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Dr. Heidegger's Experiment

Dr. Heidegger's Experiment


by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type : Voyage and Return

Anticipation Stage and 'Fall' into the Other World

The guests learn of Heidegger's elixir; they drink

Booker writes that, in this stage, the characters are in a state "which lays them open to a shattering new experience." It's clear that here, that experience is to grow young again. The "other world" is the world of youth, or second youth, in this case.

Initial Fascination or Dream Stage

The guests are thrilled to be young again

Each of Heidegger's four guests revels in their newly given youth. The Widow admires her looks, Mr. Gascoigne shouts about politics, Colonel Killigrew belts drinking songs from the top of his lungs, and Mr. Medbourne seems to think he's on Wall Street again. Everything is great! Surely nothing can go wrong from here.

Frustration Stage

Something goes wrong

The three men begin fighting over who gets to dance with the now smoking hot Widow Wycherly. Things quickly get out of hand.

Nightmare Stage

The romping guests shatter the vase

Sure…it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye – or, in this case, shatters a rather lovely vase full of the elixir of life (or possibly just booze, depending on your interpretation).

Thrilling Escape and Return

The guests grow old again, effectively returning from the "world" of youth to normal reality

Booker says of this stage: "At this point the real question posed by the whole adventure is: how much have they learned or gained from their experience? Have they been fundamentally changed, or was it all 'just a dream'?" That is indeed a central question in "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment," and one that we address in "What's Up with the Ending?"

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