The concept ‘nature vs. nurture’ refers to the debate surrounding the influence of genetic factors and the environment in determining personality. It still remains contentious as to whether our personality is primarily determined by inherent genetics (biological approach) or by environmental conditioning (behaviourist approach). Shelley effectively embodies this life-long debate through the characterisation of Victor Frankenstein and the Frankenstein creature. She highlights the significance of the environment in creating personality as indicated by the influence of Victor’s home education and the creature’s character development. This essay shall hence illustrate that Frankenstein does not only engage with the nature vs. nurture debate, but significantly supports the behaviourist stance. The prominence of the behaviourist approach in Frankenstein is made obvious in the first chapter. Victor Frankenstein nostalgically describes his warm and supportive father who ‘had devoted himself to the education of his children’1 from early on in Victor’s life. Victor enhances the significance of behaviourism as he states that ‘no creature could have more tender parents than mine’2 which highlights the loving and compassionate environment that Victor was brought up in. This explicitly presents elements of the behaviourist approach which attributes Victor’s education to his familial environment. Furthermore, his parents love is presented as being the force that can significantly shape his future. Victor states that he was ‘their child, the innocent and helpless creature bestowed on them by heaven, whom to bring up to good, and whose future…was in their hands to direct to happiness or misery.’ Here Victor unequivocally implores that his future was determined by how his parents nurtured him; their influence could either lead him to ‘happiness or misery’. The power of nurture is hence exhibited by Victor in these passages; it is the deterministic force which shapes his...
Bibliography: Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, (Oxford: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, 2008)
Mellor, Anne K. Making a Monster. In: Mary Shelley 's Frankenstein, ed. Harold Bloom, (Chelsea House, New York, 2007)
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