Uncanny of Dolls

by Allison Wilson

Freud uses the example of dolls coming to life to be a source of uncanny. He says this is true only as we grow up because children dream of their dolls coming to life, but this is a source of fear for adults. I found this to be true in part; as a child I would not have been afraid of my dolls coming to life and would have revelled in it, but as far as now I still would find this kind of enchanting. When I was a child my mom read a book to me called The Doll People. This book is centred around the dolls coming to life each night after everyone was asleep and all the mischief and adventures they would get into. This was one of my favourite books growing up and if I’m going to be honest it is still one of my favourites. Part of me before the books and since has always ever so slightly believed in the realness of dolls. There’s a certain amount of magic and wonder in the concept of dolls having their own world inside of one’s own home that can only come to life when you’re not looking. So maybe this goes to show that one’s sense of dolls being a source of uncanny depends on the person more than it does the age of the person. Although I think it does tend to be significantly more creepy if say an older person has a doll collection than if a child does—you’re supposed to grow out of dolls, but why is this? Why is it normal for a child to play with dolls but as you grow up this is a habit you must grow out of? It seems that we no longer have a need for dolls anymore: we can live our own lives, as well as find entertainment elsewhere such as in books and movies. Whenever I played with dolls as a child it would be to act out stories—something I still do but now I am capable of doing so inside my head. It seems that in childhood we like to be able to act out the fantasies that we think up but as we grow older we are able to this entirely with thought. Maybe this is why these dolls then hold the power of the uncanny because we become aware of the power in thought and with this increased depth we fear the uncertain ‘minds’ of our dolls.