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Dr. Heidegger's Experiment - Critical Analysis

Uploaded by wildguesswc on Nov 13, 2002

“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” is said to have been about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s study of right and wrong in human conduct. The story is about an old doctor who introduces water from the Fountain of Youth to his four elderly friends. The friends drink the water, re-experience the youthful pleasures of life, and seem to make all the same mistakes over again. The reader may believe that the study of right and wrong is only about the four elderly people, since they made so many mistakes as they were growing old and then made the same mistakes as they were growing young. However, with a deeper connection into the story and an analysis of word choice, the conclusion can be made that Dr. Heidegger was playing a mean trick on his four elderly friends using magic and strong liquor which he called “water from the Fountain of Youth” that was so strong the four elderly people actually believed that they were becoming young again.

There are a few details in the story which advocate that Dr. Heidegger was simply playing a trick on his friends. The reader must first realize that the doctor is not the nice old man he seems to be. This is revealed in the fourth paragraph of the story: “Above half a century ago, Dr. Heidegger had been on the point of marriage with this young lady; but, being affected with some slight disorder, she had swallowed one of her lover’s prescriptions, and died on the bridal evening.” (Hawthorne 535) This shows that he was actually cruel enough to kill his own bride. It may have been an accident, but one would think that he would take the utmost care in ensuring the safety of his loved one.

One detail which reveals that the water from the Fountain of Youth is a gag is that Dr. Heidegger does not partake of the water himself. He provides an excuse for this when he says, “For my own part, having had much trouble in growing old, I am in no hurry to grow young again.” (Hawthorne 537) However, although he advised his friends that is would be wiser to drink the water slowly, he kept the glasses full and allowed them to drink as much and as fast as they wanted. At the end of the story, when Dr. Heidegger saw the mess he had made of his friends, he started to...

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Uploaded by:   wildguesswc

Date:   11/13/2002

Category:   Literature

Length:   5 pages (1,114 words)

Views:   4901

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