Describe Dr. Heidegger's study. What is unusual about his mirror?

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edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1837 story, the study of Dr. Heidegger seems to be a combination of study and laboratory. The walls are lined with bookcases filled with hand bound books of various size and shape. He has a human skeleton hanging in a closet. At least one leather and silver bound book in his possession is concerned with magic. He possesses a microscope and an air pump, but there are also decorative elements in this old-fashioned room, such as a bust of the father of medicine, Hippocrates, and a full-length portrait of Dr. Heidegger's late fiancee.

The mirror is hung high between two bookcases and is contained within a "tarnished gilt frame." It is traditionally believed that the spirits of all of Dr. Heidegger's deceased patients "dwelt within its verge" and would look out at him whenever he turned his gaze in its direction. This is the mirror that the Widow Wycherly looks into and sees herself restored to youth after she drinks the doctor's experimental brew.

Further Reading:
kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The study itself is old and dusty, Hawthorne describes it as being covered with cobwebs and liberally sprinkled with "antique dust."  It was filled with books and folios and various other texts.  There was a bust of Hippocrates amidst all the books and a skeleton in an old closet.  There was also a tall, nearly life-size portrait of a young lady that dominated one side of the room and a giant black book that was said to be magic.

One of the particular features was an old, tall and narrow mirror that stood in the corner and supposedly contained the spirits of all the people that the doctor had treated and they would peer out at him if he looked at it just right.

Read the study guide:
Dr. Heidegger's Experiment

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