Nature vs Nurture – Frankenstein Response

    ∗this post isn’t exactly an AP rhetorical analysis essay, but it is structured similar to one


     As the age-old debate of nature vs nurture continuously resurfaces, it seems only appropriate to address its influence on a case by case basis; that is, the answer to this question varies from one literary text to another. To get a more tangible understanding of this concept, ‘Frankenstein’ will be the text used for analysis. Through Mary Shelley’s diction choices as well as characterization of the monster, it makes it easier to look at the effects of both nature and nurture on his identity.

      By using a lens of diction, it becomes easier to look at how the monster is perceived and to what extent his appearance defines him, which suggests the ‘nature’ aspect of this argument. The effect of Mary Shelley’s diction in the first part of the novel, when the monster had initially been created, made the audience feel horrified and disgusted, which is used to emphasize how the monster’s appearance is largely what defines him. Due to no fault of his own, the monster is rendered helpless and ‘nature’ is the dominating factor which dictates who he is and what he is to become. Victor himself even considered his own creation to be an ‘object’ – an object who, because of his natural deformities, did not have a right to live the same life as any other human. The reader is constantly reminded of the abhorred figure of the monster by either Frankenstein or another character. Mary Shelley includes the word ‘countenance’ 48 times and ‘creature’ 69 times to validate this assertion. It is one thing to have the world point at a person’s faults but for one’s creator to comment on their appearance in such a way and abandon them would leave them quite devastated and desolate. Looking back at the topic of discussion, since appearances are a huge motif, it essentially is what defines the monster and who he is to become, which shows how influential one’s nature can be in the creation of their identity. 

      Furthermore, by delving into the actual characterization of the monster, it can be seen that he is subject to a lot of hate, once again proving the effect one’s nature has on their identity. However, the reader is constantly left wondering what the monster himself is like – to what extent could the monster have changed if he was nurtured. Now, since Frankenstein never gives the monster a chance to have a normal childhood, it is necessary to characterize the monster to see if he could have been nurtured into something beautiful. Towards the middle of the novel with the monster’s encounter with the De Lacey family, the creature describes feeling ‘sensations of a peculiar and overpowering nature’. This was the feeling of love, which shows how emotionally similar the monster is to a human. Furthermore, this shows how ‘nurture’ could have had a larger influence than ‘nature’ on the monster if Frankenstein had properly raised him. Victor never gave the monster a chance to feel the effects of being nurtured, and looking at the inherently innocent traits of the monster proves that all he needs is a mentor to steer him on the right path – all he needs is a parent who will stick by his side. So even if all of society points out his flaws, it won’t make a difference because the one person whose opinion he genuinely cares about is there, supporting him. The idea of ‘nurture’ can be a powerful force if there is a parental figure who is willing to mold the child into something beautiful.

      Both nature and nurture are essential in the formation of one’s identity. In ‘Frankenstein’, Mary Shelley uses both diction and characterization of the monster to exemplify how much of a role nature plays when an individual is neglected a parental figure to guide them through life. However, if this same individual has someone who cares for and raises them, ‘nurture’ will be a stronger force than ‘nature’ in the creation of their identity because now there is a sense of direction in his/her life.


Featured Image

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

7 thoughts on “Nature vs Nurture – Frankenstein Response

  1. Dear Abhay,
    Thank you for this blog post. Ever since we’ve started Frankenstein, my brain has kind of been swamped with these complex ideas and long explanations of things, and to read a piece of writing that was just simple and straight to the point was so refreshing. It feels amazing to actually be able read and understand what is actually going on, without having to go back
    and reread lines. Your writing also has this really calm tone that really makes, me as a reader, feel comfortable, and it sets the mood for the entire piece of writing. There really wasn’t anything that I would consider problematic or wrong in your writing, so kudos to you. I would say, however, that I was kind of waiting for a really deep insight, which you got close to at times. It always fell a little short, however, and that might be because it is such a common topic, and because we actually discussed this in class (for me, it was kind of like reading a book that I already knew the ending too, which isn’t a bad thing, it just weakened the strength of the writing in a way). Overall, I think this was a really nice read, and I am grateful for the refresher on this topic. I’ll probably be reading over this again before exams to help study. Can’t wait to read more soon.

