What lesson or lesson do you think Hawthorne intended "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" to teach?   What warning does the doctor give his guests?

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ms-mcgregor's profile pic

ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Each of the old persons Heidegger choses for his experiment are known for some kind of immoral or illegal actions when they were young. Each one could be consider a symbol for a types of people known for scandalous behavior in the form of immoral sexual behavior, greed, political corruption or "lechery". Although Heidegger warns all of them that if they drink the water from the fountain of youth, they may revert to the same behavior that caused scandal when they were young. All of course say that they have learned from the past. However, when they do become young, they resort to their same old behaviors, which finally results in the destruction of the water which is supposedly giving them youth. Thus Hawthorne's lesson seems to be that people who engage in scandalous behavior generally do not learn from their mistakes, but continues to follow selfish
pleasure. This kind of pleasure is always short-lived, as witnessed not only by the behavior of the old people, but by Sylvia's rose and the butterfly. As Heidegger points out at the end, "if the fountain of youth flowed at my doorstep, I would not stoop to drink from it". Heidegger has learned to leave the past alone whereas the other still cling to it and the transitory pleasures it brought.

yaz5000's profile pic

yaz5000 | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Lesson #1:There are some things which, because of human nature...they may be learned only through experience.

Lesson #2: Youth is wasted on the young!  When given a second chance, each repeated the mistakes of youth...they learned nothing.