I need to write a response paper on the short story "The Sandman" by German writer E. T. A. Hoffman in which I describe two instances of doubles or repeated events or scenes, where events,...

I need to write a response paper on the short story "The Sandman" by German writer E. T. A. Hoffman in which I describe two instances of doubles or repeated events or scenes, where events, characters or scenes seem to repeat themselves, perhaps a repetition with a slight difference. I'm a bit lost. Can you help me get started with this?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Hoffman's dark and malicious story has several devices for what Freud called the development of the "uncanny," one of which is repetition of the same thing, like retracing steps taken, recurring numbers, repeated words, repeated associations between characters and events or physical traits, or repeated end results, most notably, death. These qualities that Freud described as uncanny and that Otto Rank included in his concept of "the double" give the mood of uncertainty and incredulity to Hoffman's celebrated story.

One of these doubles is the end result of Nathanael’s family's encounter with Coppelius: death, his father's and his own. One of the most notable instances of uncanny doubles is the repetition of words about and instances relating to eyes.

When Nathanael was a boy hiding in his father's work room, he hears the evil Coppelius shout, "Eyes here, eyes here!" When Nathanael encounters Coppelius again at the rooms where he lodges while at university, he hears Coppelius, now Coppola, say, "pretty eyes, pretty eyes!" This is an instance of uncanny repetition that is made more inscrutably uncanny through a slight variation in the repetition.

After Nathanael has been psychologically unsettled by his encounters with Coppola, whom he instinctively recognizes as Coppelius, he dreams of his marriage to Clara. The dream is made maliciously uncanny when Clara's eyes burn red, spring "like bloody sparks" into his chest, then throw him into a turning circle of fire.

This dream is doubled, with differences, when Nathanael interrupts the violent argument between Coppola and Spalanzani then sees Olimpia's bloodied eyes on the floor. It is doubled again when, after having attacked Clara for his view of her, seemingly, fire spewing eyes, Nathanael runs madly around the tower top crying "Turn, circle of fire!" before throwing himself onto what appears to be Coppelius in the crowd below with the cry, "pretty eyes, pretty eyes!"

According to the poem, at their marriage Coppelius touched Clara’s eyes, which sprang into Nathanael’s chest “like bloody sparks,” and then threw Nathanael into a rapidly turning circle of fire.

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