“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” is a moralistic story that cautions readers about the folly of youth. In the experiment of the story’s title, Dr. Heidegger offers his four elderly subjects—all of whom made ruinous mistakes when they were young—the opportunity to make their bodies young again by drinking water from the Fountain of Youth. By seeing how elderly people react to feeling young, Dr. Heidegger hopes to determine whether a young person—even one who has already…(read full theme analysis)
In “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” Hawthorne blurs the distinction between science and magic. The objects in Dr. Heidegger’s study that are traditionally “scientific” (the human skeleton in the closet, the bust of Hippocrates, the volumes of books) possess magical qualities, and Dr. Heidegger’s science experiment—which one might expect to be fully governed by reason—involves the magical properties of the water from the Fountain of Youth. This comingling of science and the supernatural suffuses the entire…(read full theme analysis)
“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” can be—and often is—read as an allegory: a tale meant to deliver a clear moral message. On the surface, it’s easy to support an argument that this story is an allegory about the virtues of learning from one’s youthful mistakes.
Dr. Heidegger’s four friends are all characters whose reputations were tarnished in some way by mistakes they made in their youth. He chooses them as subjects because he wishes to see whether…(read full theme analysis)