What is the point of view in Once Upon a Time by Nadine Gordimer?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Once Upon a Time by Nadine Gordimer, who was born and lived in South Africa, the point of view shifts from a first person to a fairytale-style third person omniscient point of view. John Barth also wrote a work called Once Upon a Time that is told in first person throughout. I'll elaborate on Gordimer's point of view in Once Upon a Time.

Point of view is the vice and vision from which the story is told. A third person omniscient point of view, which is held by a narrator outside of the narrative, looking in to the narration, so to speak, gives a birds-eye view of everyone and everything. No one's thoughts, feelings, actions, motives, whereabouts are hidden from narrator and can be told about by the narrator. As an example, along with fairytales, Jane Austen's novels are told from a third person omniscient point of view with an all-seeing narrator.

Once Upon a Time is framed by a first person account of Nadine Gordimer's umbrage at being requested to write a children's story as a duty, stating she believes artists should not write on demand (Da Vinci and Michelangelo might disagree...but they weren't writers...). Then, while falling asleep, she mistakenly thinks she hears an intruder. She then tells herself what turns out to be a gruesome bedtime story to put herself to sleep. It is at this point that the point of view shifts from Nadine Gordimer the offended writer to Nadine Gordimer the third person omniscient narrator.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are two points of view in Gordimer's short story.  The first is that of Gordimer herself at the start of the work.  She describes being awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of what will later be discovered to be creaking floorboards related to the age of her home and this spins into the second point of view as third person omniscient narrator about the family.  In both, Gordimer's voice is clear and present in that we know that she is speaking to us about both narratives (hers and the family's) and how the perception of fear and crime can lead an individual to rather challenging results.