Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Nathaniel Hawthornes Dr. HeideggerÃ¢â¬â¢s Experiment :: Literature Authors Essays
Nathaniel Hawthorne's Dr. HeideggerÃ¢â¬â¢s Experiment Leon Trotsky, the Russian revolutionist, wrote in his Diary in Exile, " The depth and strength of a human character are defined by its moral reserves. People reveal themselves completely only when they are thrown out of the customary conditions of their life, for only then do they have to fall back on their reserves." Nathaniel Hawthorne gives us a 19th century example of this phenomenon in "Dr. HeideggerÃ¢â¬â¢s Experiment". The theme of this story is that a personÃ¢â¬â¢s character, once developed does not change over time, and when faced with conflict and adversity, their true character becomes boldly evident. Hawthorne himself provides the narration, although he does not identify his character, nor is his character present during the experiment. The narrator appears to be telling this story based on events relayed to him by other people, and there are times throughout the story when Hawthorne admits that the events are sometimes unbelievable. He leads us to question whether this story actually takes place, or is the story merely a tool, a demonstration of a moral Puritan principle, similar to a parable found in the Bible. The effect is the same: a lesson about morality, about living life as God would want us to, and the consequences we suffer when we fail to do so. Relevant symbols are abounding in this story, from setting to names to objects. The dim room that the five occupy is a symbol of death, the death that they will soon face. Complete with dust, cobwebs and a skeleton, the description of the room is more like that of a mausoleum, instead of the good Dr.Ã¢â¬â¢s study. The oak bookcases are reminiscent of the wood that will create their coffins. More peculiar is the large black folio. The folio is a scrapbook that represents Dr. HeideggerÃ¢â¬â¢s life. We all have a folio. It is that glimpse of our own lives, that flash we see briefly but completely right before our eyes when faced with the unexpected reality of our own death. God sees this folio also, but in a manner more thoroughly than we would. In this sense Dr. Heidegger symbolizes God. But is Heidegger in fact playing God by giving these poor souls this elixir of life?