I think that Hawthorne's description of Dr. Heidegger's study describes the four friends. "It was a dim, old-fashioned chamber, festooned with cobwebs and besprinkled with antique dust... ." In this quote, it represents the physical characteristics of the four friends, old and wrinkled. The dark and dank atmosphere of the study reflects their depressed personalities. I think that one of the themes found in "Dr.
Heidegger's Experiment is that if a person is given a second chance at life, it is impossible for a person to change their behavior. Each of the characters all had chosen a lifestyle in their youths which each led a life of prosperity, but to loose their success and respect because of their behavior. The four friends had a life without pleasant memories to recall. They had gotten a second chance to relive life, they returned to their original faults. "Inflamed to madness by the coquetry of the girl-widow, who neither granted nor quite withheld her favors, the three rivals began to interchange threatening glances." Once back to their youthful selves, the good doctor sees that their morals are still the same as before. Mr.
Melbourne is still greedy. Colonel Killigrew still wants to seek the sinful pleasures he once had. Mr. Gascoigne is still lying about politics.
The Widow Wycherly is still very vain and conceited. All of them laugh at the doctor since he is still old. They mock the sick, elderly, and disabled of which they had just been so themselves. There are many indications that attempt to adjust to their bodies wearing out. The Ms. Wycherly wore a hat to hide her white hair.
This showed that none of these characters had truly grasped the meaning life, which is go gain knowledge and wisdom to understand to world. The four friends did not accept the inevitable aging process; instead they decided to participate in the experiment. In the experiment, they only changed in their physical characteristics, but it did not alter their mindset. In truth, the friends cannot become young and still take the knowledge and wisdom they accumulated. Throughout the story, symbols of youth and age are present.
The rose, symbolizes his love and commitment for Sylvia, but it also symbolizes youth. When it was placed in the elixir, it blooms. Not only does the rose symbolize youth, it also is the opposite, death. As the rose withers, so do the four friends. Another representation of youth is that the experiment starts on a summer afternoon. Usually, in western culture, summer afternoon means youth.
As the sun sets, the characters start to ages, thus the sunset symbolizes aging. "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" also included irony. The behaviors of the characters are very ironic. The four friends were not very ethical in their youth, thus were no very satisfied how they ended you at their old age. They were not thankful that they all had long lives, but were bitter and wanted to be youthful.
The friends turn to a magical elixir that could turn them young. Once they became young, they were no longer satisfied and fought against each other.