Dr. Heidegger's Experiment

by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Discuss how successfully Hawthorne, in "Dr. Heideggers's Experiment," creates suspense and drama that keep readers captivated.

Hawthorne, in "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment," effectively creates suspense by layering his story in uncertainty and mystery. Only gradually does he provide readers the necessary details that would allow them to discern the reality of what Heidegger's experiment actually entails. Hawthorne begins his story by introducing Heidegger's four elderly guests (with their dubious reputations), along with Heidegger's intention that they participate in an experiment. This raises the question of what exactly his experiment involves. Further details are added, as Hawthorne invests his setting with elements of the gothic.

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Nathaniel Hawthorne, in "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment," effectively creates suspense by layering his story in uncertainty and mystery. Only gradually does he provide readers the necessary details that would allow them to discern the reality of what Heidegger's experiment actually entails.

Hawthorne begins his story by introducing Heidegger's...

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Nathaniel Hawthorne, in "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment," effectively creates suspense by layering his story in uncertainty and mystery. Only gradually does he provide readers the necessary details that would allow them to discern the reality of what Heidegger's experiment actually entails.

Hawthorne begins his story by introducing Heidegger's four elderly guests (with their dubious reputations), along with Heidegger's intention that they participate in an experiment. This raises the question of what exactly his experiment involves. Further details are added, as Hawthorne invests his setting with elements of the gothic. In the process, Hawthorne adds certain false trails as well: readers used to ghost stories and gothic horror, for example, might imagine that Heidegger's long-deceased love, Sylvia Ward, might play a larger role in the story than she actually does.

What results is an atmosphere of uncertainty hanging over the story, even as Hawthorne plants further seeds of suspicion: Heidegger's refusal to partake in the waters of the Fountain of Youth, for example, might suggest that there is more to this experiment than meets the eye. What results is a kind of mystery whose clues are parceled out across the story as the truth of this experiment is slowly revealed. It is in this process, by which hints and details are gradually parceled out and the truth is unraveled across the story, that Hawthorne creates his suspense.

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