What can you infer about what Gordimer leaves unstated at the end of her story?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One inference that can be made from the ending of Gordimer's "Once Upon a Time" is that the parents recognize their mistakes.

At the end of the story, Gordimer leaves the family's reactions unstated.  She does not delve into what the mother and father thought as they carried "the bleeding mass" of their son into the house.   One inference that can be made is that the parents realized their folly regarding all of their security measures.  

Throughout the story, Gordimer describes the family as scared of the outside world. They enact security measures such as the gate, the wall, and the barbed wire thicket to keep the outside world away from them. However, when their child is destroyed by these measures, we can infer that the parents would reflect on their actions. They would have to rethink the world they have created. The desire to keep the family safe had the opposite consequence.  It endangered their boy, the love of their lives because as he crawls inside the coiled barbed wire, he "screamed and struggled deeper into its tangle."  

Gordimer shows the parents extracting their son and bringing him inside.  She does not state their thoughts to this painful reality.  We can infer that the parents would have to reconsider their fears of the outside world.  Their fears have essentially killed their son.  This can be an inference based on what is offered at the end of "Once Upon a Time."

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Once Upon a Time

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