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Mistakes In Dr. Heidegger's Experiment By Nathaniel Hawthorne

1085 words - 5 pages

In his short story "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment", Nathaniel Hawthorne makes a point to grant all of the characters varying human vices to try and instill in the reader a lesson about learning from their mistakes. When the reader is first introduced to Dr. Heidegger and his guests, the author gives some background on all of the characters. It becomes clear that Mr. Medbourne is known for his love of money, Widow Wycherly for her pride, Colonel Killigrew for lusting after sinful pleasures, and Mr. Gascoigne for his abuse of power and hypocrisy. From what is shown, all of the characters possess the trait of greed. When given the chance to return to their youth, they repeat the same mistakes.
The first guest that the reader is introduced to in the story is Mr. Medbourne, who was known for his tendency to devise money making schemes. He proved himself to be the most prominent example of greed in the story. Greed, also known as avarice, is an intense selfish desire for something such as material wealth or gain. At the beginning of the short story, it was said, “Mr. Medbourne, in the vigor of his age, had been a prosperous merchant, but had lost his all by a frantic speculation, and was now little better than a mendicant.” (Dr. Heidegger 502). In other words, Mr. Medbourne had been his own demise and was now of little social stature as a beggar. Despite knowing this, when given the chance to return to his youth he goes straight back to scheming.
Vanity is excessive pride in or admiration of one's own appearance or achievements. In the story the person who most accurately embodies this vice is Widow Wycherly. When given the chance to return to her youth she squanders it on admiring herself in the mirror. During their second chance at youth, the men, once again, begin to fight for Wycherly's affections. In Short Stories for Students, they describe it by disclosing, “Clara Wycherly, who once centered her life around her beauty and the admirers of that beauty, does nothing to stop their fight: she struggles against them as they all grab for her, but only slightly, allowing them all to keep a hold on her.” (Constantakis 42). The fact that the men are fighting over her helps to affirm her beauty. She does nothing to stop the fight because she enjoys the fact that they all want her affection.
In the short story, Colonel Killigrew portrays characteristics of both lust and gluttony. Lust is known as the inordinate desire for sexual pleasure while gluttony is an inordinate desire for food and drink. Both characteristics pertain to the pursuit of sinful pleasures and correlate with greed.According to Hawthorne, “Colonel Killigrew had wasted his best years and his health and substance in the pursuit of sinful pleasures, which had given birth to a brood of pains, such as the gout, and diverse other torments of the body.” (Heidegger 502). His title of colonel suggests that he was previously a high ranking and very influential man in the military. Unfortunately...

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