Nadine Gordimer

Improved Essays
Nadine Gordimer, an anti-apartheid activist and writer from South Africa, uses her short story, “Once Upon a Time,” to critique the racist political system. This critique is, however, cloaked within a children’s tale – a bedtime story of sorts. After all, as Thomas C. Foster points out in his book, How to Read Literature like a Professor, “Overtly political writing can be one-dimensional, simplistic, reductionist, preachy, dull” (117). Gordimer’s attack on apartheid is anything but dull. As the story’s title suggests, “Once Upon a Time” parallels a children’s fairytale. Quite appropriately, then, Gordimer’s story begins with a happy family living an idyllic life in an idyllic suburb. At first, the family is relatively insulated from the chaos outside of their gated community, but as the oppressed …show more content…
However, should the reader lack the details of apartheid, her tale may also read as an inverted and horrific take on a bedtime story. This tactic illustrates Foster’s point that a straightforward political take-down lacks the nuance necessary to be enjoyable (though, given the content of the story, “enjoyable” is subjective). There is nothing “one-dimensional, simplistic, reductionist, preachy, dull” about this thinly veiled criticism of racist government policy (Foster 117). On the contrary, by framing her argument as a fairytale-inspired political allegory, Gordimer reveals the horror that is institutionalized racism. Using her protagonists as a stand in for white society, the family’s walls and alarms as the system of apartheid itself, and the loss of the innocent son as the loss of white society’s own innocence, Gordimer drives home the point that sanctioned discrimination hurts the oppressors as well as the oppressed. In an apartheid society, hardly any literary theme could be less

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