Psychologists have long debated the nature versus nurture issue in the shaping of our identities. Are we shaped by our biology or by our environment? This psychological debate is explored in Mary Shelly’s gothic novel, Frankenstein. The novel poses a simple question: Was Frankenstein’s monster inherently an evil creature, or was he made into a killer because of his environment? Shelly’s characterization of Frankenstein’s monster shows that the creature began as a clean slate, but was shaped into a monster by his experiences and isolation.
In accordance with John Locke’s Blank Slate Theory, or tabula rasa, Frankenstein’s monster was born with no knowledge. When he first came into existence, the creature had no previous life experiences and therefore could have no ideas. The creature said himself, "no distinct ideas occupied my mind" (Shelley 88). Unbiased, the creature approached new situations naively and innocently, as any young child would. For instance, when he first discovered fire, he had no idea that touching the burning embers would cause pain. It was a learning experience, but his enthusiasm and fascination emanated like that of a young child, despite his immense stature and strength. When he wandered into a man’s hut, he clearly had no intention to hurt him. If the creature were inherently evil and bloodthirsty, he would have gone after the man. Initial interactions with humans, though they were not positive, left the creature with no emotional distress, as he was too innocent to understand emotion. It was not until the creatures met the DeLacey family did he learn what emotion meant.
The DeLacey family was the creature’s first nurturer, though they were completely unaware of it. They had a profound impact on the creature’s development because their interactions led to his understanding of emotion and human relationships. When the creature realized that taking the food from the family was hurting them, he stopped. He understood that...
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