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Sigmund Freud’s “The Uncanny” Essay

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Updated: Sep 3rd, 2021

In Sigmund Freud’s “The Uncanny,” he introduces a mythical creature, the Sandman, who is involved with many negative activities including stealing children’s eyes. Sandman’s story presents an imaginary plot that involves Nathaniel, Olympia, and the sandman who appears in different names of Coppelius and Coppola.

Some of the most popular issues addressed in sandman’s story are blindness and eyes. The antagonist portrays the characteristics of a sadist, whose intentions are either to remove children’s eyes, or ruin relationships. From the story, excessive reference to eyes and blindness has a significant contribution to the themes, characterization and psychoanalytic elements.

One of Feud’s first interpretations of the story compares loss of eyesight to castration. In psychoanalytic terms, eyes enable an individual to see the real world and make positive contributions to its elements. However, once the eyes are removed, an individual shifts into an environment of hopelessness, fear and paranoia. The resulting fear in blindness is comparable to the helplessness caused by castration, especially when one considers the discontinuity established.

The eyes are therefore symbolic representation of the psychosexual characteristics present among humans, with each person striving to protect and retain eyesight. Feud introduces the eyes as the fundamental organs promoting ego and self-realization. According to the story, some organs like male sexual organs and the eyes influence sexuality, confidence and esteem, by promoting conscious control of emotions and feelings.

Blindness represents the fear experienced in dreams, myths and fantasies, at which individuals’ fear of losing the eyes can only be compared to that of being castrated. Sandman’s story demonstrates aesthetic factors with the constant mention of the eyes.

In the genital phase of human development, the unborn do not have an option of choosing their sexuality, but rather take their infantile states as insurance against mortality. However, with the representation of eyes, the story re-addresses the self-reflection among humans and the fact that nothing is lost forever or forgotten. The eyes represent the visions, realities and hopes.

The story therefore reflects how these are lost once the eyes are removed and makes a direct comparison to the losses incurred after one is castrated. In the story, the eyes are sexual reflections that are based on imaginary plot of the sandman, who takes several forms, but whose intentions remain unchanged. Children are the targets in Sandman’s story, and although Nathaniel had been warned about the activities of the Sandman, he nearly lost his eyes within the first few moments of his encounter with Coppelius.

Eyes represent the ability to overcome infantile characteristics and sexuality by establishing an aesthetic value to sight. Sandman’s target to the eyes is a way of trying to relate a fearful process to known issues, and Feud interprets this by comparing it with castration. The story invokes a sense of the uncanny, since it revisits infantile states and projects the victim to a primitive state. Castration terminates love and discontinues normal reproduction processes.

According to the story, Sandman does not only remove children’s eyes, but also ruins relationships. The Sandman ruins Nathaniel’s relationship with Clara, just when the two are about to are about to marry. In a unique representation of the eyes, the story uses spyglasses, which allow Nathaniel to see in private his repressed past. Just like in castration, removing the eyes sets an individual back to an infantile state and eliminates all the aesthetics in life.

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"Sigmund Freud's "The Uncanny"." IvyPanda, 3 Sept. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/sigmund-freuds-the-uncanny/.

1. IvyPanda. "Sigmund Freud's "The Uncanny"." September 3, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sigmund-freuds-the-uncanny/.


IvyPanda. "Sigmund Freud's "The Uncanny"." September 3, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sigmund-freuds-the-uncanny/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Sigmund Freud's "The Uncanny"." September 3, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sigmund-freuds-the-uncanny/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Sigmund Freud's "The Uncanny"'. 3 September.

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