TheFrankenstein ApplicationNaturevs. NurtureIntroductionTheNovel by Mary Shelley ‘Frankenstein’ depicts two major charactersFrankenstein and the ogre creature he creates. The two charactershave innate nature that is portrayed through each personality and dayto day way of life. However, the two creatures just like ordinarybeings are subjected to different aspects of nurture. Nature refersto inherent personality traits that an individual is born with whilenuture refers to environmental aspects that influence individuals’behavior. In the Novel, Shelly portrays the influence of natureversus nurture in shaping the characters behavior. Nature isresponsible for the fall of Frankenstein while nurture leads to thedownfall of the creature. Shelley makes the nature and nurture debatemore vivid when she describes victor and the creature’s personalitytraits. Nature and nurture are important in shaping individualspersonality traits. This essay elucidates on ‘how well MaryShelley’s Novel ‘Frankenstein’ addresses the aspect of existingpersonality traits and how a person is taught to act.Discussion:How well does Shelley address the concept of nature versus nurture inshaping personality traits?
The current debate in education is that nature and not nurturecontributes a great deal in human intellectual and behavioraldevelopment. This debate could be related to Shelley’s novel inwhich Shelly narrates that ‘the creature felt that if someone hadguided it, it would not have been so wretched” (Shelley 89). In thesame line, Frankenstein adds that the ‘creature was evil from thestart and no amount of teaching would have changed its behavior”(Shelley 89). These statements bring out indirectly the issue ofnature versus nurture in influencing one’s behavior. While natureis integral in influencing one’s behavior while young, nurtureplays an integral role in shaping one’s life as human growth takesplace (Stevenson, Leslie and Haberman 68).
Nature is important in providing basic skills to enhance individual’straits while nurture builds negatively or positively on the basicskills. In the novel Shelly, narrates how Victor got good care andvalue teaching from his parents. Conversely, the Monster does not getany paternal or maternal care (nature) to teach him values (Shelley78). However, the Monster still exhibit its ‘natural’ traits whenit responds to its natural impulses of thirst, shelter and food whilein the forest. After the Monster interacts with the De lacey familyit begins to learn language, emotions and human traits. For instance,as the monster watches De Lacey while hugging Agatha, telling storiesor playing guitar, the Monster exhibits feelings of pleasure or pain(Shelly 73). In another incident, the monster is depicted as havingability to ‘reason’ and sympathizes the monster stops stealingfood from the poor De Lacey family. This illustration depicts thevalue of nature in influencing ‘humane’ behaviors on individuals(Stevenson, Leslie and Haberman 86).
The development of ‘humane’ behaviors by the monster depicts thevitality of interplay between nature and nurture. On one incident themonster is depicted as having developed deep thinking and rationalityas it learns instructions from Safie and Felix. However, as much asnature is integral in shaping the monsters traits, the interactionenvironment (nurture) has more impact on the Monster’s behavior(Shelley 66). This aspect is remarkably similar to human beings mostbehaviors are learned and shaped by individuals’ environment.Shelley wanted to show that nature plays a less significant role ineducating people. The largest part of human knowledge, skills andbehaviors are learned from ‘nurture.’ In the story, De Laceyfamily illustrates how nurture and not nature determines individuals’personality traits. Nothing explains the role of nurture than thisquote, “The patriarchal lives of my protectors caused theseimpressions to take a firm hold on my mind perhaps, if my firstintroduction to humanity had been made by a young soldier, burningfor glory and slaughter, I should have been imbued with differentsensations.”(Shelley 92). This quote illustrates the importanceof nurture in shaping the creature than nature.
Throughout the novel there are various instances that depict tensionsbetween nurture and nature as an integral aspect in personalitycharacter development. For instance, at the introduction of thenovel, Shelley addresses Victor’ nature on how it is ineffective inshaping Victor as a good leader. Shelley narrates that Victor wasborn in a prestigious family of ‘honor’ and ‘integrity’(Shelley 18). However, the rich and prestigious history of Victor(nature) becomes his down fall as it fails to shape him to a greatleader. Nonetheless, while nature becomes Victor’s downfall, ithelps him reincarnate and discover science “I remained, while thestorm lasted, watching…with curiosity and delight…this excited myextreme astonishment” (Shelley 24). The idea presented by Shelly isthat ‘nature’ cannot be dismissed as an important aspect inshaping one’s personality but it helps ‘rejuvenate’ ‘guide’and ‘awaken’ an individual in instances where ‘nurture’cannot (Descartes 112).
Victor is a product of ‘nurture’ experienced in his childhood,“no creature could have more tender parents than [his own]”(Shelley 19). This shows that Victor had a compassionate environment.In this case, nurture is depicted as positively influencing Victor’sphysical wellbeing and personality. However, nurture has stronginfluence on individual’s personality than nature (Stevenson,Leslie and Haberman 98). It is the same ‘nurture’ that fightsVictor’s ‘nature’ (greed and dangerous desire for power).
In real life nature is responsible for individuals’ languagedevelopment, basic learning and humanity. For instance, we learncompassion both as a natural human trait and as a product of nurtureas people interact with the less fortunate. It is nature that makespeople satisfy the innate desires despite the ‘overacting’nurtures’ control (social norms and rules) (Descartes 121). In mostcases, nature has strong influence over nurture on individuals’personality. For instance, a sexually starved military officer whohas been in bush is more likely to coerce or engage in forced sex.
Shelley’s story succeeds in addressing the question of nurtureversus nature in shaping individual’s personality traits. Natureand nurture are important in the development of personality traits.However, nurture has more influence in shaping one’s personalitythan what one was taught. The basic assumption is that nature onlyinfluences individual on limited situations and circumstances whilenurture is an all time influencer of one’s behaviors. Throughoutthe novel, the interplay of nature versus nurture is well capturedthrough the two main characters Victor Frankenstein and the monster.The conclusion of this essay is informed by Shelley’s story thatnurture and not nature has more influence on individuals’personality. Victor’s downfall is as a result of nature whileimproved personality development on the Monster is attributed tonurture.
Descartes, René. “Discourse on Method.” The Study of HumanNature. Ed. Leslie Stevenson. New York: Oxford University Press,2000. Print.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Oxford World’s ClassicsEd. New York: Oxford UP, 1998. Print.
Stevenson, Leslie and David H. Haberman. Ten Theories of HumanNature. 4th Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.