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Dr heideggers experiment reality or illusion

Dr. Heidegger's Experiment: Reality or Illusion

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story Dr. 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 was in fact real and

completely genuine. At this point I will point out that it is at this exact

moment where the issue of reality versus illusion begins to take shape.

However, while we left to toil with this intriguing notion, it seems quite

intentional on the part of Hawthorne to make us decide on which side we are for.

I would say his reasoning for dividing us would be to point out that while it

may be real or a delusion it's ethical and moral message should be clear cut to

everyone. Backtracking for a second though, I would also like to dispute the

argument of illusion as some people fight in favor, of on the sole occurrence

of the old images in the mirror. It seems to me that as I mentioned above, a

ploy set by Hawthorne to add a little twist to the story, and give us the

readers something to think about. While we could argue that what they are

seeing is a direct influence of the potion it would be far stretched to say

that what they felt and how they acted was fake too. Keeping in mind that

these people are very old and probably way passed their days of jumping around

dancing about, it is pretty hard to say that this water gave them enough energy

and vigor to move around like youngsters but still be contained in their old

bodies. The men especially would have been hurt while the struggled like

young men in the favor of the widow as they had done with such ease. It is also

a fact the Doctor himself had seen, and without the prejudice of the drink I

might add, the transformation because he refers the men as "gay young men"

(page 7) when the widow asks for his hand in a dance.

A final example of the water's power should not be sought any farther

than the last few pages upon which it can be found that the life of a deceased

butterfly was once again made possible by the healing nature of the water. As

it clearly written the story is not told from the stand point of the butterfly

so that it might be influenced by the drink, it is told from afar, and all who

were in the story, especially the Doctor, could testify that they witnessed the

rebirth of the insect as it happened to land on the head of the Doctor.

The points I have made provided ample proof in my own mind to the notion

that this story in fact was not a delusionary tale, but rather a fictional tale

meant to be perceived as real. It is, however debatable, but what is not is

the underlying message of not to mess with mother nature, and how man if he

could regain his youth, man would probably make the same mistakes twice if he

was in fact given the chance to "do it all again."

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