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

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reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Once Upon A Time" by Gordimer presents two different points of view that are linked by the theme of fear in this short story. The first point of view is first person which can be ascribed to Gordimer herself as she is asked to write a story for children. She says she shouldn't ought to be asked to write anything. However, upon hearing a noise in her house and being fearful of intruders, she is not able to go back to sleep. Lying in bed, she creates a fairy tale that she tells herself.

At this point in the story, narration is switched to third person as Gordimer tells the reader her bedtime story. It is important to note that Gordimer is from South Africa and that her fairy tale reflects the damages of an apartheid society. The family in the story is white, and their suburb is separated from the black families. As the family becomes more and more fearful, they leave behind the "happily ever after" and, instead focus on their fear by installing more and more security devices. Ironically, it is the fear and security wire that finally kills the son. The theme of fear is powerful and provides for a not-so-happy "ever after" ending that highlights the dangers of racial segregation.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The beginning of "Once Upon a Time" is told in first person point of view. The beginning constitutes a frame in which Nadine Gordimer, speaking for herself, protests the notion that an artist/author can be required to write a specific work by anyone (she forgets, of course, that historically most art work was commissioned...).

That night, Gordimer hears a noise in her house that alarms her. To put herself to sleep, she tells herself a "bedtime story," which introduces the real substance of "Once Upon a Time." The horror story she tells herself about a happy family whose search for security in an insecure world is laid upon the wrong foundation, that of fear of "the other," is told in third person point of view. Third person point of view comprises a narrator of the action and events who is outside the story and has access to character's thoughts, motives and feelings.