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Nature vs. Nurture in Mary Shelly's Frankenstein

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Length: 1850 words (5.3 double-spaced pages)
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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a comparison of Nature vs. Nurture. Some critics argue that the Being is a monster from birth, while others claim that it cannot be limited to such a narrow category. The argument lies in the education of the Being. He is not a born killer, but is created by the rejection of society. The Being is born an innocent creature with ability to appreciate the sublime, but after learning about human emotions, he is transformed into a monster through the emotional rejection he receives from a human family.

The Being is ignorant about the world around him for the first half of his life. He does not harm or attack another human being. He moves and reacts in similar fashions to that of an infant, however, due his size and appearance humans, including the Being’s creator, run away in fear. The Creator exclaims to a friend:

His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped, and rushed down stairs. I took refuge in the courtyard belonging to the house which I inhabited; where I remained during the rest of the night… (Shelley 35)
The Being here shows actions that mimic those of an infant. The extended arms and the inarticulate sounds are the only way infants have to communicate. The wrinkled grin is the closest expression a newborn can get to a smile and the reaching arm is a gesture that says "I want to be held," not "I’m going to hurt you." The Creator does not see this, and instead of showing love and affection towards his child, he runs away to the other end of the house. His Creator’s response forces the Being to depart from the building and survive on i...


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...s character for the rest of the story. The creature that started life as an innocent individual is now a ruthless killer because of the rejection by the family he desires.

The Being in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is not born a murderer. The De Lacys transform him into a monster by their rejection. This denial of affection ultimately leads to his transition from innocent child to heartless killer. The knowledge he gains in the forest shows his innocence but the false sense of acceptance he gains from mimicking the De Lacy family is the main influence leading to his transformation. His desire to be accepted and his obsession with affection are the main forces that lead to his change in character. Ruthless monsters are not born monsters, they are made into mosters.



Works Cited
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Ed. J. Paul Hunter, New York: Norton & Company, 1996


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