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Nature Vs. Nurture

Mario Puzo’s, Omerta, reflects the theory of Thomas Hobbes In the state of nature, where the theory states, that in the state of nature”no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. “(The Modern Age: Ideas In Western Civilization, Page 37-30) In Peter Cary’s, True History of the Kelly Gang, which conveys the theory of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.

One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? I do not know. What can make it legitimate? That question I think I can answerhuman beings were good in the state of nature and that in civilization there is the basis of corruption. ” (The Modern Age: Ideas In Western Civilization, Page 35- 38)

Mario Puzo’s, Omerta, suggests the theory of Hobbes, that the state of human society is based on human nature and genetics, whereas Peter Carey suggests the theory of Rousseau in his novel, True History of the Kelly Gang, nurture is the main influence, and that geography and human government control future human development, where every subject is or can be subject to change. In Omerta, Don Raymond Aprile adopted Astorre, who had the genetics of a great Mafia Don. In the novel True History of the Kelly Gang, Ned Kelly loses his father at the age of 12 and is left to be raised by his mother and small extended family.

In Omerta, Astorre has two brothers and one sister who have little influence on his decisions, whereas in True History of the Kelly Gang, Ned also has siblings but they play a far more significant role in his upbringing, mainly because they can not care for themselves and need his help to survive. In Omerta, Astorre grows up around violence and illegal activities and has a natural talent for being a leader. Ned Kelly, on the opposite end of the spectrum, has grown up in a remote area with a corrupt judicial system, and he commits his crimes because of the constant changes in his life.

Omerta begins with the assassination of a retired mob boss, Don Raymond Aprile. The novel then flashes back into the history of Raymond Aprile. This is where the main character of the novel, Astorre Zeno, is introduced as a baby. He is the son of a great Mafioso Don from Italy, who, on his deathbed, leaves his only son to the care of Raymond Aprile. He shows great potential as a future boss in the eyes of Don Raymond Aprile. After returning to America with this, “fiery-eyed baby,” Raymond realizes that he is too inept to care for a child at this time.

So he leaves the child to the care of Frank Viola, a personal friend. Eventually the friendship between Raymond and Frank sours, as Frank wants to succeed Raymond as Don. Three years after Raymond Aprile left the child in Frank Violas care, Frank turns up dead. He had “committed suicide in the trunk of his car”(Page 24). Now with Frank dead, Don Raymond Aprile resumes care of Astorre Zeno. It was said in the book that during Astorre’s child hood [] the Don arranged to have Nicole, Valerius and Marcantonio sent to private boarding schools. He never let them into his personal life.

They came home for the holidays, when he played the role of a caring but distant father, but they never became a part of his world (Puzo 23). Puzo also wrote “Astorre was the Don’s Favorite, even above his own children”(Puzo 29). Astorre is the only exception in the Don’s personal life: he looks up to the Don and goes with him everywhere. After Don Zeno’s death, Don Raymond Aprile makes it a point to return to Italy at least once a year, and takes Astorre with him. While on a walk though the countryside, the Don and Astorre are abducted by an Italian Cosca.

During the incarceration of the Don and Astorre, Astorre enjoys the company of the kidnappers. Upon rescue, Raymond is faced with the decision of whether or not to execute the kidnappers. Astorre, though a young child, manages to convince the Don not to execute them. After their return to the small Villa where they had been staying, a conversation arises about the men who came to rescue them. After this conversation, without any coaxing, Astorre says, “I won’t tell them about anything”(Page 41). Immediately, “The Don felt a surge of pride. Omerta had been bred into his genes” (Page 41).

Just these few lines can provide a solid foundation that Astorre’s life is already preplanned and set in motion. In the beginning of True History of the Kelly Gang, Ned Kelly tells his daughter about the family history and the very start of his life. Right from the offset, Ned Kelly had a depressing life. His first memory recounts an event at the age of three: his mother breaking eggs into a bowl and crying that Jimmy Quinn, his 15-year-old uncle, was arrested by the police in a set-up. He follows his mother to the police camp where his uncle was being held.

She had made him a cake and when she tried to get it to him, the police officer said he must inspect the cake before it goes to any prisoner, and breaks the cake into small pieces. She was forced to push crumbs under the door of a six-by-six foot cell. While she did this, she said many words and phrases that Ned came to learn. Kelly later reflects on the incident: These was frightening sentiments for a boy to hear his momma speak but I did not know how to set she were until tow nights later when my father returned home and she said the exact same things again to him (Page 9).

Racism is also another thing picked up by Ned Kelly: “Damn them I said. Yes damn them said Jem. We was raised to think the blacks was the lowest of the low []”(Page 14). Ned’s mother would beat the children if they did wrong as a disciplinary action: “I cautioned him. You say that one more time I’ll whip you”(Page 80). This is reflective of learned behavior from his mother. The beginning of Carey’s novel also talks about the rich landlord that will not provide proper fences and solid housing for them to live in. This causes a lot of resentment against the bourgeoisie, thus conditioning and forcing Ned to revolt against the upper class.

All events in his childhood help mould him into the person he later becomes. For instance, when Ned saves Dick Shelton from drowning, he gets a taste of the rich lifestyle. Mr. and Mrs. Shelton treat Ned to anything and everything he wants, but the Sheltons go so far as to releasing his father back into society, proving to be a poor choice. Ned’s father returns home for a night, takes all the money they have, and leaves. He does this in retribution for Ned’s acts: Ned had stolen and killed a cow and allowed his father take the imprisonment as punishment.

