Even though others may not agree the environment rather than hereditary seems to have the stronger influence on a person’s life. The effect of environment on the development of an individual has never been appreciated. This issue has for along time been looked at from a perspective of Nature and Nurture, which has yet to give a substantial conclusion on the matter. This essay sets to examine the lifestyle of Paul, a character in the short story “Paul’s Case” and how some environmental issues impact on his development; explaining the pro and counter arguments espoused by various scholars and studies and finally giving a conclusion on it. The environmental issues here include: Heredity, family and neighborhood in which a child lives and the influence of, schools and work situations.
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The family into which a child is raised A. Experiences in families B. Paul‘s experiences
The family that a child is raised in becomes of great future significance in the way a child relates with others, views them and the whole world. Studies indicate a link between child care and child development. Children’s experiences within their families also matter. It is within the family unit that a child first learns of the values, virtues and the vices that later on play a major role in their world. Research has proved that those children who come from close knit families tend to be more caring, able to think, respond and interact with the world around them effectively. They are responsible, have better language and social skills and very confident.
Heather, a psychologist, says that children also did well when parents were more educated, with higher income, with well organized routines that included play and more importantly when the mother’s depression level or symptoms were few. (Heather 103)
Paul in this story comes from a single parent family. His mother died just few months after he was born. He has grown with the father and as the teacher says he has a “haunted look” seen when he had dozed off in class. His father is a miser who does not have any money to spend. The only place they can afford to live in is Cordelia Street where Paul finds to be too backward. Due to lack of attention from the father Paul lacks the close attachment that should be. In fact when he arrives and gets into the house through the window, he toys with the idea of his father actually shooting him, just for the hang of it. We get a feeling that he is somehow a bother on the father.
He is not at peace with himself and creates stories that he wants to wow other children in school. He tries so hard to gain their acceptance and recognition by lying about glorious exploits to create himself a favorable image about his background and acquaintances.
He is not so confident and hides behind a permanent and seemingly insolent smile. He is very sensitive about how he looks especially his narrow chest.
He does not really admire his father and has grown critical of everyone in authority by engaging in pervasion. He says that he does not remember any time that he had not been afraid of being watched by an unknown. He is so insecure and tries to dissociate himself from his home street saying that he would be better off forgetting that Cordeliea Street ever existed. Thus in his life lack of close family care and development has contributed to who he is.
The neighborhood in which a child lives A. Experiences of a child in that neighborhood B. Paul’s experiences in his neighborhood
Other than the family, a child’s neighborhood also plays a role that is significant in how they grow and who they become. It is not yet clear which of those characteristics within these setting affect individuals since they are predisposed to many dynamics. The variables in these settings make the child adjust over time. These include sex, drugs, delinquency and crime. The presence of professional adults in the community adds to this influence as a motivator to success. Finally a research by Suniya found that Children whose residence is in poor neighborhoods may be at increased risk of the above behavioral problems that stem from poor family relations, poor mental health and inconsistent parenting. (Suniya 167)
Paul’s view of his neighborhood is wrought with in ugliness- his home, school, teachers and room. His experience of life in the Cordelia Street was full of Sabbath- school activities, pettiness and a lot of advice as to how to succeed in life. His visits to the theater are what offered him relief. He found New York so alluring, the smartly clad men and women so attractive. He says he was rid of his nervous misgivings, pretentious aggressiveness, or the strong desire to differentiate himself from his surroundings. He felt in oneness with the opulence of New York. This could explain his loathe for his home and desire for fineries. It is at this time that he wished that his past would not catch up with him. At the end of his dream life he regrettably tries to pack the images he had in his memory. The rats, the grimy zinc basin Sabbath school, yellow papered room all rushed back to him. He is not ready to face their dejected lifestyle and it seems so overwhelming to him.
