Posted in Short Stories

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment

Deal Me In 2020 – Week 28

When the doctor’s four guests heard him talk of his proposed experiment, they anticipated nothing more wonderful than the murder of a mouse in an air pump, or the examination of a cobweb by the microscope, or some similar nonsense, with which he was constantly in the habit of pestering his intimates.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” is a fable that explains why people in their twilight years retire to Florida. Well, OK, not really in the modern sense of this concept but maybe in an 1837 sort of way.

Dr. Heidegger gets four of his friends (three male and one female) who are getting up there in age to drink small amounts of water from the Fountain of Youth (most likely located in Florida). These friends’ passions begin to reignite the more they drink and the three men begin fighting over the one woman.

The humorous aspect of this story is the contrast between Dr. Heidegger’s detached observation and the four emotional perspectives of his subjects. As the magic water wears off, the doctor decides he doesn’t want anything to do with this potion. His four subjects run off to Florida to find more.

This story is included in The Celestial Railroad and Other Stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I read it when I selected the Ace of Hearts for Week 28 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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