What are some examples of literary devices used in "Once Upon a Time" by Nadine Gordimer?  

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The frame narrative is the opening literary device that Gordimer uses in the story.  In true postmodern fashion, she creates a story of which she is a part.  Her defiance at the "need" to write a children's story coupled with her own paranoia at what creaks below is what causes the story to form.  Both of these elements are thematically germane to what we end up reading in the story.  In terms of the story itself, the thematic repetition of the family's happiness and how they were content with one another is an excellent juxtaposition to the unknown nature of the world, and the collision of both settings end up creating the horrific set of circumstances for the ending.  Gordimer is really adroit at being able to use thematic and character development as a way to build the plot.  Finally, the allegorical nature of the story is compelling in how it reflects the desire for perfection revealing a tale of destruction underneath.  The symbolism of being so insistent on creating a world where one appropriates it in accordance to their own subjectivity without integrating the presence of the dialectical "other" in the process is something that Gordimer is quite deliberate in creating.

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jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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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.

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