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Nature vs Nurture in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Essay

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Philosophers and scientists alike have debated for centuries whether a person’s character is the result of nature or nurture. In the writings of Thomas Hobbes, it is expressed that humans are endowed with character from birth, and that they are innately evil in nature. John Locke’s response to this theory is that everyone is born with a tabula rasa, or blank slate, and then develops character after a series of formative experiences. The idea that true character is the result of experiences and societal interaction is a theme deeply explored throughout Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Through different interactions with the monster, Shelley attempts to express that it is because of Victor’s failings as a parent and creator, because of the monster’s isolation, and because of society’s reaction to the monster that the monster has become evil. The monster’s character is a direct result of how he was nurtured, based on his experiences and circumstances, rather than his being innately evil from “birth.”
One of the most influential contributions in the formation of the monster’s character is Victor’s failure as a creator and a father. As a creator, Victor has the responsibility of providing for his creation, just as God provided for Adam and Eve. At the same time, Victor also falls under the role of a father, and should therefore seek to strengthen the familial bond between the two of them. However, Victor fails in both of these endeavors, because he cannot accept the monster in his deformity. “Frankenstein’s sole regret… is that he did not create an aesthetically pleasing being” (Bond). Victor, due to his skewed vision of humanity, believes outer beauty to be a reflection of inner character, and that because of the monster’s hideous appe...


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...tation.” The English Review Sept. 2009: 18+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 9 Jan. 2015.

Lehman, Steven. “The Motherless Child in Science Fiction: Frankenstein and Moreau.” Science Fiction Studies 19:1 (Mar. 1992): 49-57. Rpt. In Children’s’ Literature Review. Ed. Tom Burns. Vol. 133. Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web. 9 Jan. 2015.

Marcus, Steven. "Frankenstein: myths of scientific and medical knowledge and stories of human relations." The Southern Review 38.1 (2002): 188+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 9 Jan. 2015.

Seabury, Marcia Bundy. "The Monsters We Create: Woman on the Edge of Time and Frankenstein." Critique 42.2 (Winter 2001): 131-143. Rpt. in Children's Literature Review. Ed. Tom Burns. Vol. 133. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web. 9 Jan. 2015.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2003. Print.


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