The Literary perspective on: Nature versus Nurture

This is the literary perspective on the debate on Nature versus nurture, meaning I have looked at some characters in a few novels that are all very famous as children’s books. To show how literature, more specifically the children’s novels, has anything to do with the debate concerning “nature versus nurture”.  I have found two books that are relevant. The books are “The secret Garden” By Frances Hodgson Burnett, and “Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone” by J.K Rowling. In these two books the protagonist is a child, who goes through great changes. I think the best way to imagine or see whether it is nature or nurture that rules a certain situation is too assess change in someone’s life. For instance, in “the secret garden” we meet Mary Lennox, a little English girl that grew up in India with little or no physical contact with her biological parents, she is raised by a nanny whom she despises, and she has not learned respect for others, or how to be a little girl that should play silly games and laugh loudly and make too much noise in the house.
Lennox grows up in India feeling miserable and ill. She is very early in the book sent too England because of her parents death by cholera.

In England she was to be taken care of by a distant Uncle and his servants. She even discovers another mysterious relative after a great deal of time spent chasing ghosts in the halls. In the book Lennox becomes gradually a happier and better adjusted child the more time she spends in England and playing outside and spending time with adults and other children.
This suggests that the change of her physical environment from hot and humid India to cold and rainy England was more satisfactory to her English nature. Naturally one cannot assume nor prove with physical evidence that Mary responded better to her new environment because she was in truth an English girl by birth; however it seems astounding that it should be mere exercise that fixed her personality issues.  The next book I wish to suggest is relevant is the first book of the Harry Potter series,
“Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone”.  In this very imaginative fantasy novel we meet a boy that lives with a miserable man of an uncle and a mean aunt and a big bully for a cousin. Harry is immediately portrayed as pathetic underdog living in a bad environment knowing little or nothing of the nature of his being. Harry Potter seems almost like a Norwegian “Factory-child” from the mid 1800’s, starved, overworked and struggling with health issues due to malnutrition. Then one day, the character Hagrid shows up and reveals Harry’s true nature to himself, that Harry is a wizard and belongs in an entirely different environment than he is currently in. The boy is then swooped away to Hogwarts into the wizardry world, where Harry learns of his own history, and discovers what is already in his nature. Harry found his home and where he belonged socially even though he had never had parents or relatives to teach him these ways of wizardry life, in despite of that he was placed where he would be socially accepted and therefore he flourished. In this book one can see that Harry’s nature needed the right nurture and that the nurture also had to fit the nature in order for his life in general to have any quality. I conclude this little analysis of three great books within the realm of children literature with this, that judged from the fictional characters’ one can conclude that nature cannot function without the right nurture and vice versa, although this must vary enormously between all the worlds individuals I dare say that perhaps everyone is born with a certain identity or perhaps a knowledge of where one will best thrive as a human being.

Av: Mari Sørlie Pettersen


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