Paul’s life is an example how ones surrounding can shape their life. He lacks role models to spur him on and those considered role models are grossly in adequate for him. He confesses that he never did what he did for pleasure but to be noticed, admired and appreciated as manlier, honest. As such because of his family status he could not fit easily with the other boys but only to dress the part. He made himself less conspicuous and fitted in his dream neighborhood enjoying his spoils with dignity. His was a case of a right mind frame stifled by a wrong neighborhood.
The influence of schools and work situations A. Examples of these influences on a child or later on an adult B. Examples of Paul’s experiences in these situations
It is in schools or work stations that individuals learn the virtues of religiosity, morality and responsibility. Suniya discovered that adolescents from middle social status backgrounds are more likely to stay in school than those from a lower social background and that academic self concept, achievement, perceptions of environments and aspirations had significant association with staying in school. (Suniya 79)
Paul found his school life so boring. He even lied to the Head teacher that he wanted to go back to school yet this was on the contrary. In fact his teachers thought that his mind was corrupted from the books he read. Paul found the books they read unappealing and resorted to music and theatre. In these places he was like a prisoner set free, and felt within him the ability and possibility of performing brilliant, poetic things.
The teachers in school should also be role models and provide guidance to the students. However those in Paul’s school failed him. The teacher attitude towards him engraved the negative situation. The teachers ganged on in criticizing him and could not even find the right words to name are his crimes. He in turn went on with his waywardness and spite against them. He failed to see role models in them. It is only much later after they identified that he could have deeper problem do they feel remorseful and pledge to support him.
Heredity and its influence on Paul
Heredity determines and individual’s personality which in turn is a set of complex mental abilities and characteristics that make them all unique from all other people. It also includes an individual’s pattern of thought, temperament and emotional power. Personality also is seen in terms of the values beliefs and expectation of individuals. Slee says that the genetically inherited capabilities whether mental or physical impacts how one views others, how they are seen and how they see themselves.(Slee 91). Paul shares nothing with the father. He views things differently and has diverse views from what his father believes in. May be his fear could be traced to his loss of motherly love and lack of appreciation.
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However in New York the Paul we meet is not the one described. He was one who had got rid of all his misgivings and was at home in his surrounding. Even the church members took him as a model usher gracious and smiling, who he ran up the aisles without any trouble. He brought and carried messages and program pleasurably. In New York he excited no suspicion and carried himself in a dignified way. He was never boisterous and he also confesses that all that he did was meant to make him fit in.
Reply to the counter (Accommodation and/or Refutation)
This debate stems from an unending discussion on the issue of Nature and Nurture. Nature refers to the hereditary characteristics while nurture is the environmental effects on an individual. It has never been wholly ascertained which one of these two can be attributed to the full development of an individual. Studies on the development twins among other organisms have been used to prove this fact. It has been argued that if heredity were everything then the identical twins would be exactly the same in everything even if reared apart. The truth is that although remarkably similar in many ways the twins are never exactly alike. Similarly and if environment were everything then the fraternal twins reared on the same condition would also be alike regardless of being different in their genes. Other scientists like Mifflin believe that people think or behave in certain ways because they are taught to do so (Mifflin 134).
In ‘Paul’s case”, we find that the character Paul, though a very intelligent and good natured boy is hampered by the circumstances of his life. From a presumably good hardworking father, we expect that he emulates these virtues that his father possesses. however we that this is not the case since his surrounding has made him who he is, a liar, thief, bully and at the same time kindhearted, obedient and selfless boy. He has secret yearnings in his heart that he cannot readily find in his immediate environment.
In conclusion therefore we find that although physical characteristics are hereditary, individual behaviors, intelligence personality become a result of one’s socialization. As such though many people do not agree environment plays a more major role in shaping a person more than heredity. It fleshes the skeleton provided by heredity
Heather James. Child development and family resources: Evidence from the second generation of the 1958 British birth cohort,” Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 15(2). 2002.
Mifflin, Houghgton. Biological Science. Boston: H.W Publishers. 1963.
Slee, Peter. The Child, Adolescent and Family Development. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2002.
Suniya Lunar. Neighborhood Influences and Child Development. New York: Columbia University Press. 1997.