Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment


Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Rose Symbol Analysis

Rose Symbol Icon

Half a century before the action of the story, Dr. Heidegger’s fiancée gave him a rose to wear to their wedding. She died the night before the wedding, though, and he has preserved the rose within the pages of his magic book ever since. The rose, a token of Dr. Heidegger’s youth and loss, seems at first to be a symbol of his longing for the past: it’s the first thing he revives with the water from the Fountain of Youth, which suggests a desire to recapture old times. However, Hawthorne reverses the reader’s expectation. When the rose begins to wilt again, Dr. Heidegger does not mourn the symbolism of his youth becoming distant—he simply remarks that he loves the rose as much in its wilted state as in its “dewy freshness.” The rose, then, becomes symbolic of Dr. Heidegger’s acceptance—and even appreciation—of the passage of time and its effects. This, Hawthorne suggests, is the wisest attitude towards aging. Unlike Widow Wycherly, who says that she would rather be dead than old and unattractive, Dr. Heidegger has learned to accept the withered rose, and, by extension, himself in old age.

Rose Quotes in Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment

The Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment quotes below all refer to the symbol of Rose. 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

“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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Rose Symbol Timeline in Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment

The timeline below shows where the symbol Rose 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
Science and the Supernatural Theme Icon
...fetches the magic book off his shelf, and takes from among its pages a withered rose, which is very brittle and is now one uniform shade of brown. Dr. Heidegger explains... (full context)
Youth, Old Age, and Death Theme Icon
Science and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
...the four others in the 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... (full context)
Youth, Old Age, and Death Theme Icon
Science and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Mistakes and Morality Theme Icon
...their sunny youth”—and indeed, there sits stately Dr. Heidegger in his arm chair, holding the rose, which he has rescued from among the broken glass of the vase. He beckons them... (full context)