Different novelists and philosophers have explored human nature for an extended period. Humans are perceived as beings with an ability to think and account for their actions. However, human characteristics are often shaped by individuals' environment, culture, or historical settings. Paradise Lost by John Milton and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein novels explore the curious nature of people. On the other hand, Utopia by Thomas More opposed executions of thieves in England claiming that the practice led to deaths of many naturally good people. Additionally, people's character can be judged based on their virtues as outlined by Plato's Republic. Plato reveals the nature of the human soul is comprised of three elements that include reason, will, and appetite that determine individual and societal harmony. Although human nature has a wide spectrum, the four books reveal people as being curious, fundamentally good, virtuous, and devoid of knowledge, which can only be impacted through enlightenment.
The Inquisitive Nature of Human Beings
Curiosity is one of the dominant traits of human beings, which allows them to explore different endeavors in life. Most ambitious people are often interested in manipulating various phenomena to achieve desired results. From the discovery of the wheel to the invention of artificial intelligence, curiosity has played an important role in the development of human beings in multiple fields. Nevertheless, while the trait is beneficial to society, it has always posed an imminent threat to the downfall of humanity. Since the creation stories to adverse global warming effects, people's curiosity has had many negative consequences that threaten to push them to extinction. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and John Milton's Paradise Lost are examples of novels that portray the fall and damnation of human beings due to unchecked curiosity and determination to explore what is beyond their reach to boost their ego.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Shelley published her work in the nineteenth century amidst rapid scientific discoveries and inquiries. Her novel reflected on the possible dangers of the uncontrolled desire of humans to explore the unknown through science. Today, the novel is relevant given the prevalent threats such as global warming and diseases, being caused by reckless scientific explorations. Various psychological approaches can be used to analyze the novel to reveal the motivation behind the curious nature of a person. The author portrays the protagonist as an individual who is over-indulged in his ambition to change the world by creating a better race. His curiosity leads to him creating a monster that becomes his downfall. Shelley uses the character of the monster and Frankenstein to elucidate vividly on the nature of human beings as being curious. The author also shows the positive and negative consequences of this trait, which concurs with Milton's approach.
Curiosity is a natural trait of human beings that motivates them to explore opportunities in the universe for various reasons such as self-gratification. Frankenstein devoted most of his time in search of knowledge, which led to his great discovery "After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter" (Shelley, 2018, 28). Motivated by the excitement from his discovery, his inquisitive nature leads him to another exploration to create a human being from dead body parts. He spends months working on his new project, revealing that without his inquiring nature, the novel's plot would have not been possible. Finally, he succeeded in giving life to monster, a being of his creation. Shelley notes that Frankenstein was to create a great species that "many happy and excellent natures would owe their existence to [him]" (Shelley, 2018, 48). Nevertheless, the creation did not turn out to be the perfect specimen that he wanted to create. The monster was made up of dead body parts, which were joined together to provide him with a grotesque look. Frankenstein rejected his "child," which made the monster seek revenge for the abandonment. From this case, it is evident that the human desire to explore the unknown does not always lead to the desired results.
Additionally, the novel reveals that overindulgence in curiosity can unleash misfortunes among people. For example, Frankenstein created a monster instead of an ideal species, which he desired. As a result, he resented his creation and abandoned it forcing it to seek attention and revenge by killing his loved ones. Noticeably, his curiosity led him to engage in a task, creation, which only God can perform. He failed to realize that only God is capable of creating people. Additionally, after realizing that he had probably made the worst decision of his life, Frankenstein declined to the monster's request to have a companion. Readers can identify that the "creator" was afraid of giving his creation the means to procreate in fear of producing more unwanted creatures (Shelley, 2018). If he had succeeded in making a perfect species similar or more advanced than the human race, he would have been impressed and created many others for self-glorification. The product of his curiosity led to the creation of a monster that led to the protagonist's damnation.
On the other hand, Shelley's novel reveals the monster, as a curious being. Although from a Freudian perspective, the monster did not have the opportunity to develop his ego and only imitated his creator's Id, he was curious to learn about the environment around him, which is similar to children's development. The monster also, helps Shelley develop the theme of curiosity via its determination to speak and develop emotions. The creature explains to Frankenstein how it was delighted to learn the art of speaking and discovering animals. It says, "I began also to observe, with greater accuracy, the forms that surrounded me, and to perceive the boundaries of the radiant roof of light which canopied me" (Shelley, 2018, 56). The creature spent most of his time observing how other families in the cottage lived in such a way that it admired to be loved; thus requesting Frankenstein to create it a companion.