    Sincerely, Simran

    1. Simran,

      Here is my late reply. I am glad that the essay was a good refresher for you when it came to the actual text as I was really hoping that people would adopt the approach of using the ‘word count game’ and integrating it into more professional pieces. I see what you mean about looking at the deeper insights in this piece as I was just trying to keep it very base-level knowledge for the purpose of simplicity, but I often forget that insight doesn’t require me to make my essay more ambiguous.


  2. Abhay,

    Your writing keeps me in check. When I read one of your pieces, I remember that “prosing about” does not a good argument make, and that the real significance comes from your analysis. This piece is a perfect example of just that. Instead of wasting time in description, you made your point clearly and efficiently, while still leaving room for nuance and not reducing anything down to inaccurate binaries. It was incredibly clean, and I’m definitely going to use this as a lesson in brevity when I polish my rambling critical this weekend.

    For future reference, I would recommend including the nurture concept a bit earlier on in the essay. It felt like you were making a straight nature argument, and nurture’s late appearance in the second paragraph made it feel like a bit of an afterthought.

    As a closing thought, I would love to be argumentative (as I so often am) and counter one of your points. You said in your first paragraph that the monster’s appearance is what dictates who he becomes, and thus that nature influences him. However, he was born that ugly, and did not become malicious until he interacted with others. For this reason, I believe that it was the nurturing of others (or rather the lack of it) that shaped the monster into what he became. I believe he was not born evil; he became evil due to his surroundings. I’m not sure if this is totally coherent or if the sleep deprivation is in the driver’s seat, but I wanted to bring up this thought and perhaps have a discussion on this age-old question of psychology.


    1. Maria,

      Thank you for this comment, and I’m glad that you were able to take something from my writing as I am constantly taking stuff from yours. I see your point on bringing in the idea of ‘nurture’ a bit earlier on; the only problem for me was that I found it difficult to get a lot of evidence for that aspect of the argument since Victor hadn’t properly raised his creation. Furthermore, as for your argument, I personally do believe that being nurtured by others – or being deprived of it – is what shapes us; however, if we were to look at the root of the monsters’ identity, then indirectly it is his abhorred appearance which dictates who he becomes as his external characteristics are what made Victor feel repulsed by him and neglect him as a child. If the monster had a beautiful countenance, then I would argue that Victor would have loved him and nurtured him, changing the outcome of his fate. His appearance is what initially defines him and inhibits his ability to actually be nurtured.


      1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen nature defined the way you define it, and it definitely adds an interesting layer to this debate. Thanks for indulging my debate club brain!

  3. Dearest Abhay,

    Oh where the years have gone — oh where has the old Abhay gone. I know he has gone nowhere but has developed into someone who can make ideas make sense to not only them but others as well! Your growth as a writer and thinker is the exact opposite of the Monster as you started from a good place and got even better! I am glad you got to use our geeky word count game in your piece as not only does specific diction matter but the frequency counts for a lot; I am glad you did this approach because you utilized a source we don’t get in an actual AP exam but the relevance still exists and you exemplified that well. Diction and direct characterization are big parts of a novel and you picked points that went with the topic well.

    My suggestion is similar to Maria’s because I felt myself waiting for some nurture diction — which I feel you could’ve brought up in regards to the De Lacey family because you could argue that they did play a role in nurturing him (both positively and negatively). I think cyclical is the way I believe nature and nurture are connected in Frankenstein because nature is the cause of his rejection but through nurturing he received indirectly from the De Lacey family he gets different ideas, but again his nature prevents his “naturing” to come to fruition completely — thus, he is willing to accept his nature more. Overall, I think I am trying to say that nature affects how one is nurtured and even how they choose to get nurtured (Monster hiding recognizing his appearance is not very liked) — both important ultimately. This is also a sleepy insight so I apologize if it didn’t make sense.

    Great work Abhay! You managed a piece on nurture and nature more succinctly than I ever could because you are much more steadfast in your ideas than I am — once I think of something contradicting what I am writing, I abandon it. Therefore, I respect this approach and respect the AP mind training months before the exam!


  4. Nimrat,

    Here is my late reply. I’m glad to know that you liked how I stole the idea of the word count game as it can actually be really useful when bringing in evidence to support an argument for a literary text. I also agree that I should’ve worked more ‘nurture’ diction into my essay as it would’ve helped to strengthen my point and as for your perspective, I totally support how you see nature and nurture as cyclical in the way they influence an individual as they both do hold equal weight.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *