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“The Sandman” by E. T. A. Hoffmann Analytical Essay

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Updated: May 7th, 2019

The sand man is a short story that was written by a German author called E.T.A Hoffman during the 19th century. The short story was published in an anthology called Die Nachtstücke, which in English translates to The Night pieces.

The sand man is a fiction story in which the Narrator who is called Nathaniel appears to be suffering from posttraumatic stress. This occurs as a result of the mysterious death of his father which occurred in a manner that is consistent with the story of the Sandman, a bedtime story that he used to be told when he was a kid.

According to the bedtime story, the Sandman takes away the eyes of people leaving them dead and gives it to his children in the moon. Also in the story, after taking the eyes, the Sandman mysteriously disappears without a trace. Due to the stress that he is suffering from, Nathaniel tends to believe that his friend, Coppelius whom he believes that he is the Sandman, caused the death of his father.

He therefore writes a letter to his friend brother to his fiancée stating that he suspects that Coppelius has returned to town under a new identity and he is seeking vengeance. The entire story then revolves on how Nathaniel tries to prove the identity of Coppelius and the impacts of his posttraumatic stress from his childhood on his judgement.

An analysis of the Story

I tend to agree with the thesis and the theme that the author has presented in this story. Many individuals in the society tend to suffer from posttraumatic stress that in most occasions originates from their childhood. This stress tends to affect the manner in which they relate with other individuals in the society, their thought process and the manner in which they judge and perceive things. If the condition is not properly addressed, there are high chances that it may have adverse effects on the lives of these individuals.

I feel that Nathaniel developed fear of the Sandman as a result of the bedtime story that he was told when he was young. Due to his young age, his mind at that particular time could not process the story as a fiction but as reality. It is due to this fact that he developed fear of the Sandman and the manner in which he took eyes from his victims.

From an analysis of the story, I think that an eye symbolises life. It is due to this fact that Nathaniel accuses Coppelius for the death of his father who mysteriously disappeared after the incident (Kremer 143). However, his fiancée, Clara, tries to make him believe that this was just fiction and not reality, a notion that Nathaniel tends to believe in. However, things take a new turn when Coppelius reappears again. This time, he is called Coppola, a long time friend of Nathaniel`s professor, Spalanzani.

With time, Coppola takes away the eyes of Olimpia, a beautiful girl who was the daughter of Spalanzani and was secretly admired by Nathaniel. After the incidence, Coppola mysteriously disappears again with the eyes of Olimpia whose body lies motionless on the floor. It is then discovered that she was an automation of a living person. This encounter drives Nathaniel to madness and he believes that his fears of the Sandman are true.

He is then taken to a mental asylum where he recovers and later on marries Clara. However, due to his fear, he pushes her downhill while on a walk that results to a great injury. Finally, Clara is married by another man and lives a life that Nathaniel would not have given her (Kremer 161).

The Sandman is similar to Leonardo DiCaprio`s movie called Shutter Island. In this movie, after losing his wife in a tragic fire accident, Edward Daniel (Leonardo DiCaprio) visits Ashecliffe Hospital to investigate the case of a missing lady, Rachel Solando who had dissapered mysteriously in the hospital.

However, it emerges that Mr. Daniels is suffering from posttraumatic stress of losing his wife and as a result, he has been admitted in the mental facility to recover. Due to the fact that he could not accept the death of his wife, he imagined that he is a detective searching for Rachael whom his mind has formulated to represent his wife.


The encounters that have been presented in this story reflect real life situations. People who normally suffer from posttraumatic stress normally tend to suffer its consequences later on in their lives. This comes as a result of them being unable to distinguish between fiction and reality. In addition, the fears that they have makes them do unreasonable things. This story is therefore a good example of such an incidence and represents the fight between reality and fiction in an individual suffering from posttraumatic stress.

Work Cited

Kremer, Detlef. E.T.A. Hoffmann: Leben, Werk, Wirkung. Frankfurt: Walter de Gruyter, 2009

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