We begin our understanding of nature vs. nurture by analyzing Rousseau's philosophy of natural man. According to Rousseau's claim, the Creature aligns to a "natural man" because he has a balanced set of defects and virtues. This "natural man" may begin lacking the ability to speak and reason, but is stronger and survives unbelievable circumstances, as the Creature did in surviving the unforgiving societal and environmental challenges he faced. In contrast, the average human being may have the ability to speak and reason, but placed in the same challenging situations would not survive. Rousseau's theory would also point to the Creature's independence and natural sense of pity, a trait that he is not afforded by society. Ultimately, students will understand the Creature's monstrosity is in part a social construction, not an innate part of him but placed upon him by society without his choice. 25 The Creature explains his behavior by stating, "My vices are the children of forced solitude that I abhor; and my virtues will necessarily arise when I live in communion with an equal." 26 Yet, when does man (or creature) take responsibility for his actions? My students need to discuss this idea of accountability, and at what point does age and inexperience stop becoming an excuse for immoral behavior?
After completing the novel, students come back to where we began: Does nature or environment determine an individual's morality (or lack thereof)? What impact does prejudice, cruelty, and ostracism have on an individual? How can superficial markers prevent man from destroying civilization? How do we begin to empathize with this "other" being with a better understanding of multiple perspectives, rather than just one? Once again, students are brought back to the benefits of multiple narrators in order to get a balanced view of the novel. Even Walton's narrative is able to give the reader a more reliable sense of the Creature's nature. Students are asked to recall the fact that Walton does not immediately reject the Creature based on his first visual impression. This kind of delay may be due to the fact that Victor has already been exposed to the Creature via Victor's words. At Victor's deathbed, watching the Creature hover over the dead man, Walton is indeed disgusted, amazed that he had never seen such a grotesque figure as the Creature. Nevertheless, once Walton shuts his eyes, and is temporarily in the dark, he asks the Creature to stay, as an almost sympathetic offering to this maltreated figure. This kind of empathy and willingness to suspend assumptions is the same core purpose for the Unit Assessment that my students will complete: "Frankenstein's Archive of Letters".
Where Victor fails to fulfill his role as a parent, books are the only things that can fill the void and serve as the creature's guide into love, knowledge, and sorrow. The books the Creature discovers while hiding in the hovel behind the DeLacey's cottage serve as his "mother" and "father", nurturing him but also showing him the painful reality of love and sacrifice. While some of my students are familiar with their parent's lecture about the danger of temptations, the Creature gains this lesson from John Milton's . In terms of love and sacrifice, my students gain their insight from their parents' stories and warnings (or unfortunately what they glean from reality dating shows) while the Creature takes the lessons of love from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's . Lastly, the moral virtues and weaknesses of man may be revealed to my students by family members, friends, and role models, yet the Creature must settle for Plutarch's to instruct him in this area of leadership. These three condensed readings—Milton's , Goethe's and Plutarch's will be the basis for this jigsaw activity for my students. My students will not only identify the lessons the Creature learns from these texts, but will also stand in the actual role of Creature as they, like he, learn these concepts and literature for the first time.
Frankenstein is basically responsible for the genre of science fiction, has seared our collective cultural imagination, has inspired countless monster movies ('s among them), Halloween costumes, parodies, TV characters (think shows like and ), and achieved all-around legend status.