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Once upon a time- Nadine Gordimer class discussion

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Firo Krekshi

on 17 May 2013

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Transcript of Once upon a time- Nadine Gordimer class discussion

By: Firas Krekshi and Sara Lizzio Once upon a time Question #1 Photo analysis This is the passage that we chose, it reminded us of certain fairy tales. What fairytale do they remind you of? Summary This story opens up with the author herself being asked to make children stories. She refuses and sends a letter saying she doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to. She is awakened by a sound and fears for her safety. This brings her to not sleep and inventing a bedtime story.

There is a family living in the suburbs where sob robberies start to occur. The husband’s mother warns the family to keep safe by installing a series of security measures. This leads them to a paranoia for their safety, that climaxes with them installing a “concentration camp” styled wall around their house. The child, inspired by a bedtimes story he was told, goes and gets tangled into the barbed wire. The many attempts to get him out fail, then he is brought into the house. he pictures presented show the effect on the people when Isolating themselves due to their paranoia of their safety. They would harm themselves instead of protecting it. This resembles the contrast that is also present in Nadine Gordimer's short story “Once upon a time” where the family kept installing safety equipment such as barb wires, security systems, electronic doors, etc. This family eventually ended up hurt instead of being protected against the danger coming from the outside world.
Some lines that explain the images are:

"YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED"
"You are right, said the wife, then the wall should be higher"
"They no longer paused to admire this show of roses or that perfect lawn; these were hidden behind an array of different varieties of security fences, walls and devices." LET THEM READ THE PASSAGE FOR 3 MIN FIRAS Answer Goldilocks, 3 little pigs in reverse, sleeping beauty and Rapunzel. SARA Video Analysis SARA explains how it connects to the story. They are both fairytales but one the thorns protect the evil, and in Nadine Gordimer the thorns protect from evil. There is an ironical allusion to the fairytale world which has been altered. Passage analysis SARA Even stylistically we identified certain elements, specifically in this passage, that recall the fairytale structure:
- Dialogue has no speech marks because the entire story is structured as if it were being narrated like a story to a child. In last paragraph of the passage.
- Simple sentence structure make it seem like it is narrated to a child
- Polysindethons are simplistic and give a very surreal feel. Question #2 Firas What characteristics can be identified in the story that connect to the narrative style of classical fairy tales (characters, plot, twist). Similarities and Differences? Answer #2 - <SARA> The unspecified nature of the characters (the wife, the husband, the little boy, the cat, the dog) This is a representation of the perfect family.
- <SARA>The husbands mother who instigates the safety issue in the family which can be identified as the witch.

- <FIRAS>Usual fairy tales have happy endings however this story is in reverse because it begins happily but ends tragically.
- <SARA>The DRAGON TEETH is an allusion to the Dragon figure in fairy tale who has the function to defend but is usually associated with evil rather than good as can be seen in the fairytale presented. Passage analysis #2 The security system is horrible as it is described as a “concentration camp”. The paranoia is leading them to lock themselves in not lock others out. They are segregating themselves to a life inside the house, like the cat. A miserable life which is ironic because they “live happily ever after”.

The negative connotation is also an anticipation to the tragic ending of the story. The boy goes into the barbed wire and his destiny is unsure. SARA Question #3 FIRAS Do you think that the boy survived? What are the factors that derived you to this conclusion? Answer #3 SARA We can see it both ways, either took him inside to keep him safe relating to their saftey paranoia that inside is safer than outside. This can also be interpreted that there is no hope in saving the boy since there is no point in bringing a dead body to the hospital. Question #4 Firas What’s the connection between the woman sleeping and the story she told herself? How does that relate to the title? Answer #4 Sara - <sara> it’s a way people get themselves to sleep where they tell fairy tale stories which is a method used to put children to sleep.
- <Firas> It relates to the title because the entire story is considered a bedtime story which is influenced with safety thoughts that put children to sleep. It can also connect to a start of a story which is “once upon a time”. The beginning doesn’t have any connection with the title which creates a sense of confusion and interest in the reader. Question #5 Firas Answer #5 SARA In relation to what has been said in other presentations about Nadine Gordimer focusing on the Apartheid what do you think the wall/ barriers in the story represent? Firas Question #6 Firas What’s the general tone? and is there any difference between the tone in the passage we chose and the story? Answer #6 SARA Question #7 Firas We though the narrative was very objective and had a distant tone, which we explained as being part of the characterization of the “fairytale”. There are some adjectives which determine a slight stance of the narrator like the “concentration camp” metaphor and the adjective “horrible” however the general stance is rather impartial and detached. What mood is Gordimer trying to create by reference to fairy tales? Answer #7 SARA Everything is very surreal in this “fairytale” part of the story because as previously mentioned it has a very dreamy fiabesque feel to it. However the ending is in stark contrast with the rest of the story as it is as if everybody is brought back to reality, as there is no such thing as death of harm ending a fairy tale. Question #8 Firas What do you think Gordimer was trying to achieve when leaving the reader with a gloomy unclear ending ? Answer #8 SARA She was trying to get the reader to feel interested and think after finishing the story by applying possible scenarios to complete it. Therefore she left it open for interpretation to make it more attracting and interesting.
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