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A Thin Line Between Reality And Imagination

1234 words - 5 pages

A Thin Line Between Reality and Imagination

What’s scarier, seeing the supernatural or your imagination? What if you could see something supernatural from your imagination as reality? Such an experience would leave one’s own sanity into question, as in the case of Nathaniel in E.T.A. Hoffman’s, “The Sandman.” This short story is more than ghastly images alone; there are the mind games. “The Sandman” is psychological horror because of the unusual and gruesome images that have the possibility of being realistic or simply just a spec of our imagination.

“The Sandman” could possibly be categorized into other genres such as science-fiction or just horror alone, but there is more to “The ...view middle of the document...

As a society, this is what we expect to see in a horror story. The terror of what we can’t see is left to our own imagination. The terror Nathaniel experienced as a child, wondering who the Sandman really was, besides the person who sprinkles sand into children’s eyes to make them go to sleep, ties into this. Gruesome descriptions such as “He seized me so roughly that my joints cracked, and he screwed off my hands and feet” (Hoffman 200) is at the mercy of our imagination. Is Nathaniel sane or just simply crazy? There’s no doubt Hoffman added horror to the story through his ghastly descriptions. Some more sickening than others: “Nathaniel saw that a pair of eyes lay upon the ground, staring at him; these Spalanzani caught up, with his unwounded hand, and flung into his bosom” (Hoffman 217). Hoffman uses such descriptions to make the horror seem more unnatural. As for death, “The Sandman” has it too: “He sprang over the railing […] Nathaniel lay on the stone pavement with his head shattered” (Hoffman 220). Through Hoffman’s grisly descriptions throughout “The Sandman”, the horror theme is easily achieved. As in typical horror plots, emotions can go from high to low and high again and back to low again, Hoffman keeps the story exciting this way. We achieve the ultimate high with the surprise ending. Just when you think Nathaniel is healed from his psychological issues, his madness strikes again. It just so happens to be at the sight of Coppelius. Hoffman intends for us to be horrified by his surprises because we never know when the next high or low is coming.

During “The Sandman”, there’s a rising suspense. The presence of a madman in a horror story adds a thrill. We see the events that lead to the downfall of Nathaniel beginning with his horrible childhood. The suspense builds up throughout the story to the point Nathaniel attempts to murder Clara. The unknown of who really is The Sandman. Is it who Nathaniel thinks is The Sandman in Coppelius, or is “The frightful Sandman in the nurse’s tale was naturally associated with old Coppelius” (Hoffman 203) as Clara believes. It is a bit unusual that Nathaniel still believes in a monster from his childhood. To Clara, this is apparently childish and his fantasies should just be thrown out and forgotten.

The unusual side of “The Sandman” keeps the reader thinking. The cruel punishment makes “The Sandman” an enthralling story that makes us keep reading. Hands being twisted off and eyeballs being plucked out for the sake of an intense thrill makes it especially interesting. The type of gore...

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