Nature And Nurture In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

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The debate of nature versus nurture has been argued for a long period time. The concept of tabula rasa was popularized by John Locke; it stated that babies are born into this world without innate knowledge. Knowledge and personality are developed through experiences and environment, emphasising the nurture in the nature-nurture split. At first blush, Frankenstein avidly supports the theory but in some other parts it does not.
The novel’s support of tabula rasa is easiest to see through the creature’s emotional development. The creature himself is of the opinion that he became who he is through his relations with his surroundings. His development also has many parallels to a child’s; after being created, he “could distinguish nothing; but,
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Also akin to a child, the creature didn’t know how to speak immediately; the only things that he could utter were “uncouth and inarticulate sounds” (69). A big step in the emotional development of the creature is seeing the cottagers; these are the first humans that he develops a bond with, even though it is one-sided. Before, humans are something to be feared, with the creature being “still more [miserable] from the barbarity of man” (Shelley 71). Even, at first sight, the cottagers evoke a very positive response from him; he states that “the silver hair and benevolent countenance, won my reverence; while the gentle manners of the girl enticed my love” (Shelley 72). Though the creature doesn’t yet show the level of loathing that he would come to feel towards humanity at the end of the novel, he does still shows signs of caution from the cruelty shown beforehand. The creature has learned from its past experience, as when he says “I longed to join them, but dared not. I remembered too well the treatment I had suffered the night before from the barbarous…show more content…
Considering the common definition of intelligence, which is that it “…represents the ability to solve problems” (Sternberg 712), the creature is showing very high-level functioning. No one has shown the creature how to solve this problem or how to even begin approaching making this display is almost oddly instinctual. The creature’s intelligence should be tied to the richness of his environment and the quality of schooling he receives; this is something that is suggested both by the tabula rasa, which places very high importance on teaching, but also current research; neglected children, such as ones that are feral, often have problems communicating and reasoning in an abstract manner. Even in low socioeconomic environments children experience profound effects; a study on the effects of lone motherhood found that “for the most part, household and community circumstances seem linear in their effects on mothers’ reports of child difficulties; for example, as deprivation increases, the likelihood of reported difficulties also increases” (Zagel 13). Considering how utterly deprived the creature’s early environment was it is already impressive that he could achieve basic functionality. However, he doesn 't just function but does it at a higher level than some humans; when hearing the language lessons given to Safie, the
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