The Basis Of Identity: Nature Or Nurture?

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The basis of Identity: Nature or Nurture? Nature versus nurture is a controversial debate in many different educational fields when evaluating the behavior of human beings. When assessing the identity of an individual, some people believe the individual’s behavior is the outcome of their genetics (or nature), while others believe it is due to their environment (or nurture). In Pudd’nhead Wilson, Mark Twain constantly raises the idea of nature versus nurture, and leads the reader to question what determines an individual’s identity. Even though Twain does not clearly state his support for either side of the arguments, I believe his voice in the novel indirectly portrays his belief that nurture is the most important…show more content…
She is the mother of Tom, and grew up as a slave due to one-sixteenth part of her that is African American. However, for anyone observing Roxy, she can easily pass as a white individual if not for her manner of speech that resembles that of a salves. Twain writes, “She was of majestic form and stature, her attitudes were imposing and statuesque, and her gestures and movements distinguished by a noble and stately grace” (9). Twain’s usage of Roxy in the novel presents an interesting take in the nature versus nurture debate. To begin with, Twain’s presentation of Roxy’s character- appearing white, exhibiting similar characteristics of white people, but having African American descent-makes it more complicated for the reader to determine if nature or nurture played a role in forming her identity. Nevertheless, I have come to conclude Roxy’s character is the ultimate result of nurture. By having Roxy, who is of an African American descent display characteristics attributed to white people during that period, such as elegance and grace, Twain is enforcing the idea that even though an individual might have origins that can place them in certain groups, an individual’s origin does not necessarily determine their behavior or identity. For instance, after Tom reveals to Roxy that he declined to take part in a duel, Roxy angrily says “It’s de nigger in you, dat’s what it is. Thirty-one…show more content…
As human beings we come to this world with a certain characteristic or nature that lays a foundation for the environment to work on as we are growing up. As human beings, throughout life we are exposed to different things in our environment, and our nature starts to change as a result of trying to adapt to the environment. Hence, my argument that nurture having a bigger impact on behavior than nature comes from an evolutionary idea of environmental selection. Evolution tells us that every organism faces environmental pressure or a selection pressure, and in order to survive organisms need to be able to adapt. An individual even though born with a certain nature, will most probably have a change in nature at some point in their life time due to environmental pressures. Following the idea of evolution, for the individual exposed to this environmental pressure, in order to “survive” their behavior needs to change to become better suited to the environment. Thus, nurture, which essentially refers to the individuals upbringing or environment become a more important factor in determining identity, when compared to nature, as nature can change upon exposure to different environments, and is what we ultimately

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