Nature VS Nurture: Nature and Nurture
James Hoggs classic novel, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, portrays the fictional story of Robert Wringhim, a strong Calvinist who justifies murder by quickening the inevitable. Robert commits infamous acts of evil, believing that these murderous actions glorify God by annihilating sinners not chosen to be saved. I believe that a combination of factors involving both nurture and nature shape Wringhim into the suffering creature that he becomes. The greatest of these factors include Paranoia Schizophrenia, Multiple Personality Disorder, and the rejection of society.
To my limited medical knowledge, I understand Wringhim to suffer from a severe case of Paranoia Schizophrenia among other forms of mental illnesses. There is evidence for this theory in the novel. For example, it is typical for victims of this medical condition to have an immense fear that literally controls their life. In the early pages of the book, Wringhim discusses this paranoid fear which consumes his life. My heart quakes with terror, when I thought of being still living in a state of reprobation, subjected to the awful issues of death, judgment, and eternal misery( Hobbes 118). This fear of death, judgment and eternal misery controls him and becomes all he thinks about. He goes on to describe that he prays three times a day and seven times on the Sabbath to cope with this fear of damnation.
However, even though Wringhim is obsessed with the security of his salvation earlier in
the novel, this fear appears to diminish by an overwhelming sense of security that he is elected to be saved from the eternal flames fire, after his father bargains with God for Roberts soul (130). Although there is little evidence to support this theory, it is not unintelligent for one to believe that Wringhims original fear of eternal damnation persists throughout his lifetime, even after he realizes he is one of the elect. Page 153 shows Robert struggling with the question of whether he is truly elect or not.This shows that his paranoid fear still persists.
After examining Wringhims murderous actions and the mental state he was possibly in, it can be concluded that Wringhim murders the enemies of the Lord because it helps him get over his fear of damnation. On Page 136, Robert first understands that his calling is not to be a minister but a champion. He wishes to be a champion for God, cutting down sinners by the sword. However, I feel that he subconsciously desires to be a champion over his own fear of damnation and through believing that murdering the damned is Gods calling for his life, this allows the means to defeat his fear.
Another mental illness that is shown in Robert Wringhims life is Multiple Personality Disorder. Psychologists are still trying to understand what causes MPD. There is much debate whether this mental condition is caused through nature or through nurture: I believe, like many psychologists, that its a combination of both. In this belief, MPD victims recall one specific event thats so traumatic that their mind escapes insanity by blocking out the event and taking on a new identity (or identities). Its a form of the minds self defense which allows a victim to go on living their life without reflecting on harrowing experiences that would result in madness for the victim. The reason why this disorder is believed to also be caused by nature is because it helps explain why people who suffer the same or similar traumatic experiences as MPD victims,
On page 170, Robert becomes aware that he looses all track of time. This is very common for MPD victims. The minds will check in and out of time whenever it feels a need for safety; the mind still functions, it just takes on the form of a new personality. Moreover, a MPD victim will sometimes have memory lapses for periods of days, months, or even up to years.
Through out the novel Robert Wringhim has several meetings with a mysterious companion. This companion takes on other shapes, but in their first meeting the companion looks exactly like him in every way. What was my astonishment, on the perceiving that he was the same being as myself! The clothes were the same to the smallest item. The form was the same; the apparent age; the colour of the hair; the eyes; and the features too were the same (131). This shows that Robert may have hallucinated his split personality to actually be in the flesh.
The most convincing evidence for the argument of Robert Wringhim having Multiple Personality Disorder is the fact that he feels another personality inside of his own body. I generally conceived myself to be two people. When I lay in bed, I deemed there were two of un in it; when I sat up, I always beheld another person (158). He describes in great detail about his feeling of another personality inside of himself. He even mentions that there could be more than one other personality inside of him. It not mattered how many or how few were present: this, my second self, was sure to be present in his place (159).
After examining the evidence for Robert Wringhim being diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder, the question is no longer if he has the mental condition but what could be
the traumatic experience that drove Wringhims mind to MPD. I believe there can only be one
explanation for this. Societys rejection of Robert traumatized him so severely that his mind is forced to take on other personalities.
Wringhim is described as a very lonely individual through out the entire book. His father rejected him when he was very young and his mother loved his brother more than him. He had no friends besides his mysterious companion (if he can even be called a friend because he only used Robert to do evil) who was merely a hallucinated figment of his imagination. I was born an outcast in the world in which I was destined to act so conspicuous a part(117).
In Merry Shellys classical novel, Frankenstein, the monster is rejected by society and goes on to cause great evil even though his heart longed to do good. The monsters own creator rejected his creation leaving the monster with an immense feeling of misery. Robert Wringhims and the monsters lives are very similar in the sense that those who should accept and love them were the first to reject them and then all of society followed forcing them to cause great evil to revenge their hurt. Revenge for society rejecting him could have been another factor that played in his decisions to murder. My life has been a life of trouble and turmoil; of change and vicissitude; of anger and exultation; of sorrow and of vengeance (117).
Furthermore, it was not merely through nurture or nature that lead Robert Wringhim to commit these murders; it was the combination of both. Nature and nurture should not be classified into two separate categories or theories, because they have a correlating relationship and work off of each other. Hogg demonstrates this through Robert Wringhim using both nature (Paranoia Schizophrenia), nurture (rejection of society), and a mental disorder that combines both classifications (Multiple Personality Disorder).