Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay Research Paper 2

Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay, Research Paper

“Dr Heidegger’s Experiment”

An eccentric aging physician, Dr. Heidegger, calls together his old

friends and contemporaries to test his waters of the “fountain of

youth.” As the doctor himself sits by to enjoy the show, each of his

four aged friends eagerly quaffs more and more of the magic potion,

each draught further carrying them backwards into their shared youth.

Having grown young, smooth-skinned and agile again, the three men begin

to fight for the favors of the fourth compatriot now restored to her

former beauty. In the heat of the fracas, they begin to grow tired and

within minutes the effect of the “waters” has worn away. The

participants in the brief respite from old age are devastated by the

transience of the experience. Despite Heidegger’s warning that he has

learned to appreciate the advantage of age by watching the four of them

make themselves fools, they learned no such lesson and resolve to make

a pilgrimage to Florida to seek the Fountain.

“The Birthmark”

A devoted scientist, in a brief step from his laboratory pursuits,

marries a beautiful woman with a single physical flaw: a birthmark on

her face. Aylmer becomes obsessed with the imperfection and needs to

remove it, to be happy with his wife. The tale evolves around his

progressive frenzy to use his scientific skills to render his bride

perfect and the faith of his submissive wife that the union can survive

only if he accomplishes his goal. The author tells us that Aylmer “had

devoted himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies…”

and, in the secrecy of his laboratory he prepares the potion for

Georgiana that results in the disappearance of the birthmark and the

death of Aylmer’s experimental subject.


“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” and “The Birthmark” can be compared in

many aspects. Nathaniel Hawthorne used many of the same writing

techniques in both stories. Both pieces share two common reoccuring

themes. Also, the symbols in the story have like meanings. In both

“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” and “The Birthmark”, Hawthorne uses the

same writing style. In both stories Nathaniel Hawthorne writes as a

realist, as opposed to a romancer. In “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment”

Hawthorne writes about an actual event in history, Ponce de Leon’s

search for the Fountain of Youth on the Florida Peninsula. It does not

matter if the Fountain of Youth exists or not it is a “real” legend.

“Dr Heidegger’s Experiment” is a situation that could have taken

place. It is not a fantasy. “The Birthmark” is also a piece that

could have happened. A beautiful woman could certainly be born with a

disturbing birthmark on her face. In “The Birthmark” Hawthorne writes

about a real situation with real characters. Again in both “Dr

Heidegger’s Experiment” and “The Birthmark”, Hawthorne uses a very

vague title. For the purpose of “Dr Heidegger’s Experiment”, Hawthorne

wants you to ponder on what kind of experiment Heidegger was

conducting, psychological or p! hysical. In the case of “The

Birthmark”, Hawthorne wants you to think if the birthmark was what

made the main character, Aylmer, kills his wife or if it went beyond

just that physical marking. Furthermore, in the pair of stories

Hawthorne uses several of the same literary devices, for instance,

symbolism. In “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment”

Along with the same writing techniques, Nathaniel Hawthorne also used

two of the same themes in the stories. Hawthorne uses reoccurring

themes of his writing in many of his stories. In both “Dr. Heidegger’s

Experiment” and “The Birthmark” Hawthorne uses, the impossibility of

earthly perfection moreover the loss of innocence. In “Dr. Heidegger’s

Experiment” the doctor’s four friends are all in search of earthly

perfection. This is why they choose to drink the water from the

Fountain of Youth, to become forever young. The friends are made young

again by the water, but their youth soon wears away. If it had

remained for ever they would have achieved earthly perfection, and that

is impossible. In “The Birthmark”, Georgiana is almost a model of

earthly perfection except for that horrid birthmark. Aylmer believes

that Georgiana can be that model of perfection and he can get rid of

the birthmark. He is successful in getting rid of Georgiana’s

birthmark and she is perfect, b! ut dead. Hawthorne is saying that

she could not live and be perfect, hence the impossibility of earthly

perfection. In “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” the theme of the loss of

innocence is loosely addressed. Dr. Heidegger says: “Think what a sin

and shame it would be, if, with your peculiar advantages, you should

not become patterns of virtue and wisdom to all the young people of the

age!” Heidegger tells his friends that they have already lost their

innocence and gained wisdom in their old age, and what a thing it would

be if they could have that wisdom and be youthful at the same time.

Yet, when the friends return to their youth the friends are innocent,

naive, and even foolish beings. In “The Birthmark” Georgiana is

completely innocent with her birthmark, which represents her

innocence. When Aylmer removes the birthmark, not only has her

innocence been taken but also her life.

Similarly as Hawthorne used like writing techniques and themes in both

“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” and “The Birthmark”, he also used symbols

to represent the same ideas. In “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” Hawthorne

uses Dr Heidegger’s friends to represent flawed beings. Their flaw is

their age. In “The Birthmark”, Hawthorne uses the birthmark to

symbolize a flaw on a perfect being as well. In this case it is

Georgiana. In both stories that was an object that represented the

“right” thing to do. In the case of “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” the

symbol of write and wrong was the near dead butterfly who was brought

back to life by the spilt water of youth. The butterfly is

traditionally a symbol of metamorphosis, and it makes you wonder is if

is right to change the natural metamorphic of a person’s life. In “The

Birthmark”, Aminidad, Aylmer’s assistant symbolizes the right choice.

He is aware that the potion that will remove Georgiana’s birthmark will

also kill her. Amini! dad does not speak to Aylmer about this because

he “has no right” being only Aylmer’s assistant. The last of the

symbols that connect “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” and “The Birthmark”

are the Water of Youth and Aylmer’s potion. In “Dr. Heidegger’s

Experiment” the water from the Fountain of Youth symbolizes a

disturbance of nature. It is natural for a person to age and the

potion defies nature’s law if age. In “The Birthmark” the potion also

symbolizes a disturbance of natural. Georgiana’s birthmark was

natural, and when Aylmer removed it with the potion, nature was again


Nathaniel Hawthorne’s two writings, “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” and

“The Birthmark” contain many parallels. These, like other Hawthorne

stories share many of the same themes and morals. Hawthorne had his own

obsessions that included a horrified fascination with “cold

philosophy.” He approached the romantic notion of the ability of

science to destroy nature as fictive “horror stories” of biological

research out of control. He embodied this concern in his several

characterizations of scientists, who were also physicians, working in

isolation in their laboratories to gain intellectual control over the

mysteries of nature. Although the notion of amoral, or immoral,

experimentation is dated in these period pieces, the concerns remain

ethical problems in the modern world of medicine.


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