“The Sandman,” a short story by German writer E. T. A. Hoffmann about a young man named Nathaniel who is traumatized by a childhood experience, explores themes of mental illness. It was included in Hoffmann’s 1814 story collection Nachtstücke. As a boy, Nathaniel conflates the Sandman, a character in a children’s story, with the regular visits of a family friend to his home. His fascination with the Sandman continues into adulthood, much to the concern of his friends. “The Sandman” served as the inspiration for the 1870 ballet Coppélia as well as Jacques Offenbach’s 1881 opera The Tales of Hoffmann.


Read our full plot summary of “The Sandman.”


See a complete list of the characters in “The Sandman” and in-depth analyses of Nathaniel, Clara, and Coppelius/Coppola.

Literary Devices

Here is where you will find analysis of the key literary devices in “The Sandman.”


Find the quotes from “The Sandman” you need to support your essay or refresh your memory.

Deeper Study

Enhance your understanding of “The Sandman” by learning more about E. T. A Hoffman and background information about psychoanalytical interpretations of the story.