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Nature And Nurture In Frankenstein And Rappaccini's Daughter

2549 words - 10 pages

Nature and Nurture in Frankenstein and Rappaccini's Daughter        

    One of the most popular disputes in the history of philosophy regards whether nurture of a human being plays a more important role in the formation of its character than the genetic heritage that it bears. As a natural result, the dispute echoes in many literary works, not always directly, but sometimes taking the form of a pretext or a motif in a larger context. Such examples are "Frankenstein" by Marry Shelley and "Rappaccini's Daughter", by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Their authors relate the evolution of at least two characters, the monster and Beatrice, throughout both writings, with the way those characters were nurtured. Both authors use innocence as a common starting point for the evolution of these characters.


The monster is the creation of Victor Frankenstein, a highly educated scientist. It is the result of a long time search for the miracle of life; the result of this search is not a human being, but merely a horrid-looking humanoid imitation of a man. The monster is not responsible for his hideous physical appearance; yet, he will have to face the consequences of his creator's lack of design capabilities. The reader is presented with the steps of the monster's modeling and creation. Victor Frankenstein devotes his entire attention and energy into this process, until the moment when the monster is brought to life. At this point, Victor recognizes the horrid looks of the newborn life form and in a moment of panic, abandons his creation. This is a turning point for both characters; the shock is too much for both to handle. The monster escapes and becomes a runaway child, seemingly helpless to communicate with other human beings due to the lack of any communication skills.


In opposition, Beatrice's childhood is rather blurry to the reader; the author does not provide any information about her early years. Certain rumors spread into town characterize her as a highly educated young woman. We find evidence in that sense from Doctor Baglioni, another character in the story: "Rappaccini is said to have instructed her deeply in his science, and that, young and beautiful as fame reports her, she is already qualified to fill a professor's chair"(Hawthorne 878). But the truth is that, as she confesses later in the story, she knows nothing about the science of botany that her father is involved in; actually, she is only familiar with the flower's "hues and perfumes"( Hawthorne 883). She practically knows as much as a child of small age would; her education also lacks any form of interaction experience with the society. Hawthorne presents her father, Doctor Rappaccini, as her only companion of life. Her reason for isolation is related to her father's overprotective attitude towards his only child. Rappaccini raises her in the neighborhood of poisonous flowers, making her immune to them, but also transforming her into a source of poison. Beatrice is aware...

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