What symbols appear in "Once upon a Time" by Nadine Gordimer?

Various symbols appear in "Once upon a Time" by Nadine Gordimer. The young boy is a symbol of innocence, which is eventually lost to his parents' efforts of division. The coil of wire is symbolic of apartheid itself, demonstrating the deadly and violent implications for those on both sides of this symbolic fence.

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In order to fully appreciate the symbolism in "Once Upon a Time," it is important to place this work in its historical context. Nadine Gordimer grew up in South Africa during the country's apartheid era. The daughter of Jewish immigrants, Gordimer was strongly opposed to the racism around her and made this the focus of much of her writing.

In "Once Upon a Time," Gordimer rejects the notion of an idyllic bedtime story and instead tells a story of her own experience. This story is the story of South Africa, where the lines of racism were drawn and white supremacy was celebrated.

The phrase "happily ever after" is repeated numerous times throughout the story, symbolizing the superficial sense of happiness that the family constructs their lives around. Of course, the phrase is juxtaposed with other images, such as windows that are eventually covered with bars, and later with the coils that are installed around the family's home. This repetitive and ironic symbolism demonstrates the façade of...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 1179 words.)

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