Raphael Porras Tabula Rasa Theory: Frankenstein’s Creature The nature versus nurture debate has been an ongoing issue in Psychology. It centres on whether a person’s behaviour is a product of his or her genes or the person’s environment and surroundings. Some well-known thinkers such as Plato and Descartes proposed that certain things are inherited and innate or that they simply occur naturally regardless of human influences. On the other hand, other philosophers such as John Locke believed in what is known as the tabula rasa.
It is a theory which suggests the human mind begins as a “white paper void of all characters without any ideas,” (Gerrig et al. 51-57). This theory is what Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein revolves on as one researcher suggests that this notion of tabula rasa is what Shelley’s account of the Creature’s development seems to hold (Higgins 61). By considering this concept, where all humans start as a “blank slate,” as reflected in the character development of the Creature and narrative style being used in the story, one can see that the person’s environment plays a big role in moulding a person’s attitude and behaviour.
This is noteworthy because the creature started his life as an innocent and naive person. He only became vicious and malevolent after going through harsh treatments of society. Although the Creature didn’t go through childhood, he began his life like a child. He had no knowledge or idea of how the world works. “I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch; I knew and could distinguish nothing,” he said (Shelley 129). Higgins suggests that it is significant to know that the Creature did not describe any feelings of loneliness in his early stages of life; this only begins when he encounters the De Lacey family (63).
Although he had been already treated ill by people prior to meeting them, the creature have not mentioned how he felt, whether he was upset about it or not, after all, he didn’t know how to respond to any kind stimuli tossed at him. Through day to day observation of the De Lacey family, he learned various things, from reading and writing to human history and relationships. Of all the stuff he learned, there is one important aspect of life that affected him the most and that is the essence of having a family. He only started to have feelings of compassion and sympathy because of them. I saw no cause for [De Lacey’s] unhappiness; but I was deeply affected by it,” the Creature says (Shelley 136). The Creature became so attached to the family that when “they were unhappy, [he] felt depressed; when they rejoiced, [he] sympathized in their joys” (Shelley 138). To be accepted by them was a precarious moment for him but, unfortunately, he got rejected by the family whom he cared and loved. Because of this he flees to the woods, and in turn, he saves a girl who almost got drowned. Instead of being called a savior for his heroic act, he rather got fired and shot that almost killed him.
All these catastrophic moments of rejection by mankind add up to his feelings of aversion and abhorrence. “Inflamed by pain, [he] vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind” (Shelley 166). By killing Victor’s brother, William, and several of Victor’s beloved ones, he then turns into a vicious monster as what society brands him to be right from the start. This gradual development of the Creature, from an innocent human being to an atrocious monster, perhaps rests its claim on being a good foundation to the tabula rasa theory.
Another functional way that Mary Shelley uses in the novel is her application of the first person narrative of the Creature. It is effective as it enables the readers to be more involved of the activities and engagements of the monster. Although he is not the protagonist of the story, this way of narration keeps the readers close to the action and makes them understand more the contemplations and cogitations of the Creature. This makes the readers feel as if they were part of a jury of a case where the monster is the one being prosecuted, trying to defend himself by relating his side of the story.
Higgins suggests that the Creature’s narrative form has an impact on his confessional writings and rhetoric alienation (62). Through this, one can see the transformation of the monster from being like a child into becoming a cold blooded murderer. Through her portrayal of the development of the Creature and her unique style of narration, Shelley is able to picture to the reader the reality that society plays an important role in wielding a person’s attitude and behavior. Percy Shelley proposes that if you treat a person ill, he will become wicked; and if you requite affection with scorn, you impose upon him irresistible obligations – alevolence and selfishness (qtd. in Veeder 226). This, feasibly, holds true to the modern society today for no one is born a killer unless he or she is pushed to kill someone through traumatic and disastrous life events and experiences. Works Cited Gerrig, Richard, et al. Psychology and Life. 2nd ed. Toronto: Pearson Canada, 2012. Print Higgins, David. Frankenstein: Character Studies. Cornwall: MPG Books Ltd, 2008. Print. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Eds. D. L. Macdonald, and Kathleen Scherf. Buffalo: Broadview P, 1999. Print. Veeder, William. Mary Shelley & Frankenstein. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986. Print.
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