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Hoffmann's "The Sandman" - Dawn of Insanity (brief response and analysis)

Updated on March 5, 2013

Note on future changes:

I will be revisiting this article, as well as the article on Goethe in order to appropriate the content to objective standards. This article is literally a copy/paste from a reading response that I had done, and so it is limited as my personal reflection. There is certainly some merit to reading this article, but be advised that I plan to clean up any subjectivity, and add further analysis, with citation, and possibly a brief summary.


Journal de Bord #2

One thing that really caught my interest, after having read The Sandman, was the eerie sense of madness that overcomes the protagonist. Nathaniel’s sort of Jekyll-Hyde persona is both scary and fascinating all at once. One moment he is completely composed and normal, and then, as it is described in the last moments of the novel:

“…a convulsive thrill shot through his pulse and veins; pale as a corps, he fixed his staring eyes upon her; but soon they began to roll, and a fiery current flashed and sparkled in them, and he yelled fearfully, like a hunted animal.”

Here we see Hoffmann’s intimate portrayal of Nathaniel’s descent into madness. The details of his feelings of change are so incredibly intimate, that it’s frightening. I imagine myself at times when I am suddenly overcome by a feeling of joy or dread when some powerful stimulus affects me. I can think on how I’m unable to hold back the sensation, like some giant wave of water crashing over rocks, washing all sense away. I see a similarity in these feelings and the madness that comes over Nathaniel. However, there is a strong difference, in that this feeling that Nathaniel has takes him over completely, and while he knows that this change is occurring, what sanity is left him is driven out by the dark and mysterious craze that overwhelms him. It’s not just that his Jekyll side becomes Hyde, but that he knows what is happening, as it’s happening, and he is frightened and powerless in stopping it.

Coppelius is another part of the story that fascinates me. There was talk in class about how he might be (some symbolism for) Satan, or some strange magic, if even he is real. Personally, it struck me that Hoffmann’s Coppelius was never meant to strike chords on religion and mysticism, but that it was almost entirely based on this one character’s struggle against losing his sanity. I believe that Nathaniel’s seeing and hearing Coppelius isn’t a thing what drives him crazy, but is actually just a symbolism of his instability. Coppelius isn’t real, but is instead a sign of Nathaniel’s going mad. Nathaniel doesn’t want to rid himself of this horrible man that did him such harm, so much as he wants to cure himself. Evidence of Coppelius’ being in Nathaniel’s head would be how his voice is heard even when Nathaniel is talking to a completely different person (Coppola), and how, at the end, Coppelius disappears not into the crowd, but “when Nathaniel lay with a broken head, Coppelius had disappeared in the crush and confusion.” Coppelius isn’t leaving the physical scene of the crowd, but the cognitive scene of Nathaniel’s mind. There is no doubt that Hoffmann left some intentional mystery and ambiguity as to the matter of whether or not the antagonist was ever real.


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    • mbyL profile image

      Slaven Cvijetic 5 years ago from Switzerland, Zurich

      In order to send personal messages you just go onto my profile and then you'll see it ;). And the content thingy I saw that you are new to HP and I simply meant that you could go deeper into the psychology of Sandman. You also wrote how you felt with that and this is totally okay, but people on Google look for "scientific" information, which you also gave. Sandman is a short, but a really complex novel with regard to the psychology of uncanniness and Nath.'s madness and there are many aspects on which one could focus and write elaborately.

      For me, this hub sounded something like a review/analysis. Nothing bad with that I like that and many people here on HP do too, but those who are seeking information on the internet won't find yours this useful I think. Also, Google will simply give you a worse rank and you will have it harder to get traffic anyway. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to insult you at all, okay?

      Should there be any questions or should I have explained something badly (I tired as hell..) Feel free to send me a message (go on my profile and you'll see)! We, on HubPages, do help other hubbers who are new to this platform ;). See you!

    • HeavyDosage profile image

      Jason Link 5 years ago from Madrid, Spain

      First of all, thanks for the comments, mbyL! I'm pretty shocked that you have commented here just shortly after I published my first articles!

      I just started this account because I have seen some good Hubs on here, and I thought this would make a nice deposit for some responses/essays that I have written and a great place for any future articles that I might have in mind to do on my own.

      "add more content to your hub. More content means a better article for Google"

      Would you mind elaborating? I am genuinely interested in becoming a reviewer or critic (the current articles are really just some ideas I'm throwing around), and I would like to know what you have in mind. For instance, what could I add to this particular Hub to make it better? I have absolutely no interest in submitting summaries, and I don't like to talk about multiple topics (For instance, I might write an article about Greek mythology and "The Sandman" in the future, but I would write a separate Hub than this one).

      For now, I'll read some of your Hubs to get a better idea of how to approach this... Otherwise, please share you ideas!



      P.S. is there any way to send personal messages? I never intended to write this on my Hub!

    • mbyL profile image

      Slaven Cvijetic 5 years ago from Switzerland, Zurich

      A nice read! I read Sandman too some years ago. A really enjoyable book. I recommend you to add more content to your hub. More content means a better article for Google, but there are of course other factors that influence the quality of a hub.