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Nadine Gordimer is a South African writer who often wrote about the injustices of apartheid. "Once Upon a Time" is no exception. In this short story, that is ironically patterned after a child's tale, she shows the extremes that one family goes to in order to protect itself from "the other." In this case, "the others" are the native Africans. Each of these protective measures becomes detrimental to the family who uses them--annoying alarm systems provide cover for robbers; walls destroy the beauty of the lawn and make the grounds look like a concentration camp, and ultimately the barbed wire becomes a deadly vice not for a would-be intruder but for the family's son. The culprit in the story is the system itself--a system that produces such an inequities. The poor "the others" are desperate and have nothing to lose, so they rob and pillage. The rich whites are afraid and take measures to protect themselves. Eventually the system will fail, just as the ground beneath the narrator's house begins to shake. The foundation itself is shaky, and it is the apartheid system itself that is responsible for the fallout.
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