Dr. Heidegger's Experiment

by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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What lesson or lessons does the story teach?

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A lesson to take away from this story may be the folly of youth. Before the experiment is conducted, Dr. Heidegger implores his subjects to, with their newly restored youth, act with the wisdom of someone who has already endured all of the years of life. His subjects laugh at the idea of even having to be told this—as if they would ever repeat the mistakes that made them so miserable.

However, as soon as their youth is restored, they begin once again to act foolishly, all of the men fighting over the Widow Wycherly. In their youthful ecstasy, they have completely forgotten the woes that will eventually be coming for them again, and they once again consider themselves to be immortal. Dr. Heidegger, who represents some wisdom in this story, would never drink from the fountain of youth. He states, "having had much trouble in growing old, I am in no hurry to grow young again."

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Everyone can take different things from the story, but one possible lesson is the idea of being content or happy about one's situation in life, in this case particularly about the age.  The old men become young and then compete for the beauty of the (now) young woman in the group.  They are absolutely horrified when they grow old again and plan to seek the water for themselves because they cannot be happy with their current dilapidated state.

It was easy for the doctor to watch them and learn the lesson, but much more difficult for the subjects that actually felt the change and felt the vigor of youth and then desperately longed to continue the experience.

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