Yet, this sign could also be a warning to the family that allowing their fears and paranoia to drive their consciousness is disastrous.  The idea of "YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED" is a metaphor, a comparison, of how the family refuses to accept their own fears and embrace them as part of being in the world.  Rather, it is an object that represents both the desire to project strength as well as a reflection of internal fear.  I think the sign is a metaphor because it compares the family to the outside world and also simultaneously internalizes the outside world in the family.  Another metaphor would be the wall, representing the "walling off" of the family from the outside world and also preventing them from fully understanding their own consciousness in this world.  It makes sense that this is the object that the little boy tries to climb, as he seeks to overcome this metaphor of isolation, only to be trapped on the top of it and die because of it.  A potential metaphor could be the frame story that serves as the exposition, in that it shows how different an appropriate response to fear can be.

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