What is different about the boy's approach to life versus his parents'? What does the boy symbolize? 

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The boy does not seem to be as fearful of life as his parents are in "Once Upon a Time."

In the Gordimer short story, the boy's parents are afraid of the outside world. The family's mistrust of the outside world triggers the security measures they take. Building the gate, raising the wall, placing the shards of glass on top of it, and the barbed wire coil are ways to keep the outside world out of their lives. The parents see the world as filled with threats that can only be countered through strict security measures.

Their child does not see life in this way. He sees life in adventurous terms. This can be best seen at the end of the story. The boy sees himself as a swashbuckling prince who must climb the wall to rescue the damsel in distress. The boy is not afraid of the challenges that stand in front of him. He scales the wall and enters the barbed wire coil without any hesitation. As he pretends to be a prince, the boy shows how different he is from his parents. He embraces life, and is not influenced by the external world around him. In many ways, the boy symbolizes joy and innocence in his approach to life. This is a stark contrast to the fearful and mistrustful approach of his parents.