Howthorne Prose Practice Activity

Hawthorne Prose Passage AP Practice

25 points


Please read the following passage and answer the questions below it thoroughly (on a separate document that you can copy and paste into a moodle submission portal). Please give textual evidence to support your answers. Remember: the purpose of this activity is to get you to think about the types of things that the AP test will require you to write about at length. Don’t give short and simple answers but rather you should expand and elaborate as much as possible. When answering the questions, keep in mind the main literary elements we have focused on over the course of the year (diction, tone, syntax, detail, etc.)


From Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment by Nathaniel Hawthorne

            It was a dim, old-fashioned chamber, festooned with cobwebs, and besprinkled with antique dust. Around the walls stood several oaken bookcases, the lower shelves of which were filled with gigantic folios, and black-letter quartos, and the upper with little parchment covered duodecimos. Over the central bookcase was a bronze bust of Hippocrates, with which, according to some authorities, Dr. Heidegger was accustomed to hold consultations, in all difficult cases of his practice. In the obscurest corner of the room stood a tall and narrow oaken closet, with its door ajar, within which doubtfully appeared a skeleton. Between two of the bookcases hung a looking glass, presenting its high and dusty plate within a tarnished gilt frame. Among many wonderful stories related of this mirror, it was fabled that the spirits of all the doctor’s deceased patients dwelt within its verge, and would stare him in the face whenever he looked thitherward. The opposite side of the chamber was ornamented with the full length portrait of a young lady, arrayed in the faded magnificence of silk, satin, and brocade, and with a visage as faded as her dress. Above half a century ago, Dr. Heidegger had been on the point of marriage with this young lady; but, being affected with some slight disorder, she had swallowed one of her lover’s prescriptions, and died on the bridal evening. The greatest curiosity of the study remains to be mentioned; it was a ponderous folio volume, bound in black leather, with massive silver clasps. There were no letters on the back, and nobody could tell the title of the book. But it was well known to be a book of magic; and once, when a chambermaid had lifted it, merely to brush away the dust, the skeleton had rattled in its closet, the picture of the young lady had stepped one foot upon the floor, and several ghastly faces had peeped forth from the mirror while the brazen head of Hippocrates frowned, and said  — “Forbear!”


  1. What conclusions or deductions can you draw about the character of Dr. Heidegger?
  2. What is the tone of this excerpt? What details support your choice?
  3. What is the purpose of this paragraph and how is language used to serve that purpose?