Paradise Lost by John Milton
On the other hand, John Milton's book Paradise Lost reveals the curiosity of human beings to seek knowledge of that was kept away from them. In the book, Adam and Eve lived in paradise protected by angels but were forbidden eating from the tree of knowledge. Notably, Milton shows that Eve was aware that God had prevented them from eating the forbidden fruits, and they were happy with the regulation (Milton, 2004). However, as the poem progresses, Satan, who was possessed with defeating God, utilized his tricks to capitalize on Eve's inquisitive nature.
In Book IX, Satan returns to the Garden of Eden disguised as a serpent (Milton, 2004). He approaches Eve who had suggested to Adam that they work separately for the day, and is happy to find her working in the garden alone. Noticeably, Adam had warned Eve that she was more vulnerable while working alone, but Eve relentlessly claimed that she would be fine. The serpent played on Eve's curiosity to identify how a snake acquired speech. Satan informed Eve that he had learned to reason and speak by eating from the tree of knowledge (Milton, 2004). Although she knew that it was forbidden, Eve's curiosity led her to believe the serpent's lies and she ate the fruit. She became aware of her deeds and looked for Adam whom she gave the fruit. As a result, they both disobeyed God, leading to their punishment and removal from paradise.
From Milton's accounts of Adam and Eve in Book IX, one can identify that Eve's curiosity led to the damnation of the human race. The serpent or rather Satan knew that curiosity is a natural human desire, which if not controlled can lead to self-destruction. Therefore, Eve was curious about what she would know if she ate from the tree of knowledge. Her actions led to their punishment and removal from the Garden of Eden (Milton, 2004). Additionally, before consuming the forbidden fruit, Adam had engaged the angel Raphael concerning the nature of life. The angel warned him to engage in things that he cannot fully understand since the type of curiosity only led to sin (Milton, 2004). Raphael revealed that limitation of knowledge is not evil since only God, who is omnipotent can fully understand nature. Adam and Eve's interest to understand the world more made them susceptible to the devil's evil plan. The consequences of their actions were sin, which human beings continue to pay for dearly to date.
The Inherent Good Nature of Humans in Thomas More's Utopia
Thomas More's novel "Utopia" explores the possibility of the existence of a society that would be good for human beings. The author published his work in the sixteenth century at a time when England was faced with many socio-economic and political problems. The primary purpose of the book was to examine solutions to solve the many problems facing English society at the time. The challenges facing the society included unnecessary punishments for theft, abuse of power by the kings, and centralization of power.
The author revealed the nature of human beings as inherently good, but susceptible to earthly corruption. In this case, he showed that most people are forced into sin by problems affecting them leaving them without any option. During the era, the centralization of power in Europe had led to increased number of peasants and landless populations (More, 2002). The king would allocate land to alien persons or his friends to buy their loyalty to protect his throne. The situation made most people landless without any means to produce food.
The author through the character of Hythloday attacked the lack of distinction in punishments in the kingdom since it led to the execution of many good people. In the 16-century Europe, murderers and thieves were executed when found guilty. He claimed that thieves were nice people and they ought to have received different punishments form murderers. Hythloday claimed, "When that little money is at an end (for it will be soon spent), what is left for them to do but either to steal and so to be hanged" (More, 2002, 21). The quote reveals that people were forced to commit criminal offenses such as theft due to increasing poverty levels. The rich would grab their land or force them to sell their property cheaply leaving them with nothing. After the people had spent all their money, they would soon engage in theft to cater to their needs. The situation was present because they would not choose to lose their dignity by beggars; instead, they would rather be dead.
In defense of the inherent good nature of human beings, the author provided an alternative form of punishment for theft cases. For instance, Hythloday said, "These are their laws and rules in relation to robbery, and it is obvious that they are as advantageous as they are mild and gentle; since vice is not only destroyed and men preserved [...]" (More, 2002, 29). The above statement supports the author's notion of people being intrinsically good. By enacting lenient punishments for thieves such as repaying stolen goods, the system would not only preserve their life but also give them an opportunity to change their behavior. Additionally, the novel shows how lenient punishment like whipping and community service are effective in restoring the fundamental nature of people (More, 2002). For instance, Hythloday stated that working for the community helped individuals reconnect to society by acquiring good morals. However, those that failed to change would be imprisoned.
The Tripartite Nature of the Human Soul in Plato's Republic
Plato's Republic def...
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