AP Literature and Composition
January 22, 2013
Nature vs. Nurture in Oliver Twist
Out of all the questions that anyone may have for the novel, Oliver Twist, one of the more common questions that can occur is; “What determines a person’s personality, decisions, actions, etc. Is nature to blame? Or is it nurture’s fault?” Seeing as though Oliver was orphaned at birth and never had a real mother or siblings to look up to, this essay will focus on the nurture section of the question. Nurture, by definition, is the value of experiences, cultural influences, and learned actions/reactions in a growing offspring’s life. Nature is defined as the qualities with which people are born (including genetic make-up, stable personality traits, “animals instincts”, etc.) Oliver had many bad influences to decide that it may have been nature that had affected him the most in this situation. In all cases, the nature vs. nurture debate is one and the same. Caring for a child most assiduously is very important, according to the definition of nurture, and within the story of Oliver Twist, the child never seemed to receive proper nurturing from any of the parochial people or thieves that he had accompanied. Dickens writes the character of Oliver in a way that seems to cement his stance in nature’s court; that Oliver appears to be an innately good person. His experiences in the workhouse, the abuse he has to endure from Mr. Bumble and other characters, and his exposure to a life of crime does not make Oliver turn from good to bad. However, to assume that Dickens supports the idea that only nurture is responsible for determining a person’s personality would be incorrect. In fact, other characters within the novel, assert that they are products of their environments. This means that characters such as Nancy, the Artful Dodger, and others have been molded by their experiences, which clearly supports nurture’s side of the debate. From a scientific point of...