Plot summary[ edit ] The story is told by a narrator who claims to have known Lothar. It begins by quoting three letters: 1. Nathanael recalls his childhood terror of the legendary Sandman, who was said to steal the eyes of children who would not go to bed and feed them to his own children who lived in the moon. Nathanael came to associate the Sandman with a mysterious nightly visitor to his father. It is Coppelius, an obnoxious lawyer come to carry out alchemical experiments.
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Letter One is from Nathanael to Lothar. Nathanael recounts in detail a traumatic event in his childhood, brought to memory by a recent interaction with a mechanic named Coppola while away at university. Nathanael says that he knows Lothar and Clara may find him childish or crazily superstitious, but that he must tell the story.
Nathanael tells Lothar that though he saw little of his father, he and his brothers and sisters would gather around him after dinner; on some nights his father would tell stories and on some nights he would just sit silently, while his mother would stew in melancholy and send the children to bed early, saying that the Sandman was coming. He hears steps approach and the door open, and when he peeks from behind the curtain he sees that the Sandman was truly a man named Coppelius who sometimes ate lunch with the family.
Nathanael pauses to describe Coppelius, a man with a "beaky nose," "malicious smile," and "gnarled, hairy hands" that could make anything they touched seem disgusting. According to Nathanael, Coppelius realized that he was able to affect the children of the family in this way, and purposefully touched their food at shared meals; Nathanael reports that his mother seemed to likewise feel coldly toward the man while his father always made sure Coppelius had whatever he wanted to eat or drink and had the children keep completely silent in his presence.
On realizing that the Sandman is not exactly a monster who brings eyes to feed his children but, in fact, this differently horrifying man, he is rooted in place with his head poking through the curtains. As he watches, Coppelius and his father put on long, black smocks, start a fire in the hearth, and take out strange instruments. His father lifts lumps with tongs and then hammers them, looking ghoulish in the firelight. Coppelius calls for his father to "Bring the eyes! Nathanael writes that when he awoke, Coppelius had left town, but he returned a year later.
His father promises the family that this is the last time, but that night there is an explosion and his father dies with a twisted, burnt face. After this, Coppelius vanishes from the town again, this time seemingly for good. Nathanael ties the story from childhood to the point of his writing to Lothar, explaining that the man, Coppola, must actually be the same Coppelius as they have the same features.
Letter Two is from Clara to Nathanael. It seems that he mistakenly addressed the previous letter to her, though the contents were clearly for her brother. She reads it anyway and is quite disturbed, though Nathanael typically sees her as possessing too much "womanly calm.
She encourages him to forget both Coppelius and Coppola and believe that the only person with power over him is himself. Letter Three is from Nathanael to Lothar, and is quite short.
He says that he is annoyed Clara read their letter and implores his brother-in-law-to-be to stop lecturing her on the philosophy that led her to write the things that she did.
However, he acknowledges that it seems Coppola is not Coppelius because a new professor, an Italian named Spalanzani, who has joined the university has told him that he has known Coppola for years and that the mechanic is Piedmontese while Coppelius was, supposedly, German.
Nathanael says that he is not totally at ease, but that Coppola has now left town. He again sends his best wishes to Clara, promising to write directly to her later. Analysis: In this section, the narrator has not yet introduced himself, so the reader is plunged directly into the relationships between Nathanael, Clara, and Lothar. A comparison of thoughts that are childish versus adult is begun and will progress throughout the story.
This question is central to fantasies for non-child readerships, like the fantasy and horror short stories that Hoffmann specializes in. From the beginning, we see that Nathanael has carried fears from childhood into his adult wife, and Clara and Lothar chastise him for this, and for having too active an imagination for an adult. This issue clouds the story, making it confusing for the reader whether Nathanael truly needs to stop perceiving things in a fearful, childish manner or whether his suspicions are justified.
A contemplation of what things are scary, and the formation of fear, is also undertaken. The imagery of eyes that permeates the story is begun from early in the first letter, and is obviously an area of great fear to Nathanael and therefore great intrigue to Hoffmann. Because his description comes only from Nathanael, the reader is at the mercy of his perception.
The Sandman (short story)
In he married his cousin, Lovisa Albertina Doerffer — Ernst Theodor Wilhelm, born on 24 January , was the youngest of three children, of whom the second died in infancy. The trio raised the youngster. The household, dominated by the uncle whom Ernst nicknamed O Weh—"Oh dear! Hoffmann was to regret his estrangement from his father. Although she died when he was only three years old, he treasured her memory e.
Commitment to Privacy
This man once attacked Nathanael, threatening to take his eyes, and later killed his father before disappearing. Nathanael has come upon a man, Coppola, at university, whom he believes to actually be that same evil man from his childhood. Upon telling Clara and Lothar of this, they attempt to convince him that it is a childish delusion, and continue to hope he will come to his senses while at home. While he sometimes appears to have forgotten about Coppelius and Coppola, he has periods where it is all he will think or talk about, even coming close to a duel with Lothar after he attacks Clara for calling his story insane. Nathanael returns to university and meets the daughter of one of his professors, a beautiful but strange girl named Olimpia.
The Sandman Summary and Analysis of The Three Letters