The contentious controversy about whether fate or design is responsible for an individual’s growth and actions continues to divide generations. The idea of nature versus nurture is directly represented by the monstrous monster in Mary Shelley’s literary work “Frankenstein” (2009). For example, by watching and studying the creature’s acts and behaviors, one is able to make a distinction on whether an individual is born evil or if evil and malicious characters are derived from the environment in which that individual in question grows in and the experiences that environment exposes him or her to. This paper, therefore, delves into finding out how and how well Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein respond the question of nature versus nurture in aspects of existing personality traits compared to acquired traits.
The creature’s argument that had someone properly guided him then; he would not have become so wretched is valid to the extent to the roles played by a child’s first caregiver. DiLalla, Lisabeth, and Sufna. (58) while addressing a child’s primary cognitive behaviors informs the readers that a child’s perception and impression of acceptance, companion and love depends on the caregiver’s response to providing assistance when the child needs it. Through Shelley’s description of Frankenstein actions after being successful in creating the creature and giving it life, he ought to have known that much more responsibilities were expected of him. Unfortunately, he ran away from his responsibilities after he had toiled days and nights for approximated period of two years to realize his dream. For example, when recalls by saying “now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room,” (56).
In real life situation, Frankenstein can be compared to a parent who sires a child and expects it to grow on its own. The lack of fundamental parental guidance creates an opportunity for a child to develop bad traits and behaviors that could otherwise be avoided with proper guidance. On the other hand, Frankenstein is wrong arguing that the creature was evil, to begin with, and found no purpose in teaching him. By abandoning the creature to learn on its own, the bad actions such revenge is what it learned as best actions. The creature says, “I poor, helpless, miserable wretch; I knew, and could distinguish nothing; but, feeling pain invaded me on all sides, I sat down and wept,” (118).
Comparatively, similar debates regarding effects of nature versus nurture currently prevail in the education sector. In particular, schools are debating on the issue of bullying and are interested in establishing the intricacies associated with it. Educational professionals including teachers, professors, and instructors would love to know whether the menace of bullying is due to nature or nurture related influences. The major question that the professionals ask is whether the student’s who bully others do so due to being predisposed to such aggressive behavior genetically or whether they acquire it through the learning process in the education systems. Scientific findings reveal that many factors are attributed to bullying. According to Pinker while explaining that no individual is a blank slate, he states that “All behavior is the product of an inextricable interaction between heredity and environment during development, so the answer to all nature-nurture questions is ‘sum’ of each,” (6).
The students who bully others by way of manipulating their fellows physically or cause them psychological emotions by issuing threats are realized to employ aggressive actions and provocative words to serve their interests. In this view, studies have established testosterone and cortical as the two hormones that could be possibly causing the observed aggressive actions. Thus, nature is inferred to be responsible for initiating bullying traits on the affected students. Additionally, the same studies showed that aggressive behaviors related to the hormone testosterone are solely dependent on the quality of parent-child interactions and not the assumed direct connection between the hormone and one’s behavior (Hazler, JoLynn, and Douglas 31). On the other hand, nurture takes prevalence over nature since nature does not exempt the students who bully others and exempt them from causing harm to others. When deliberating on the influence of nature versus nurture in regards to violent behaviors, Reif et al., notes that individual genetics can only “convey a statistical predisposition toward a certain behavior,” (2381). Thus, it does not nature does not absolve undesired behaviors and actions.
In summary, Shelley manages to distinguish the roles of nature and nurture in shaping up personality traits. Imperative to note from the information presented in the paper is that while nature plays the internal role of shaping up the character of a person, nurture is the external factor which models the individual to acquire personalities and behaviors that enhance survival and fulfillment of personal interests in the environment of existence. Therefore, both nature and nurture integrative shapes the personality and behavior of an individual. However, nurture takes precedence since it is inclusive of either the desired or undesired outcomes that nature might present.
DiLalla, Lisabeth Fisher, and Sufna Gheyara John. “Genetic and behavioral influences on received aggression during observed play among unfamiliar preschool-aged peers.” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 60.2 (2014): 168-192.
Hazler, Richard J., JoLynn V. Carney, and Douglas A. Granger. “Integrating biological measures into the study of bullying.” Journal of Counseling & Development 84.3 (2006): 298-307.
Pinker, Steven. “Why nature & nurture won’t go away.” Daedalus 133.4 (2004): 5-17.
Reif, Andreas, et al. “Nature and nurture predispose to violent behavior: serotonergic genes and adverse childhood environment.” Neuropsychopharmacology 32.11 (2007): 2375.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009. Print.