In Frankenstein the theme of the brutality in human nature is presented in the eponymous character, with an ‘eager desire to learn’ and an obsessive nature, which obstructs his personal relationships and displaces his sense of humanity. This obsession is heightened by the idea of creating life, which would give Victor the power of a deity and responsibility of a father. His sanity is hindered by his growing fascination with the ‘metaphysical’ alienating himself from his loved ones, leading to the abandonment his creation a ‘hideous wretch’ that defies Victor’s expectations. The tragic result of the monsters abandonment causes the reader to consider an age-old question: “can one be born evil”? Victor’s obsession stems from his hobbies, which occupy his time so significantly he is never truly allowed a normal childhood and causes him to alienate himself from his family. Cornelius Agrippa, writer, theologian and magician, influenced young Frankenstein enormously. Agrippa’s main idea was the transformation of everyday metals into precious gold, but Frankenstein twisted this theory to turning corpses into new life. When his father tells him it’s ‘sad trash’ he continues pursuing these self-indulgent ideas. However he holds his father accountable for the distress these pursuits cause in later life, rather than face the responsibility of his own actions. Eva has a similarly self-indulgent passion to travel and craves the extraordinary. The quote ‘happiness isn’t dull it just doesn’t tell well’, displays this ambiguous attitude towards life. Society’s assumption of ‘maternal instinct’ could influence a reader to assume Eva may at least anticipate feelings of attachment to the child. Eva’s contorted feelings towards Kevin questions the role of ‘nature’ in motherhood and the assumption that all mothers will love their child. It’s this ideal of a ‘maternal instinct’ that creates an inner conflict: as this allows Eva not to question her behavior towards her son, but instead blame the innate ‘badness’ of Kevin for their detachment and the brutality that punctuates their relationship. This conflict between nature and nurture dominates Eva throughout the book, with Eva’s contrary attitude towards motherhood heightening because of her guilt following ‘Thursday’. In fact she now states she would give anything for a ‘boring existence’; happiness may be dull after all or, at least, misery may be harder to take for granted. The debate about ‘Nature versus Nurture’ plays a substantial role in both novels. Victor’s childhood was idyllic and he was exposed to the philanthropic nature of his parents. It would be expected that Victor’s personality would reflect his parents’ generous nature, but when faced with his ‘hideous’ creation he acts with harsh judgment. Philosopher John Locke suggested that humanity is neither good nor bad but a ‘tabula rasa’ - something we write on based on our experiences. In other words, we are what we learn. Behavioural psychologists, like Skinner, also believe that our personalities are learned through our childhood, shaped by rewards and punishments from our parents.
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Victor’s self-taught fascination shapes his character, which supports this view that it is what we learn and not what is in-built. The fact the monster has no name and is referred to as ‘the creature’ or ‘devil’ shows Victor’s violent detachment from his ‘protégé. It is not surprising then that Frankenstein reproduces that brutality. In contrast, Elizabeth is adored, predominantly because of her angelic appearance. Victor’s mother, in caring for her ill child, sacrifices herself this directly juxtaposes with Victor’s treatment of his ‘offspring’. Could this show us that Victor was jealous of the attention his ‘sister’