Discuss the key theme of Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann's The Sandman, which is the impossibility of knowing or communicating one's inner self. 

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thetall | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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The Sandman by E.T.A. Hoffmann features the dominant theme of a discordant relationship between realities of one’s self versus the realities in the external world. It presents three alternatives to dealing with the disjoint in the two realities. These options would be to focus on self realities, world realities or appreciate both and try to comprehend their effects. Nathanael is controlled by realities that he experiences on an individual level and blocks out realities in the external world. This leads to his failure as an individual and as a poet as he is incapable of appreciating the realities of the world. He is unable to understand and even communicate his individual self. Clara is able to understand and appreciate the realities in the world. She tries to offer advice to Nathanael but she is met with hostility and instead he withdraws to his individual realities.