Nature Vs Nurture In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

2025 words - 8 pages

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 appearance, it must therefore be savage in nature. Even in Victor’s own description of the monster, he asserts that “it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived” (Shelley 52). The allusion to Dante implies that, based on appearance alone, the monster is more evil than Hell itself. Victor took no time in getting to understand the monster or develop the familial bond between them, which leaves Victor with a narrow, biased opinion on the monster. Shelley uses Victor’s hasty judgment of the monster in order to demonstrate the irrationality of Victor’s actions regarding the creature. This also discounts Victor’s opinions of the monster, forcing Shelley’s audience to judge the monster based on their own inferences, rather than Victor’s. Through Victor’s actions and his faulty reasoning behind them, Shelley is able to shift the responsibility for the monster’s character from it being instilled in him from birth, to Victor’s failings as a parent and creator.
Shelley also attempts to express that Victor’s failure as a father and creator stems from his inability to accept responsibility for his actions. The monster, who openly regrets his actions and recognizes that he has done wrong, “demonstrates that on one...

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