The short story by E.S.T. Hoffmann, “The Sandman”, tells about the terrifying imagination of a child when his mother puts him to bed every night, saying that a sandman would come if he would not go to sleep…
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The point of argument in this short story is that: can a child’s imagination be so strong that he may be able to carry his imagination throughout his life, especially if it has affected him in his childhood profoundly? This point is important to the design of the story because it relates to child psychology, since the story talks about a child’s weird imaginations and perception of bizarre ideas that continue to affect him throughout his life. Parents and caregivers should be very careful when they tell terrifying stories to their children, as young brains are very receptive of imaginations, pictures, and concepts. We mention some quotes of the story here, and elaborate them so as to determine how they relate to our main point of argument. The reader of the story reads: But if, like a bold painter, you had first sketched in a few audacious strokes the outline of the picture you had in your own soul, you would then easily have been able to deepen and intensify the colors one after the other, until the varied throng of living figures carried your friends away and they, like you, saw themselves in the midst of the scene that had proceeded out of your own soul (Hoffmann, para.54). This quote means how a human being is able to draw a picture out of his imagination, and is able to give life and meaning to it, so much so that the conception continues to hover over his mind for the rest of his life, continuing to affect him and his friends and family around him. All human beings are like painters of their imaginary conceptions. A child is a special painter, because he strongly conceives every idea told to him in his vulnerable years. It is only his luck and maturity that comes with age that pulls him out his frantic imaginations. Nathaniel has not been that lucky. He was not able to come out of his horror which was induced into him when he was a child. He continued to be terrified of eyes and the sandman coming to take them, so much so that he lost his life. This quote shows its real meaning when we see Nathaniel relating the concept of the sandman to his father’s friend, Coppola, and thinking it is him when his father dies during an experiment. Later on as an adult, his life again gets disturbed when he meets Coppelius, who comes in to sell spectacles, making Nathaniel relate him to the dead Coppola, making him think that Coppola has come back in the shape of Coppelius, to take his eyes. Hence, we see that a child is able to relate horrifying imaginations to real people and events, and this disturbance of mind continues till adulthood, proving our point of argument. The strength of a child’s imagination gets further confirmed when we read (Hoffmann, para. 56) that, “Perhaps, like a good portrait-painter, I may succeed in catching the outline in this way, so that you will realize it is a likeness even without knowing the original, and feel as if you had often seen the person with your own corporeal eyes.” This shows how a child is able to paint a picture out of his imagination, and how he can make it real with his thoughts and conceptions. Why Nathaniel’s horror about eyes relives when he sees Olimpia’s eyes falling out of her head as Coppelius and Spalanzani fight over her, and why he becomes frantic, is because his frenzied imagination that he carried through childhood makes him all the more hysterical about his imagination of eyes and the sandman coming back to take them. This again confirms that a child’s imaginations are very strong and sturdy, not letting go of the
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