Are we born to behave and think the way we do or does the environment nurture us to behave and think the way we do? This question keeps bogging me all the time. I remember reading a story many years ago, titled ‘The Bad Seed.’ It was a story about a girl who was full of jealousy, arrogance, greed and hatred. She couldn’t accept those who were better than her. She had the criminal mind and killed her young friend by pushing him into the river during a picnic. She grabbed his prized medal which he obtained for academic excellence, before getting rid of him. She was smart enough to wait till he went under water due to currents before raising the alarm. By then he was drowned and she got what she wanted… the prized medal.
There was also an old gardener near where she lived and he used to threaten her by pointing a finger at her and telling her that she was responsible for the boy’s death. The girl felt uncomfortable with the constant threats and teasing as the old gardener didn’t quite like her. Therefore, she waited for him to go to sleep in an old garage, one day, before locking the garage door and striking a match. The old gardener couldn’t escape and was burnt to death. Suspicion did not fall on anyone as he was known for smoking cigarettes. All thought that he would have fallen asleep with a lighted cigarette that caused the fire.
The girl was happy then. She thought no one would know of her cruel deeds, until one day, as her mother was clearing her things she came across the prized medal. She wondered how it came to be in the possession of her daughter. When queried, the girl replied that the boy had given it to her. The mother was not satisfied with her answer.
The poor mother began to reflect on her own mother who was a criminal. She feared that the traits could be inherited by her daughter. That night she laced her daughter’s drink with poison before shooting herself. Both mother and daughter were found by the father of the girl in an unconscious state. They were rushed to hospital, where the mother was pronounced dead. The daughter, however, survived.
It was a tragic tale of an unhappy woman who did not want her daughter to inherit the traits of her own mother. She wanted to kill those traits but unfortunately the traits survived and could be passed on to future generations of the family.
From this story, I conclude that though environment has a hand in shaping the way individuals think and act, yet it is genes that ultimately take control. The mother could have tried to instill better values in her child and disappointment might have forced her to commit a crime that she herself was trying to avoid.