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Nature Vs. Nurture In Mary Shelly's Frankenstein

1845 words - 7 pages

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a comparison of Nature vs. Nurture. Some critics argue that the Being is a monster from birth, while others claim that it cannot be limited to such a narrow category. The argument lies in the education of the Being. He is not a born killer, but is created by the rejection of society. The Being is born an innocent creature with ability to appreciate the sublime, but after learning about human emotions, he is transformed into a monster through the emotional rejection he receives from a human family.

The Being is ignorant about the world around him for the first half of his life. He does not harm or attack another human being. He moves and reacts in similar fashions to that of an infant, however, due his size and appearance humans, including the Being’s creator, run away in fear. The Creator exclaims to a friend:

His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped, and rushed down stairs. I took refuge in the courtyard belonging to the house which I inhabited; where I remained during the rest of the night… (Shelley 35)
The Being here shows actions that mimic those of an infant. The extended arms and the inarticulate sounds are the only way infants have to communicate. The wrinkled grin is the closest expression a newborn can get to a smile and the reaching arm is a gesture that says "I want to be held," not "I’m going to hurt you." The Creator does not see this, and instead of showing love and affection towards his child, he runs away to the other end of the house. His Creator’s response forces the Being to depart from the building and survive on its own. This reaction of fear is the main force behind the Being’s transition from innocent creature to monster.

The education the Being receives in the forest shows his ignorance and innocence. From the Being’s first moments on its own, it experiences cold and hunger. In this passage, the Being remembers his first encounter with cold:

Before I had quitted your apartment, on a sensation of cold, I had covered myself with some of your clothes; but these were insufficient to secure me from the dews of night, I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch; I knew, and could distinguish, nothing; but, feeling pain invade me on all sides, I sat down and wept. (68)
The Being tells about feeling helpless and cold, and how these sensations impacted him. His weeping is something a child would do in a similar situation. He feels alone and cold and his natural responses are to cry. He is uneducated about the outside world, having only been alive for a few days. The cold has a powerful effect on him; he has never known anything like it. The initial shock of being cold is enough to make him feel helpless and cry. But the sensation of being cold also leads to the sensation of heat. He finds a cloak and wraps himself in it to become...

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