AP English Literature/Comp, Period 5
15 December 2014
Frankenstein: Nature vs. Nurture
In the novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley brings about the debate between nature versus nurture. Mentioned by Dan Hurley in his work, Trait vs. Fate, is a little story that involves this topic. "Two alcoholic mice, a mother and her son, sit on two bar stools, lapping gin from two thimbles. The mother mouse looks up and says, "Hey geniuses, tell me how my son got into this sorry state." "Bad inheritance," says Darwin. "Bad mothering," says Freud." (Hurley, Trait Vs. Fate.). Philosophers and Scientists alike have, for centuries, argued whether a person's character is the result of nature, meaning genetic predispositions, or nurture, meaning life experiences, the way in which one is taught and how their development is affected by the environment surrounding them. In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, an English Philosopher, claims that human beings exist in a state of nature and are naturally savage and brutal. On the other hand, John Locke, also an English Philosopher, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, argues that every being is born with a tabula rasa, or blank slate, and their character traits and behaviors result from their personal life encounters. In Frankenstein, Shelley attempts to, through many different interactions, express that because of Victor's failings as a creator and parent, the monster's isolation, and society's reaction to the monster, the creature became evil. The monster's character was a result of the way in which he was nurtured. He was not innately evil directly from birth.
The two main characters of the book, Victor Frankenstein and the creature he created, both have an innate nature that factors into each one's personality and way of life; however, they are subjected to two completely different nurturing styles. While Victor was brought up in a wealthy, loving family, the creature was created and abandoned by his creator, left to fend for himself in a world full of cruelty. Both nature and nurture play a key role in the novel. The nature argument is responsible for the fall of Victor Frankenstein. His fervent obsession with the idea of being recognized for a big advancement in science disabled him from realizing that no man should try to play God. The nurture argument is responsible for the fall of the creature. If Victor would have taken on the role as the creature's parent and nurtured him the way he would have nurtured a newborn child, there could have been hope for the character's development as a "human" created by man. Instead of being loved and cherished, the creature was hated by everyone around him due to his monster-like appearance. When speaking to Victor at one point, he recalls a time that he went to a village. When he was seen, the children screamed and the women fainted. Some people even attacked him. All they saw was a big monster, not a human. The monster is not to blame for this, Victor is.
The way one develops depends on the people who are assisting in the process. In the novel, Victor says, "It may be imagined that while during every hour of my infant life I received a lesson of patience, of charity, and of self-control," (Frankenstein, pg. 40). He explains his parents as "devoted and "tender," which allows us to believe that he was privileged with a compassionate environment. Victor received the love from his family but failed to take care of his own creation. A child needs the love of their parents and this is what the monster wished for, but lacked.
Throughout the novel, the creature shows a natural desire to learn how to read and write and be accepted by other human beings. When he learns to think on his own, he begins to wonder why his creator would abandon him. Eventually, he becomes angry because he had no sense of home or protection. Children learn how to behave and act from their parents. Some are rewarded for...
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