Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment

Dr. Heidegger Character Analysis

Dr. Heidegger is an enigmatic old medical doctor who performs an experiment on his four elderly friends to test the hypothesis that youth is inseparable from folly. Though Dr. Heidegger is a scientist, his study is filled with magical objects and his experiment involves magical water from the Fountain of Youth. Therefore, Dr. Heidegger’s outlook is not wholly rational, despite him being a doctor. Furthermore, though Dr. Heidegger is trying to prove a moral hypothesis—that morality is associated with age—the morality of Dr. Heidegger’s own behavior is left open-ended. On the one hand, Dr. Heidegger seems moral because he does not drink the magical water, so he does not succumb to foolish behavior. On the other hand, though, he baits his elderly friends into indulging their worst impulses. At the end of the story, Dr. Heidegger announces that he will never drink from the Fountain of Youth, suggesting that he had considered doing so, but wanted to witness its effects for himself before deciding. Whether this is wise or cruel, Hawthorne never explicitly says. Dr. Heidegger was once in love with Sylvia Ward and was engaged to marry her before she died.

Dr. Heidegger Quotes in Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment

The Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment quotes below are all either spoken by Dr. Heidegger or refer to Dr. Heidegger. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Youth, Old Age, and Death Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment published in 2011.
Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment Quotes

And, before proceeding further, I will merely hint that Dr. Heidegger and all his four guests were sometimes thought to be a little beside themselves,—as is not unfrequently the case with old people, when worried either by present troubles or woeful recollections.

Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:
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Now Dr. Heidegger was a very strange old gentleman, whose eccentricity had become the nucleus for a thousand fantastic stories. Some of these fables, to my shame be it spoken, might possibly be traced back to my own veracious self; and if any passages of the present tale should startle the reader's faith, I must be content to bear the stigma of a fiction monger.

Related Characters: Dr. Heidegger
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:
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“I love it as well thus as in its dewy freshness,” observed he, pressing the withered rose to his withered lips.

Related Characters: Dr. Heidegger (speaker)
Related Symbols: Rose
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
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“Yes, friends, ye are old again,” said Dr. Heidegger, “and lo! the Water of Youth is all lavished on the ground. Well—I bemoan it not; for if the fountain gushed at my very doorstep, I would not stoop to bathe my lips in it—no, though its delirium were for years instead of moments. Such is the lesson ye have taught me!”

Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:
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Dr. Heidegger Character Timeline in Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment

The timeline below shows where the character Dr. Heidegger appears in Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment
Youth, Old Age, and Death Theme Icon
One day, a “very singular man” named Dr. Heidegger invites four “venerable” friends to his study: Mr. Medbourne, Colonel Killigrew, Mr. Gascoigne, and Widow... (full context)
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
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...competing for her attentions. The narrator pauses before proceeding with the story to note that Dr. Heidegger along with his four friends are thought by many to be “a little beside themselves.” (full context)
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Dr. Heidegger announces to his friends that he has invited them to his study because he would... (full context)
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...enormous folios. Over the central bookcase is a bust of Hippocrates, with whom it’s said Dr. Heidegger converses when a case has him stumped. In a closet in the corner stands a... (full context)
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At the center of Dr. Heidegger ’s study is a black table with a glass vase full of water sitting on... (full context)
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Dr. Heidegger asks his friends whether they consent to participating in his “exceedingly curious experiment.” The narrator... (full context)
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Dr. Heidegger ’s guests don’t expect to be particularly excited by whatever he has planned. Dr. Heidegger,... (full context)
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Dr. Heidegger asks the four others in the room whether they think it would be possible for... (full context)
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Dr. Heidegger asks whether anyone in the room has heard of the Fountain of Youth that Ponce... (full context)
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Not believing Dr. Heidegger ’s story, Colonel Killigrew asks what effect the water has on the human body. Dr.... (full context)
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Dr. Heidegger fills the four champagne glasses with the water of the Fountain of Youth. The “liquor”... (full context)
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Before the four friends can drink, Dr. Heidegger suggests that they might want to “draw up a few general rules” so that their... (full context)
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...glass, confessing that, though they were skeptics at first, they do in fact feel younger. Dr. Heidegger , watching “with philosophic coolness,” encourages them to have patience, but promptly pours another glass. (full context)
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...the mirror, adoring her own reflection. She returns to the table at last to ask Dr. Heidegger for another glass, but he has already filled them, and now sits with “gray dignity”... (full context)
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...infirm: they laugh at their old-fashioned clothes, pretend to walk with a limp, and imitate Dr. Heidegger . Then Widow Wycherly proposes that Dr. Heidegger dance with her, but Dr. Heidegger declines,... (full context)
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...of a dying butterfly, giving it new life. The butterfly takes flight and lands on Dr. Heidegger ’s white head. (full context)
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Dr. Heidegger reprimands the group of friends for their riotous behavior. They all stand still, feeling as... (full context)
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...the wrinkles forming once again over their faces. They ask dolefully whether it’s true, and Dr. Heidegger confirms that they are, in fact, old again. The water that made them young had... (full context)
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The four friends feel differently than Dr. Heidegger . They resolve promptly to journey to Florida, where they plan to drink morning, noon,... (full context)