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The nature vs nurture issue is at the heart of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. The debate is based on the controversial topic regarding what makes an individual, or rather “what makes you, you”? Nurture refers to the influences that have an impact on people after they are born while nature refers to the preset traits characterizing people’s lives. The debate surrounding nature versus nurture seeks to determine how much of a person’s traits are predetermined and the extent to which such traits are modified by the environment. Notably, nature and nurture are integrated to define what distinguishes one from the other. The debate between nature and nurture has been clearly distinguished by the two main characters in the novel (Ginn, 2013). Both Victor Frankenstein and the creature have intrinsic characteristics that impact their personalities and way of life, but they are exposed to two distinct nurturing procedures.
The Creature and Nurture
Although nature and nurture play a significant role in the novel, the nature argument is responsible for the fall of Frankenstein, while the nurture argument is responsible for the fall of the creature (Ginn, 2013). According to the novel, the creature’s nature is distinct from that of Victor. The author describes how Victor meets his first human family residing in the cottage, as the tale of the creature’s upbringing develops. The male family member “struck [the creature] violently with a stick” as some of the family members fled and others passed out (Shelley & Bolton, 2018). The extreme violence and abuse experienced by the creature in the hands of humans is depicted through Shelley’s use of language in this horrible scene. By purposefully using the term “fled,” Shelley ensures that the reader understands the extent of fear exhibited in case they were beasts. Additionally, the reader is given a sense of how terrified this family is by the fact that some fainted just from looking at him. The creature is further reminded of his lack of a nurturing habitat by this terrible circumstance (Shelley & Bolton, 2018). The young child screams at the monster, describing him as an “ogre” and a “hideous monster” (Acero, 2022). Even a little infant who lacks the majority of the world’s preconceptions will not be able to accept the existence of the monster. The reader can comprehend the creature’s nurturing environment—or lack thereof—due to Shelley’s thoughtful use of language when she refers to the creature as an ogre. This continuous degradation fuels the creature’s anger, which shows how nurture could have a significant effect on human beings. The creature’s anger resulted in its demise, an aspect that could have been avoided had it been nurtured to show compassion to itself.
Victor and Nature
Consequently, Victor survives due to his nature and manages to foster a great future. Some characteristics of Victor Frankenstein are innate making him develop a specific way of living. Frankenstein is the offspring of a prominent and prosperous family. Being born into a wealthy family implies that Frankenstein is predisposed to succeed without putting forth a lot of effort. Besides, Victor has an innate sense of curiosity. His works seem to reflect his apparent desire for power. This nature enables Victor to survive through the novel amid various challenges.
The manner in which the novel depicts Frankenstein and the Creature has been portrayed illustrates the effects of nature and nurture, and provides clarity on the debate. Victor is victimized by nature and the creature he must nurture. Shelley explains this to the reader through her use of language and the symbolism of light and fire as an intellectually alluring yet physically destructive power. In the end, the novel reveals how nature enables Victor to thrive, while nurture becomes a threat to the Creature.
- Acero, A. B. (2022). Frankenstein’s Creature: Monstrous Chicken or Grotesque Egg? Gettysburg College Headquarters, 1(1), 3.
- Ginn, S. R. (2013). Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Exploring neuroscience, nature, and nurture in the novel and the films. Progress in Brain Research, 204, 169-190.
- Shelley, M., & Bolton, G. (2018). Frankenstein. In Medicine and Literature (pp. 35-52). CRC Press.