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Nutured into a Monster - Nature Vs. Nurture

Essay by   •  April 27, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  3,113 Words (13 Pages)  •  2,174 Views

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Since the time Francis Galton coined the term "Nature vs. Nurture" there has been theories and debates about each side. The debate is focused around the determining or causing factors of the differences in physical and behavioral traits within a human. Nature takes the role of the individual's innate qualities while nurture bases itself upon personal experiences. Romantic literature is characterized by an emphasis on emotion, passion, and the natural world and gothic novels liked to play with the dark side of human nature and frailty. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein shows elements of both aforementioned and woefully shows humans in nature and human nature. Exploring the nurture side of the debate within Mary Shelley's world of Frankenstein following her monster's development will uncover the monster's reason for his horrible actions. Is the monster naturally evil or did society make him that way? Using a psychological and theoretical approach on the monster using the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Abraham Maslow, will prove that the monster's violent crimes are directly linked to the influences and experiences inflicted on the monster by society. As Frankenstein's monster says himself "I shall relate events that impressed me with feelings which, 

from what I had been, have made me what I am" (Shelley, 104).

Frankenstein is a mixture of two sources, that of a Romantic Era novel and of a Gothic Novel. Both of these genres in literary history help to possibly explain Shelly's writing of the novel and her ability to capture the wretched, human failure, and human nature. The Romantic Era in which Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, was about the self and social quest and by extension others in a more profound manner. It was characterized by an expression of emotion and imagination as well as a heightened interest in nature and the power and beauty of nature "Dear mountains! My own beautiful lake! How do you welcome your wanderer? Your summits are clear; the sky and lake are blue and placid. Is this to prognosticate peace or to mock at my unhappiness? (Shelley, 47). With elements of the gothic within Frankenstein, the backdrop of this genre was accompanied by the woeful imperfections of man at the hands of more powerful forces such as nature and death. Frankenstein shows links to emotions by representing decay and collapse of humans and human creations as gothic novels seek the same. "Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world." (Shelley, 40) With the backdrops of Shelley's story in place, she was allowed to play within the dark sides of human nature and how this dark side comes to the forefront of the person's traits.

The novel Frankenstein is written in three narrative frames, Walton is the primary narrator who helps tell Frankenstein's tale, Victor Frankenstein's first-person narrative, and the monster's first-person narrative. Within Frankenstein's narrative the reader comes to find that he has successfully put together pieces of humans (that he robbed from six feet under) and after rigorous study and careful chemistry, finds that he has given life to the monster. As the monster stirs, a horrified Frankenstein quickly abandons his waking creation, but not before he sees the monster reach out for him, as though he were a babe reaching for his father "His jaw opened...while a grin wrinkled his cheeks...one had was stretched out" (Shelley, 44). In this passage, Shelley writes as though the creature is a gentle being and only seeks the approval and love of another, or in this case Frankenstein. Abraham Maslow, in his paper A Theory of Human Motivation, claims that love is a basic need and stresses that the "thwarting of the love needs as basic in the picture of maladjustment" (Maslow, 27). After seeing his creation Frankenstein is horrified at his work and "thwarting" the monster's love, quickly abandons the waking creature. This is the root of the downfall of Frankenstein and the beginning of the nurture effects upon his monster. Jean-Jacques Rousseau proposed the idea that man is essentially good in the beginning of life, but civilization can corrupt a human in the mind. Even though Frankenstein is his creator, he represents civilization: "Everything is good when it leaves the hands of the Creator; everything degenerates in the hands of man" (Rousseau, Emile). This initial rejection of the monster by his creator is the first of many rejections by civilization that occurs to this poor wretch and turns him into the monster that wreaks havoc on Frankenstein and society.

After the monster is aborted by his creator, he runs off into the forest. Nature becomes a central mother figure for the monster as the natural forces slowly begin to educate the monster to the world around him. This aspect of the novel deals heavily in the power of nature and is directly linked to the Romantic Era in literature that Shelley was writing in. Nature provides the essentials that Frankenstein did not give the monster; food, water, fire and survival. In Maslow 's hierarchy of needs within his paper, the most basic need is physiological in which food, water, and shelter are essential. The monster is for the first time since his existence is fulfilled. New to this world, the monster is like a child as is innocent and has yet to be corrupted. Rousseau's description of human beings, in his work Social Contract and Discourses believes that a man in nature is in the most pure state of nature, uncorrupted by civilization; "Now savage man, being destitute of every species of intelligence, can have no passions save those of the latter kind: his desires never go beyond his physical wants. The only goods he recognizes in the universe are food, a female, and sleep: the only evils he fears are pain and hunger" (Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, 186). The creature is satisfied on the most basic level and is within nature's cradle, he has yet to lash out at mankind because he is innately good.

The second encounter with society came when the monster went out of nature and into a small hut of a shepherd. The man in the small hut, turning to look from where the noise came, "shrieked loudly and ran" (Shelley, 93). Although the monster is not yet capable of understanding the reason behind the man's shriek, was slightly curious as he thinks "his flight somewhat surprised me" (Shelley, 93). As he continues through the town the monster comes to find that at every cottage children shriek as he enters. He returns to his natural shelter and now begins to feel the power of societies influence as he notes "however miserable...still more from the barbarity

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