Gordimer uses several literary devices in "Once Upon a Time." For example, she writes, "my windowpanes are thin as rime, could shatter like a wineglass." In this example, she uses a simile comparing her windowpanes to rime, or the frost that forms on surfaces, to convey how thin her windows are. Later, she writes, using personification, "the arrhythmia of my heart was fleeing, knocking this way and that against its body-cage." In this example, the author compares her irregular heartbeat to a creature who's trying to escape from its cage. Using a simile, she later writes, "the misbeats of my heart tailed off like the last muffled flourishes on one of the wooden xylophones made by the Chopi and Tsonga migrant miners." In this example, she compares the slowing down of her heart to the music played by migrant workers in Africa, who end their tunes with a muffled xylophone beat. Later, when writing her story about the family who installs a security system and later a security fence in their house, she writes, "the alarms called to one another across the gardens in shrills and bleats and wails." In this example of personification, the sirens that go off in houses call to each other with wails, almost as if they are ghosts or crazed animals.