Comparing The Sandman And Frankenstein Essay

1545 words - 6 pages

In The Sandman, the weirdness of the tale could be perceived in two directions--the first being that of intellectual uncertainty and the other is that of psychoanalytical experience and namely the ideas of Freud. In order to describe the uncanny experience in Hoffmann's The Sandman and Shelley's Frankenstein it is indispensable, however, to explain and define beforehand what is the connotation of Unheimlich. In my further analysis of the uncanny, I relate the two works and stress on the obsession of the two characters which explains the weirdness in them. Moreover, I focus on the surrounding environment in the face of the society because it is pertinent to the discussion of the weirdness. The unconsciousness is also playing a major role in the description of the uncanny. Thus we attribute the uncanny to the collapsing psychic boundaries of conscious and unconscious, self and other, living and dead, real and unreal. These recurrent themes, which trigger our most primitive desires and fears are the very hallmarks of Shelley's and Hoffmann's fiction.

Before continuing with the analysis of this topic, I would like to clarify and define the meaning of the word "uncanny" in the way I understand it. This word comes from the German Unheimlich, which means "uncomely", unfamiliar, uncomfortable, uneasy, and at the same time gloomy, ghastly, demonic and gruesome. According to Freud, this word justifies the need of a special conceptual term, which is to express certain things that lie in the field of what is frightening but at the same time leads back to what is known of old and familiar. Freud, however, argues that the "uncanny" is frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar. .

When we read the tale of Hoffmann, we are undoubtufully left in utter uncertainty of whether what is happening to Nathaniel is real or a fruit of his deranged sub consciousness. Thus, the uncanny is entangled in the ambivalence of the tale. Moreover, we could clearly notice that Hoffmann is purposely creating such uncanny effects as to leave the reader in uncertainty. For instance, when Hoffmann enters the "personage" of Olympia, he does not mention whether she is a human being or a doll and in such a way the reader is not immediately acquainted with the truth and his attention is thus not directly focused on this uncertainty. It is noteworthy that this way of constructing the tale creates quite an unparalleled emotional effect.

Freud, however, argues that at the end of the tale we come to know the truth, that is Coppola is, in fact, Coppelius and therefore the Sandman. He argues that the theme of Olympia and the succession of the events in the story could not be the only underlying factors in evoking this extraordinary atmosphere of weirdness. For Freud, the reason could be discerned in Nathaniel's fear of losing his eyes * an obsessive fear haunting him from his very childhood. This anxiety about his eyes is according to Freud enough a...

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