The eyes, they play an incredibly important role in this story. After all, the terror that Nathaniel experiences is due in large part to his fear of losing his eyes to the Sandman. Eyes play a major role in all of the grotesque. It is with the eyes that we can see the other and acknowledge the separation between ourselves and said other. Without the eyes, what is to stop us from blending with all that is outside of us. This could be Nathaniel’s most base level fear, completely losing himself into the void of the other. Perhaps that is why it is so easy for Coppelius to turn into Coppola, because the other is just that, other. Everything outside of Nathaniel’s own person is foreign and terrifying.
The eyes are at the center of the terrifying mythos surrounding the Sandman. He takes children’s eyes back to his nest in the moon and feeds them to his hook-beaked children. It is also Coppola that literally sells eyes in the form of glasses and telescopes. Since it is inferred that he is the Sandman, the eyes he sells could belong to other, weaker, children that he was able to steal them from. The eyes represent all the character and life that an individual possesses. Take for example the automaton, Olympia. Her eyes are always referred to as ‘fixed’ and ‘dead.’
Nathaniel should have been able to see through the beauty of the wax doll and into the true marker of its soul, the eyes. It should be a clear indication of the lifeless trouble revolving around Olympia when in less than a paragraph her eyes can change from ‘dead’ to, “Moist moonbeams….Her eyes seemed to sparkle more and more vividly” (Hoffman, Pg. 106). If Nathaniel was not already so deeply caught in the net of his own insanity, perhaps he would have been able to awake from the delusion he was chasing. It is only when he sees the eyes separate from Olympia’s head, that he can begin to understand the complete emptiness of everything he felt for her.