What does Gordimer's story reveal about her political point of view?

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What readers learn about Gordimer's political point of view through the story is that she opposes the unjust society created through racism and apartheid. She believes that even the privileged suffer in a society that does not provide justice and equality for all.

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Gordimer was a strong opponent of apartheid, which was ripping apart her country in her lifetime. She vehemently opposed the racial segregation that forced Black people to live in miserable and degrading conditions in South Africa while the white minority population was afforded every privilege with the support of a repressive police state. Gordimer worked with others struggling for an integrated, just, and equal society.

Her story expresses the political view that an unjust society, one that puts almost all of its power and resources in the hands of a few, hurts everyone. She depicts a society where everyone, including the very privileged, are dominated by fear and anxiety. The narrator of the frame story, for example, lives in fear that every creak in the night might mean an intruder has entered her house to kill her.

In the fairy-tale portion of the story, the family lives in fear of the political unrest outside its doors. They might have a nice house and a seemingly perfect life, but the parents feel compelled to try to turn their house into a prison-like fortress, with bars on the windows and razor wire around the walls that separate it from the street.

Gordimer's story illustrates belief that it is a fantasy—a fairy tale—for the privileged to think they can wall themselves off and remain unaffected by an unjust society.

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What do you learn about Gordimer's political point of view by reading "Once Upon a Time"? Explain your ideas using evidence from the story.

In "Once Upon a Time," Nadine Gordimer illustrates her anti-apartheid stance with a frightening fable showing the dangers of inequality and social division. It is axiomatic that apartheid was damaging to the black majority in South Africa, but this story shows that the consequences of segregation could be equally horrific for the privileged minority.

Throughout the story, the dangers outside the house, such as riots and burglaries, are contrasted with the safety and luxury within. The mother and father take every precaution to ensure that no one can enter the secure compound and harm their son. It does not occur to them that the boy may try to get out, and that the coil of razor-wire on top of the wall will cut him to pieces rather than protecting him from intruders. The fortress that becomes a prison for the people inside is an apt symbol for the apartheid system, as well as being an accurate description of the actual living situation of many white South Africans in the 1980s.

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What's Gordimer's political point of view that can be understood by reading the short story Once Upon A Time?

Nadine Gordimer is well-known in South Africa for her political activism. Her novels and short stories often reveal different facets of the apartheid regime of which she was a part and which she bitterly opposed. Once Upon A Time was published in 1989, shortly before Nelson Mandela was released from prison and at a time when South Africa was on the brink of transforming itself.

The story hints at Gordimer's own political persuasion and her belief in the freedom of expression. She will not be dictated to by "someone" who thinks that she "ought" to write a children's story, and although she is subtle, she wants the reader to understand that. In South Africa, this would be significant as censorship was something she had personally experienced, having novels banned in South Africa as being unsuitable. It also exposes the ironies attached to the life of the average person in Johannesburg and its surrounds at the time she wrote the story and the steps he or she would have gone to in order to feel safe. She admits that she has "no burglar bars, no gun under the pillow..." and is pragmatic in her understanding of the situation in her neighborhood, having "the same fears as people who do take these precautions." The difference is that she is able to rationalize her situation rather than making the assumption that there is an intruder. She is however, unnerved by her experience which prompts her to tell the family's tragic story and the perils of making assumptions about "people of another color."

Gordimer does not want her story to be seen as judgmental and is quick to point out that the "property owner" she describes in her "bedtime story" is "no racist." Her story also hints at the reasons why so many people lived with this untenable situation for so long, sometimes ignoring the signs because the problems lay "out of sight and hearing of the suburb." Homeowners in the 1980s therefore saw the people causing the "riots" as troublemakers and criminals rather than ordinary people trying to get their voices heard. Gordimer is one of those people who was trying to change that perception and help expose the injustice.

Gordimer's description of the cat as it "effortlessly" scaled the high wall reminds readers that there are "innocent" people who are swept up in the violence and are either assumed to be "unemployed loiterers that had no innocent destination" or families like this one who begin to think the worst of anyone they do not know or people who are not like them. 

In the story, Gordimer's political view becomes apparent as she delivers a warning that those who ignore the real problems and try to protect themselves from the perceived threat without exploring the reasons for the problems, is likely to cause themselves more harm than any external menace ever could. She is sharing her message and wants people to stand up to the real injustice (threat) that apartheid represents.  

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What is Gordimer's political point of view?

Although Nadine Gordimer did not consider herself to be a particularly political person, she found that the place she lived in required her to be so. During her lifetime the Nationalist Party in South Africa came to power and enforced the system of apartheid, a political and legal regime that stripped rights from people of color and placed whites at the top of society. Gordimer asserted that no one could live in South Africa and not be involved in politics. She opposed apartheid, which was evident from her writings, including "Once upon a Time." Some of her books were banned because they exposed the injustice of the government. Before apartheid ended in 1991, Gordimer had been a secret member of the National African Congress. When Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Gordimer publicly "paid her dues in person and got a party card" (New York Times). After that, she embraced other political causes, including trying to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa and writing in opposition to the South African "secrecy law." You can read an article she wrote about the Secrecy Bill below.

In 1991 when Gordimer received the Nobel Prize in Literature, the committee noted that she didn't allow her political activism to "encroach upon her writings." So although she felt thrust into the political world, Gordimer was first and foremost a writer, not a political person.

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