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,
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Indeed, if his education was not so unrestricted he would not have read ‘books which encouraged, not an awareness of human folly and injustice, but rather a hubristic desire for human omnipotence, for the gaining of the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life.’4 Hence, Victor’s education influenced him to pursue power and knowledge which undeniably shaped his personality. Victor’s resulting megalomania is highlighted in his creation of the Frankenstein creature, he states: ‘I had worked…for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body…I had desired it with ardour that far exceeded moderation.’5 The adjective ‘ardour’ indicates the extent of Victor’s craving for power which is reinforced by ‘exceeded moderation’. This is explicitly connected to his objective based education and therefore reinforces the notion that the environment is the significant factor which shapes Victor’s personality.
Frankenstein on the other hand is characterised as possessing no natural disposition, as if he is a blank slate. This is indicated by Frankenstein who asserts ‘no distinct ideas occupied my mind; all was confused. I felt the light, and hunger, and thirst and darkness.’6 At this point Frankenstein merely possesses basic instinctive behaviours and no natural disposition. The syntax which contains repetition of the conjunctive ‘and’