The Sandman: a Case of the Uncanny

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E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Sandman" is an excellent representation of Freud's theory of the Uncanny, combined with some ideas of Todorov's theory of the Fantastic and the Marvelous. The story relates the life of Nathaniel, a young student convinced that a dreadful fate awaits him. His fear centers on a menacing old man whom he has believed since childhood to be the Sandman, a mythical creature who steals the eyes of children who are awake at night. He associates the fabled creature with Coppelius, a real life acquaintance of his father and a man he implicates in his father's death. As an adult, Nathaniel descends into madness after experiencing a visitation from what he believes to be the same evil personage from his childhood memories, who comes this time in the guise of a salesman named Coppola. The premise of the story is initially based on the supernatural and the central character uses paranormal ideas to shed light on various plot points. However, many aspects could quite easily be explained by the Uncanny. Going even further into Freud's and Todorov's theories, one might find several psychological causes for Nathaniel's madness and his subsequent actions. Hoffmann brilliantly crafted a story in which there are various explanations and possible meanings behind the events that occur. The reader struggles in the realm of the Fantastic, trying to distinguish whether the events are hallucinations or reality An example of the Marvelous would be stories where supernatural events occur and the reader, as well the characters involved, accept the events as they are. Objectively, "The Sandman" could be viewed from this perspective. The idea of the dark and mysterious Sandman as being real and capable of cruelly taunting the protagonist, If accepted by the reader as true, demonstrates a fanciful take on the story. The spell Olympia seems to put on Nathaniel further demonstrates a possible unexplained supernatural cause, as does Coppelius' and Spalanzani's ominous...
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