A common theme that can be seen often in life, history and even literature is the theme of struggle. People struggle against things on both a superficial level and an actual level. For example, one could be constantly struggling against the opinion of others, or the pressures of society, or maybe even time. On the other hand, one could be experiencing physical struggle with a person, a group, an illness, etc. Actual struggles often are with things that cannot be stopped or experienced with the senses. These kinds of struggles are the most common in literature. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's story Dr. Heidegger's Experiment, the characters each represent an aspect of life that society strives to reach and uphold, and at the same time the characters are fighting against time to stay young but find out the inevitable, that death is an inescapable struggle.
In the story, the characters Mr.Medbourne, Mr.Gascoigne, Widow Wycherly, and Colonel Killigrew are invited to Dr. Heidegger's. He has the intent of studying typical people of society and their desire to have what people are imposed to think is everything in life. The author has these characters each symbolic for the things that blind us all too often in life. The thing that everyday people are fooled into thinking is needed to live a happy life. The concepts of wealth, health, beauty and power. The characters are struggling because these four things aren't aspects that everyone has. Many spend their whole lives searching and working only for what appears to be the important things. The characters on an actual level are struggling to maintain these statuses of life, but superficially, as presented in the story, they are tempted with a drink of youth. To be young and to still have these statuses is their epitome of a perfect life, and so the temptation of this life without a struggle is a delightful idea to the characters.
The four symbolic characters are clearly struggling against a few things throughout the story.