The character of Widow Wycherly in Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment

Widow Wycherly Character Analysis

Widow Wycherly (whose first name is actually Clara) was a beautiful woman in her youth, but has lived in “deep seclusion” for many years because a scandal ruined her reputation and turned the townspeople against her. When she drinks from the Fountain of Youth, she becomes beautiful again, and the other three subjects of the experiment vie for her attention and for the right to dance with her. Her vanity is her primary character trait; she spends half of the story preening in front of a mirror, and when she grows old again, says she would rather die than be old and ugly.

Widow Wycherly Quotes in Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment

The Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment quotes below are all either spoken by Widow Wycherly or refer to Widow Wycherly. 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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“Before you drink, my respectable old friends,” said he, “it would be well that, with the experience of a lifetime to direct you, you should draw up a few general rules for your guidance, in passing a second time through the perils of youth. Think what a sin and shame it would be, if, with your peculiar advantages, you should not become patterns of virtue and wisdom to all the young people of the age!”

The doctor's four venerable friends made him no answer, except by a feeble and tremulous laugh; so very ridiculous was the idea that, knowing how closely repentance treads behind the steps of error, they should ever go astray again.

“Drink, then,” said the doctor, bowing: “I rejoice that I have so well selected the subjects of my experiment.”

Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Yet, by a strange deception, owing to the duskiness of the chamber, and the antique dresses which they still wore, the tall mirror is said to have reflected the figures of the three old, gray, withered grandsires, ridiculously contending for the skinny ugliness of a shrivelled grandam.

Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“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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Widow Wycherly Character Timeline in Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment

The timeline below shows where the character Widow Wycherly 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
...Heidegger invites four “venerable” friends to his study: Mr. Medbourne, Colonel Killigrew, Mr. Gascoigne, and Widow Wycherly . All four friends are very old and have experienced a great deal of misfortune... (full context)
Youth, Old Age, and Death Theme Icon
Mistakes and Morality Theme Icon
...Gascoigne was once notorious for being an evil, crooked politician, but time has forgotten him. Widow Wycherly was a beautiful woman in her youth, but has lived in “deep seclusion” for many... (full context)
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Mistakes and Morality Theme Icon
All three men—Medbourne, Killigrew, and Gascoigne—were once Widow Wycherly’s lovers, and at one time they had been locked in a bitter rivalry, competing for... (full context)
Youth, Old Age, and Death Theme Icon
Science and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
...room whether they think it would be possible for the rose to bloom again, and Widow Wycherly responds that it’s just as unlikely that an old woman’s face could “bloom” again. But... (full context)
Youth, Old Age, and Death Theme Icon
Science and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
...has heard of the Fountain of Youth that Ponce De Leon searched for centuries ago. Widow Wycherly asks whether Ponce De Leon ever found the fountain, and Dr. Heidegger says that he... (full context)
Youth, Old Age, and Death Theme Icon
Science and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
...other around the table, their appearances seem to have improved: they look healthier, cheerier, brighter. Widow Wycherly begins to feel like a woman again. The friends plead for another glass, confessing that,... (full context)
Youth, Old Age, and Death Theme Icon
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
...their hair grows darker, and suddenly they are all middle-aged again. Colonel Killigrew remarks on Widow Wycherly’s beautiful appearance. Knowing that the Colonel’s compliments were not always measured by “sober truth,” she... (full context)
Youth, Old Age, and Death Theme Icon
Mistakes and Morality Theme Icon
...what year he thinks it is. Colonel Killigrew is drunkenly singing “bottle songs” and eyeing Widow Wycherly . Mr. Medbourne has begun hatching a far-fetched business scheme involving whales moving polar icebergs.... (full context)
Youth, Old Age, and Death Theme Icon
Mistakes and Morality Theme Icon
...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, citing his old age,... (full context)
Youth, Old Age, and Death Theme Icon
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Colonel Killigrew, Mr. Gascoigne, and Mr. Medbourne argue over who will be Widow Wycherly’s dance partner. One of the men takes her by the hands, another by the waist,... (full context)
Widow Wycherly exclaims that if she can’t be beautiful, she would rather be dead. Dr. Heidegger remarks... (full context)