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Comparing Nathaniel Hawthorne


"Dr Heidegger's Experiment"

An eccentric aging physician, Dr. Heidegger, calls together his old
friends and contemporaries to test his waters of the "fountain of
youth." As the doctor himself sits by to enjoy the show, each of his
four aged friends eagerly quaffs more and more of the magic potion,
each draught further carrying them backwards into their shared youth.
Having grown young, smooth-skinned and agile again, the three men begin
to fight for the favors of the fourth compatriot now restored to her
former beauty. In the heat of the fracas, they begin to grow tired and
within minutes the effect of the "waters" has worn away. The
participants in the brief respite from old age are devastated by the
transience of the experience. Despite Heidegger's warning that he has
learned to appreciate the advantage of age by watching the four of them
make themselves fools, they learned no such lesson and resolve to make
a pilgrimage to Florida to seek the Fountain.

"The Birthmark"

A devoted scientist, in a brief step from his laboratory pursuits,
marries a beautiful woman with a single physical flaw: a birthmark on
her face. Aylmer becomes obsessed with the imperfection and needs to
remove it, to be happy with his wife. The tale evolves around his
progressive frenzy to use his scientific skills to render his bride
perfect and the faith of his submissive wife that the union can survive
only if he accomplishes his goal. The author tells us that Aylmer "had
devoted himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies..."
and, in the secrecy of his laboratory he prepares the potion for
Georgiana that results in the disappearance of the birthmark and the
death of Aylmer's experimental subject.


"Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" and "The Birthmark" can be compared in
many aspects. Nathaniel Hawthorne used many of the same writing
techniques in both stories. Both pieces share two common reoccuring
themes. Also, the symbols in the story have like meanings. In both
"Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" and "The Birthmark", Hawthorne uses the
same writing style. In both stories Nathaniel Hawthorne writes as a
realist, as opposed to a romancer. In "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"
Hawthorne writes about an actual event in history, Ponce de Leon's
search for the Fountain of Youth on the Florida Peninsula. It does not
matter if the Fountain of Youth exists or not it is a "real" legend.
"Dr Heidegger's Experiment" is a situation that could have taken
place. It is not a fantasy. "The Birthmark" is also a piece that
could have happened. A beautiful woman could certainly be born with a
disturbing birthmark on her face. In "The Birthmark" Hawthorne writes
about a real situation with real characters. Again in both "Dr
Heidegger's Experiment" and "The Birthmark", Hawthorne uses a very
vague title. For the purpose of "Dr Heidegger's Experiment", Hawthorne
wants you to ponder on what kind of experiment Heidegger was
conducting, psychological or p! hysical. In the case of "The
Birthmark", Hawthorne wants you to think if the birthmark was what
made the main character, Aylmer, kills his wife or if it went beyond
just that physical marking. Furthermore, in the pair of stories
Hawthorne uses several of the same literary devices, for instance,
symbolism. In "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"

Along with the same writing techniques, Nathaniel Hawthorne also used
two of the same themes in the stories. Hawthorne uses reoccurring
themes of his writing in many of his stories. In both "Dr. Heidegger's
Experiment" and "The Birthmark" Hawthorne uses, the impossibility of
earthly perfection moreover the loss of innocence. In "Dr. Heidegger's
Experiment" the doctor's four friends are all in search of earthly
perfection. This is why they choose to drink the water from the
Fountain of Youth, to become forever young. The friends are made young
again by the water, but their youth soon wears away. If it had
remained for ever they would have achieved earthly perfection, and that
is impossible. In "The Birthmark", Georgiana is almost a model of
earthly perfection except for that horrid birthmark. Aylmer believes
that Georgiana can be that model of perfection and he can get rid of
the birthmark. He is successful in getting rid of Georgiana's
birthmark and she is perfect, b! ut dead. Hawthorne is saying that
she could not live and be perfect, hence the impossibility of earthly
perfection. In "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" the theme of the loss of
innocence is loosely addressed. Dr. Heidegger says: "Think what a sin
and shame it would be, if, with your peculiar advantages, you should
not become patterns of virtue and wisdom to all the young people of the
age!" Heidegger tells his friends that they have already lost their
innocence and gained wisdom in their old age, and what a thing it would
be if they could have that wisdom and be youthful at the same time.
Yet, when the friends return to their youth the friends are innocent,
naive, and even foolish beings. In "The Birthmark" Georgiana is
completely innocent with her birthmark, which represents her
innocence. When Aylmer removes the birthmark, not only has her
innocence been taken but also her life.

Similarly as Hawthorne used like writing techniques and themes in both
"Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" and "The Birthmark", he also used symbols
to represent the same ideas. In "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" Hawthorne
uses Dr Heidegger's friends to represent flawed beings. Their flaw is
their age. In "The Birthmark", Hawthorne uses the birthmark to
symbolize a flaw on a perfect being as well. In this case it is
Georgiana. In both stories that was an object that represented the
"right" thing to do. In the case of "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" the
symbol of write and wrong was the near dead butterfly who was brought
back to life by the spilt water of youth. The butterfly is
traditionally a symbol of metamorphosis, and it makes you wonder is if
is right to change the natural metamorphic of a person's life. In "The
Birthmark", Aminidad, Aylmer's assistant symbolizes the right choice.
He is aware that the potion that will remove Georgiana's birthmark will
also kill her. Amini! dad does not speak to Aylmer about this because
he "has no right" being only Aylmer's assistant. The last of the
symbols that connect "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" and "The Birthmark"
are the Water of Youth and Aylmer's potion. In "Dr. Heidegger's
Experiment" the water from the Fountain of Youth symbolizes a
disturbance of nature. It is natural for a person to age and the
potion defies nature's law if age. In "The Birthmark" the potion also
symbolizes a disturbance of natural. Georgiana's birthmark was
natural, and when Aylmer removed it with the potion, nature was again

Nathaniel Hawthorne's two writings, "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" and
"The Birthmark" contain many parallels. These, like other Hawthorne
stories share many of the same themes and morals. Hawthorne had his own
obsessions that included a horrified fascination with "cold
philosophy." He approached the romantic notion of the ability of
science to destroy nature as fictive "horror stories" of biological
research out of control. He embodied this concern in his several
characterizations of scientists, who were also physicians, working in
isolation in their laboratories to gain intellectual control over the
mysteries of nature. Although the notion of amoral, or immoral,
experimentation is dated in these period pieces, the concerns remain
ethical problems in the modern world of medicine.


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