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Nadine Gordimer

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Artemis Friel

on 4 October 2013

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Transcript of Nadine Gordimer

Life is a Fairy Tale
Once Upon a Time...
Nadine Gordimer is a South African writer. Her skill in writing has earned her a Nobel Prize in literature for her incorporation of political activism in her work as well as her ability in writing to portray the political injustices she witnessed living in South Africa. Nadine Gordimer wrote Once Upon A Time about a small suburban family living in apartheid-era South Africa that became paranoid after hearing rumors of break-ins committed by migrant workers in the community and decided to install various forms of security. This decision to live in fear and act on their paranoia ultimately disrupts their way of life and destroys that of their son. This alludes to the life segregation creates in So. Africa.
Elements of a fairy tale
There are many things that make a fairy tale a fairy tale. For one thing, fairy tales are usually set in the past, typically during a time in Europe when ruling Kings and Queens were still a reality. Fairy tales will have supernatural aspects such as talking animals or witches and the like. A big thing about fairy tales is that there is usually a clear distinction between the protagonist and antagonist and the relationship between the two is fairly clear. Another tendency in fairy tales is a distinction between and representation of the rich and the poor people of the story.
How does Gordimer use these elements?
Gordimer does a very interesting job of implementing fairy tale components into her story, and many of the details actually contradict the typical fairy tale style. An example of the fairy tale aspect is the seemingly random mention of a wise old witch, who is actually the mother of the husband. There is also a clear distinction between the rich and the poor and the roles they play and lives they lead. There are other things that aren't quite like a fairy tale, but they are pretty fantastical - like how superprefect the family in the story is with their nice house and pets and servants of a different color. Gordimer does well to mix the fairy tale with modern day and very real situations.
Why use the style of a fairy tale?
I believe that Gordimer used the style of a fairy tale as a medium for her story because she wants to highlight how almost unreal the situation in South Africa is with all of the extreme events brought forth by the apartheid and measures the family takes to protect themselves from these extreme events. In fairy tales, one action will always lead to another action whether it is adverse or positive, and the family must deal with the adverse consequences of their actions born of fear and extreme racism. It also allowed Gordimer some leniency with how absurd she could make the events seem and allowed her to speak in absolutes which added affect to her story.
Where else do we see Fairy Tales?
Nowadays we see a lot of mixing fairy tales with newer versions to appeal to a wider audience. For example, the classic tale of Red Riding Hood has been transformed to a more adult and action filled movie and thriller. Similarly, in a modern Snow White, the story focuses more on Snow White and the Huntsmen in which Snow White is a more warrior-like character. There is a graphic novel series called Fables and it takes the typical stories of folklore and fairy tales and puts them into a current world with huge adversaries and a puts a modern twist on the lives they lead despite their history. So fairy tales are still prevalent, but they are presented in new and different forms.
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