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Nature vs. Nurture in Oliver Twist Essay

Out of all the questions that anyone may have for the novel, Oliver Twist, one of the more common questions that can occur is; “What determines a person’s personality, decisions, actions, etc. Is nature to blame? Or is it nurture’s fault?” Seeing as though Oliver was orphaned at birth and never had a real mother or siblings to look up to, this essay will focus on the nurture section of the question. Nurture, by definition, is the value of experiences, cultural influences, and learned actions/reactions in a growing offspring’s life. Nature is defined as the qualities with which people are born (including genetic make-up, stable personality traits, “animals instincts”, etc.) Oliver had many bad influences to decide that it may have been nature that had affected him the most in this situation. In all cases, the nature vs. nurture debate is one and the same.

Caring for a child most assiduously is very important, according to the definition of nurture, and within the story of Oliver Twist, the child never seemed to receive proper nurturing from any of the parochial people or thieves that he had accompanied. Dickens writes the character of Oliver in a way that seems to cement his stance in nature’s court; that Oliver appears to be an innately good person. His experiences in the workhouse, the abuse he has to endure from Mr. Bumble and other characters, and his exposure to a life of crime does not make Oliver turn from good to bad. However, to assume that Dickens supports the idea that only nurture is responsible for determining a person’s personality would be incorrect. In fact, other characters within the novel, assert that they are products of their environments.

This means that characters such as Nancy, the Artful Dodger, and others have been molded by their experiences, which clearly supports nurture’s side of the debate. From a scientific point of view, most psychologists agree that neither nature nor nurture can be held completely responsible for the shaping of a person’s personality. When faced with the nature vs. nurture debate in real situations, it is typically assumed that personality can be attributed partly to nature and partly to nurture. At first glance many of Dickens’s characters appear to favor either nature or nurture, but further investigation shows that each character embodies traits that can be attributed to both.

In Oliver Twist, Dickens draws the attention to numerous issues. For example, there is a very clear theme of disapproval of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act (and its accompanying effects) throughout then novel. And while most of the other issues that Dickens includes in his writing are societal, he does bring up an interesting debate that has psychological roots. Although Oliver is surrounded by horrible situations, Dickens still had a tone of hope underscoring it all. At points, there were questions if that was because the reader knew what would happen in the end. But Dickens intended Oliver Twist to be somewhat humorous.

For example, by illustrating the dichotomy of the wealthy, fat parish leaders feasting while orphaned workhouse children starve on gruel. In conclusion, both sides to the debate of whether or not Oliver was most affected by nature or nurture remains to the opinion of the reader. Of course there may be certain circumstances as to which side the reader may favor and Dickens had probably pursued that route, intending for the reader to decide Oliver’s fate. The nature vs. nurture argument pertains to anyone who wishes for a good debate in their reading selections of Charles Dickens.


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