Frankenstein: Nature vs. Nurture

Was Frankenstein’s creature “born” a monster? Were his fun-filled murderous tendencies all inate? Or did he begin as a “blank slate,” but was never taught good manners by good ol’ Vic, like...y’know, not killing people. Shmoop it up and watch the video to learn more!

AuthorShelley - Mary Shelley
LiteratureFrankenstein
ThemesAppearances
Compassion and Forgiveness
Exploration
Family
Fate and Free Will
Language and Communication
Lies and Deceit
Life, Consciousness, and Existence
Revenge
Sacrifice
Science
Secrecy

Transcript

00:18

You know, you've probably heard this being talked about

00:21

in contemporary society.

00:22

The question is - Are we born as a blank slate

00:25

and anything that we are as humans

00:28

comes from nurture, meaning comes from

00:31

the environment we're brought up in,

00:32

the way we're treated, et cetera?

00:34

Or are we born with certain innate qualities?

00:37

You know, I might be born as kind of a bubbly kid.

00:41

Or am I born blank slate

00:43

and because my mom is bubbly,

00:45

so am I? That's kind of the question.

00:47

Nature versus nurture is used a lot

00:49

in super controversial topics

00:50

like homosexuality, where there are people who argue

00:54

that people are not born as homosexuals,

00:58

- but instead it is, you know, nurture and it's learned. Exactly. - Learned.

01:02

So that's the nature versus nurture.

01:04

How is the nature versus nurture debate brought up in Frankenstein?

01:10

Is the monster innately bad...

01:13

or is he bad because his creator abandoned him?

01:17

Those are the two options.

01:18

Either he was just born a monster,

01:21

or created a monster,

01:23

or he was totally a blank slate,

01:25

could've turned out to be the sweet guy next door,

01:28

but then Victor abandoned him

01:30

and so he became evil and started killing everyone.

01:33

The Enlightenment is when this theory of the blank slate -

01:36

the fancy term for that is "tabula rasa" -

01:38

came about with John Locke.

01:40

And the idea would be that yes,

01:44

Frankenstein's monster could have turned into

01:48

a normal guy and could've led a totally fine life.

01:51

But he was abandoned by his creator

01:54

and so the nurture made him not be that way.

01:57

Today you look at a toddler, you look at a kid --

01:59

We now know that tabula rasa's not a thing.

02:03

It's definitely not -- No one's born a blank slate.

02:06

But we still don't know how much.

02:08

And the modern parlance is that there's a genetic predisposition

02:12

to doing something some way.

02:14

Exactly. You know, we know that nobody's born blank slate.

02:16

We also know that, you know,

02:19

nurture is an issue and nature --

02:21

But we still haven't figured out how much.

02:23

And this is something that Mary Shelley was thinking about

02:25

and John Locke in the Enlightenment was thinking about

02:28

like hundreds of years ago and we still haven't figured it out.

02:32

What is the nature versus nurture debate?

02:35

How is the nature versus nurture conflict

02:38

presented in Frankenstein?

02:43

[ baby laughs and cries ]