Reality or Illusion, in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"

Essay by Anonymous User January 1996

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In Nathaniel Hawthorne's short storyDr. Heidegger's Experiment, one of the

central ideas of the story revolves around the idea of reality versus illusion. Of course the

overriding theme of the story dealt with the ethical dilemma of changing old age into

youth, still a major part of how the story was interpreted involved a personal decision on

how you took the story; as literal or figurative. The perception that appealed to me the

most was reading the text as literal, and concluding the experiment as reality rather then a

figment of imagination caused by the intoxicating brew.

A couple of points that Hawthorne made led me to believe that the story was

indeed a true testament of the powers of the magical water. The first is rather evident and

straight forward because it happens before a single person even raises glass close to their

lips. I am of course referring to the fifty-five year old rose that was given to Dr.

Heidegger on the eve of his wedding by his bride to be. Heidegger places the rose in the

water so there could be proof of the mysterious water's power, but in the same act of

proving its power to his guests Hawthorne proves to us the power of the water because

when the rose regains life nobody was drunk or had even attempted to drink the water.

' The crushed and dried petals stirred, and assumed a deepening tinge of crimson,

as if the flower were reviving from a death-like slumber;'(page 3)

It is that clear cut, and completely undeniable considering that five people witnessed the

act and not one had the slightest objection.

After the first drink of the potion until the last, I was still led to the opinion that

what the guests were experiencing...