In "Once Upon A Time,"" Nadine Gordimer creates a reverse fairy tale in order to represent her views of apartheid South Africa. She uses fairy tale elements such as the simple language, conflict between good and evil, and the use of a moral to create her own fairy tale. She also relates her story to the story of "Sleeping Beauty."" Her fairy tale is a fairy tale in reverse which she uses to warn people that no good can come out of the apartheid ways of South Africa.
The language Nadine Gordimer uses in her story is reminiscent of children's stories and fairy tales. First of all, the title, "Once Upon A Time,"" is the epitome of a fairy tale; it is the most familiar opening line. The language she uses is simplistic, the story is full of simple vocabulary, and has very simple sentence structure. The author also makes use of repetition. The phrases, "take heed,"" "YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED,"" and "living happily ever after"" are repeated several times throughout the story. This simplistic language is often seen in fairy tales because it makes them easy to understand. She uses this simple language to create a fairy tale vibe for her story because she feels that the white population in South Africa believes they are living a fairy tale life.
Fairy tales are characterized by having a few main characters and a central conflict occurring to one or more of the characters. This conflict is usually good versus evil. In this story the conflict occurs when the family, in fear for their safety and the safety of their material possessions, keeps adding security to their home, the home they think of as their "palace."" This represents the good versus evil conflict that is taking place in apartheid South Africa. The white population is the ruling minority; they own almost all of the countries wealth and show no sympathy or concern for the black population. In the story, the family, while enjoying their fairy tale life, refuse to so much as give the people outside of their walls bread and tea, in fear that it would only encourage them.