Study Guide

Dr. Heidegger's Experiment Transformation

By Nathaniel Hawthorne


"Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" is the story of four elderly friends who are transformed – or at least think they are transformed – back to young, vivacious individuals. The text plays with the idea of what it means to be transformed physically as opposed to mentally, and which actually takes place in the story is subject to debate. Hawthorne also asks whether we can learn from a transformation, particularly one as ephemeral as that which takes place in this story. Pessimistically, the narrative seems to conclude that we can not.

Questions About Transformation

  1. Why is Dr. Heidegger in no hurry to grow young again? What does he know that his guests do not?
  2. Are the transformations that take place in "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" physical, mental, or spiritual?
  3. Dr. Heidegger sits back to watch as his patients are transformed – but does Dr. Heidegger undergo changes of any sort? Pay close attention to the physical descriptions of his character sitting in the chair.

Chew on This

The setting sun is an important key to understanding the "transformations" taking place inside Dr. Heidegger's study.

The guests' transformation proves that age is a state of mind, not a physical state.

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