Carter Liou


Nature vs Nurture.  

The debate over nature versus nurture is a prevalent theme in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  In the novel the reader is exposed to the atrocities that are committed by Victor Frankenstein’s creature. The question then is: Was it in the nature of the monster to be malicious or rather was it the environment that caused it to commit the heinous acts that it did?  In actuality, both the monster’s nature and the way society reacted to its existence can be held responsible for the murders that arise in the novel.

While Victor’s creation takes the form of a grotesque-like creature, the reader discovers, that despite its deformed appearance, the being possesses kindness, intellect and above all a curiosity concerning the society that surrounds it.  Sadly, these desirable qualities of the creature begin to fade as it is pushed further into isolation first by Victor and then by the people it encounters.  In some sense, the concept of nature and nurture are directly related when it comes to Frankenstein’s monster.  Its horrid appearance – its nature or natural state of being – has extensive influence over the way that both Victor and society treat the creature.  This can be seen in the fifth chapter when Victor flees from his house upon running into the monster, in the fifth-teeth chapter when the monster is driven away by Felix, and in the sixteenth chapter when it saves a drowning girl but is later shot at when a man believes that it is the accomplice.  All three of these instances fuel the monster’s hatred for mankind and ultimately lead him to kill his first victim, Victor’s brother.  In this way, although it is the mistreatment and isolation the creature experiences, that drives it to kill, it is its physical appearance that initially drives such mistreatment and isolation.  

Despite its monsteresque appearance, the reader soon understands, that at heart the creature is not a monster and that its actions reflect the suffering that it has been forced to undergo.  The concept of monsters is obviously a major theme in the novel as the storyline follows the life and actions of Frankenstein’s creature.  The question then remains:  If the creature is not the monster in the story, who is?  A strong argument can be made for its creator, Victor Frankenstein.  Although Victor is not 8 feet tall, or constructed from stolen body parts, he can be seen as the monster due to his passion in the pursuit of dangerous knowledge.  The creation of Frankenstein’s creature can be seen as surpassing the natural human limits of science, and is what ultimately sparks his alienation from his friends and family.  Furthermore, Victor’s hatred and endless obsession with destroying his own creation furthers his unnatural and monsteresque personality given that parents are programmed to protect and care for their children.  All in all, the novel shows the reader how monsters can come in all shapes and forms and fortifies the idea of the consequences of judging a book solely off of its cover.