Dr. Heidegger's Experiment

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8. Was this a true “experiment”? If so, what was being tested? In the short story "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment", by Nathaniel Hawthorne, rather than observing the effect on people of the water from the Fountain of Youth, there is a true experiment behind. Though the narrator spends chunks of description on how the water changes people’s appearance and action, the inner human nature is what it really tests. As the doctor said before the experiment, "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.” Though not explicitly shown in the story, it is apparent that the experiment involves more than physical changes. Concerned with the behavior of people, Dr. Heidegger is not just interested in the physical effect of the water. Will anyone ever learn from previous experiences? Will people make the same mistakes if they have a chance to start over? What’s the relationship between age, appearance, and action? The experiment is true for it raises several questionable issues related to human nature and reveals certain answers through the behaviors of the four people in the story.

 a) Why did he select four people of such similar personality? Would it not have been a more productive and interesting experiment had differing personalities been included? By selecting four people of similar personality, Dr. Heidegger could have a better understanding on his experimental subjects and reached his purpose. One fact in common is that “they were all sad old creatures who had been unfortunate in life”. Namely, these four elders all squandered their money and reputation due to youthful foolishness. As the purpose was to explore the human nature (whether people would change), he knew that if given a choice to be young again, they would be the ones who wanted to change most. Yet, all of them proved the doctor wrong in the end, which clearly served the...
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