Anchors in Reality

1482 Words6 Pages
Mystery fiction often involves the introduction of scenarios and ideas that are completely foreign and not thought about by the public. Modern detective dramas, can be simplified as a chase between the hero and the villain. Of course hero and villain are subjective terms meaning the term “hero” does not imply moral or just by a specific society or faction. Rather, the reader is almost always the protagonist and seeks justice against the person or persons that the protagonist was wronged by. Mystery dramas can involve more complex plots and pursuits than simple “catch the criminal” sort of mysteries, they require a change in the way that either character behaves or perceives the world around themselves. When the continuity of one’s perception of the world is blatantly contradicted, comparably to segments of Nathanael’s life in “The Sandman” by ETA Hoffmann, they can behave in very unpredictable ways. Sigmund Freud refers to this change from familiar to unfamiliar, or uncanny, in his essay Das Unhemiliche in 1919. Though all do not react to the uncanny as Nathanael, some chose to ignore the uncanny, like Giovanni from Rappiccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is ensnared by Beatrice’s poison because of his ignorance to the strange environment. When the things that anchor us to reality are severed and the uncanny is illuminated, it can be impossible to tell reality from illusion.

We begin to understand what is real or not when we are young children. This age is especially important to Freud because the mind is still trying to create a formal construct that can be used to separate things that are facts and things that are just stories. Young Nathanael was able to consciously realize that the story of The Sandman was not real, h...

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...ple, but the abrupt change from something that we always expected to be “familiar” converting to something that is “unfamiliar” affects our minds greatly. Nathanael was unable to cope with the persistent loss of things close in his life left him sensitized, as an adult, to childhood traumas ultimately leading to his suicide. Giovanni conversely disregarded any notions of the “unfamiliar” that he encountered which would prove to not last forever. The things that were anchored in Giovanni’s life were actually false and shocked Giovanni back into reality. In agreement with Freud, we should not try to manipulate what we consider “familiar“ or “unfamiliar” but rather have strong anchors in our own realities that we know are absolute truths or we risk unhinging ourselves. It is through the strange and abstract that we can learn more about our own nature and that of others.
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