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A Thin Line Between Reality and Imagination

  • Date Submitted: 03/03/2011 09:48 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 60.6 
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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 Sandman” than just the scary horror parts. It’s what’s happening within the character’s mind. The psychological aspect of “The Sandman” is open to interpretation. Is Nathaniel crazy and just imagining everything in his mind or is what he sees actual reality? Nathaniel’s problem began when he was a child and had the terrible incident with Coppelius. Years later, Nathaniel comes across an optician named Coppola, who is an eerie reminder of Coppelius from his disturbing childhood.

      A thousand eyes stared and quivered, their gaze fixed upon Nathaniel; yet he could not look away from the table, where Coppola kept laying down sill more and more spectacles, and all those flaming eyes leapt in wilder and wilder confusion, shooting their blood red light into Nathaniel’s heart (Hoffman 211).

When Nathaniel has this encounter with Coppola, his mind becomes distracted and at this point, it seems the madness is about to begin. Nathaniel continues on to say about Coppola, “The hideous phantom was but the creature of his own mind” (Hoffman 212). The strange Coppola is familiar to Nathaniel only because he sees the relation in his own imagination.

In a horror story, we think of blood, gore and death. As a society, this is what we expect to see in a horror story. The terror of what...


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