How can fear be dangerous in "Once Upon a Time"?

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In Nadine Gordimer's “Once Upon a Time,” fear proves to be the family’s downfall. A family lives in a city in which there is great social unrest—modeled largely on South Africa—and fears riots and burglaries. Once further security is suggested by the husband’s mother, described as a “wise old witch,” the couple find themselves in an escalating war against their own fear. A neighborhood watch program is not enough to assuage their fears, so they get an electronically controlled fence. Having noticed a hole in one aspect of their security, they seek to mend it. Ironically, many of these measures make them more vulnerable, such as the alarms:

The alarms called to one another across the gardens in shrills and bleats and wails that everyone soon became accustomed to, so that the din roused the inhabitants of the suburb no more than the croak of frogs and musical grating of cicadas' legs. Under cover of the electronic harpies' discourse intruders sawed the iron bars and broke into homes, taking away hi-fi equipment, television sets, cassette players, cameras and radios, jewelry and clothing, and sometimes were hungry enough to devour everything in the refrigerator or paused audaciously to drink the whiskey in the cabinets or patio bars.

Quite plainly, the alarms cause more problems than they solve; however, the family does not appear to realize this fact. Their fear outweighs their common sense.
 
Near the end of the story, the family possesses an electronically-controlled fence, alarms, a seven-foot tall fence, and trusted employment: they ought to feel safe. The sight of their cat scaling the fence causes their security concerns to well up again, so they choose to arm the top of their fence with a vicious wire coil. Their child, after reading Sleeping Beauty, tries to make his way through the thorns to find a princess, but instead gets caught in the razors; he dies as a result.
 
Fear is the rationale behind the family’s actions, and look where it brought them: their only child is dead, indirectly by their hand. They do not even have the satisfaction of knowing that their efforts kept them safe, because they so clearly didn’t. Their internal desire for safety outpaced the actual threat at hand—in other words, their fear was disproportionate—and it led to the loss of their child.
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What are the consequences of fear in "Once Upon a Time"?

In “Once Upon a Time,” the consequences of fear are greater fear, isolation, and finally death. Let's look at this in more detail.

The family in the story lives in a suburban neighborhood that seems safe, but the wife if always worried that someone will break into their home. They add more and more levels of security, but the fear continues. Other families in the neighborhood do the same, and pretty soon alarms are constantly going off. Burglars take advantage of the situation to rob people. Families dismiss their servants out of fear. People end up alone and more scared then ever, trusting no one and continually striving for the next level of safety.

The family at the center of the story finally puts up a security device on the top of their wall that is filled with coils of wire and sharp pieces of metal. They think that they will finally be safe, cut off from the rest of the world. But they are wrong. Their little boy has an active imagination, and he sees the wire and metal as a thicket like in one of his fairy tales. He tries to climb through it, only to be nearly cut to pieces. The story implies that he does not survive. The fear of living has led to death.

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