Ned Kelly’s life is one being shaped by external events, and the beliefs and actions of his parents. Both novels have very contradictory theories on human state and development. On one side of the spectrum is Mario Puzo’s Omerta, and on the other is Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang. Omerta suggests that genetics and natural course will dictate one’s fate. Puzo’s constant use of the terms “fate” and “destiny” follows the philosophy of Hobbes. Hobbes theorizes that, in the natural state, man is evil and manipulative, and that government of a person is the only way to keep the true nature of man a bay.

Mario Puzo uses Astorre as a primary example of this. Astorre is the son of a great Mafia Don, Vincenzo Zeno. This mans characteristics of honor, helpfulness, and his use of implacable punishment of those who dared to oppose his will, are carried over to Astorre’s nature. This is predominantly visible in Astorre’s adulthood. In his young adulthood, “The Don smiled. The boy had all the right instincts []”(Page 42). However, Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang, as a complete antithesis, suggests the theory of Rousseau: every man is born free, but everywhere he walks he is in chains.

In True History of the Kelly Gang, due to hardship from a corrupt police force and constant strain put on from the landlord, this tended to force Ned into a cycle of hate and violence against all bourgeoisie. When Ned is visited by the Sergeant, asking Ned about his family heritage, Ned is ignorant of it, and “next O’Neil was bouncing to his feet and showing the full hard stretch of his policeman’s boot said he Let me educate you young man”(Page 15). With constant beatings from his father, mother, and the police force, there can no doubt as to the reason why Ned Kelly becomes a criminal.

In Omerta, Astorre has the moral support of his two brothers, Valerius and Marcantonio, and his sister, Nicole. Although is close with his family, he will not allow them to influence his decisions in any way, shape, or form. “And though Valerius and Marcantonio were twenty and eighteen years old, when Astorre was ten, he established his independence from them. Indeed, when Valerius, somewhat of a military martinet, tried to chastise him, he fought back”(Puzo 29-30). With full control of the family estate and funds, Astorre is faced with yet another decision: whether or not to sell the banks to make money for the rest.

If he does this, he will be giving up future power to the other families, thereby leaving himself vulnerable to attack. His sister and brothers hold forty-nine percent of the shares, leaving Astorre with fifty-one percent, leaving him with the power to veto any decision they may make to sell the stocks. The remaining family attempts to convince him to sell the stocks to the opposing family. In True History Of The Kelly Gang, Ned Kelly comes from a very close family and his main support structure is his mother and sisters.

The person who had the most influence in Ned’s life is a man by the name of Harry Power. His gang consists of his two brothers and two of his closest friends. Ned becomes a bank robber and along the way commits two accidental murders. All these people take an active influence on Ned, sometimes Ned understands what they want and other times misunderstands. Ellen Kelly takes the role of the matriarch. Ned looks up to his mother for advice and sometimes forgiveness for the crimes he has committed, usually he doesn’t talk to her, but in his mine he hallucinates and imagines he is talking to her.

Such and emotional bond between mother and son can only be created through a nurtured environment. In contradiction of Omerta’s and True History of the Kelly Gang both take different directions of who influences who, and who makes the final decisions. Astorre has a choice to listen to his family but he doesn’t necessarily obey them, or even take into consideration what they really want or need. Divergently, Ned Kelly lets his family play and active role in his life, where he consorts with his brothers and friends about what he should do.

Both novels have active family surroundings, but the roles of the family play out completely different because of the theories of nature and nurture. In Omerta, Astorre, when still a boy, “[] established his leadership in a gang of young boys. It was a wonder to the Don that he could do so, for Sicilian children were full of pride and feared no one. ” This proves that the Don hadn’t shown him any leadership techniques, and that Astorre had conjured this all up himself with out any instruction from anyone.

In later years he had taken control of his own family, proving himself to be a great leader, as foreshadowed in the beginning of the novel: “[] Astorre Zeno, two years old, a fiery-eyed baby attired in a black frock and black pillbox hat, rode as a majestically Roman emperor”(Page 6). Astorre will become a great leader in times of war, and peace provide between the feuding families. In True History Of The Kelly Gang, Ned Kelly grows in the Australian Colony Of Victoria. This valley, surrounded by mountains, is a very rugged outback with lots of creeks and swamps, making it hard to navigate, hence farming is in great shortage.

When the landlord refuses to put up proper fences, Ned Kelly and his mother had to put up “dog-leg” fences. This still does not prevent all cattle and pigs from escaping the confines. These poor conditions force many people to crime, as criminals from Britain had colonized Australia. The police and judicial systems put in place were mainly unjust and ineffective. Ned Kelly has multiple clashes with law enforcement, mainly with the sergeant from the area. The Sergeant would constantly harass Ned and who ever he was with. Ned knew enough not to fight back, because it would get him thrown into prison.

Geography can play a large role in how people develop in latter years. If Ned Kelly did not live in such remote area with so little wealth, he would have turned out differently. Like Astorre, Ned Kelly was able to motivate people to join his gang, defying law enforcement and making a name for himself. Although similar, there remains one major difference: Astorre inherited certain traits from his biological father, like charisma, and he was able to develop it by himself, where Ned Kelly had learned from law enforcement and his constant teachings from his mother and sisters how to behave and how to break the rules.

Leadership potential is really the only trait that these two character share. Unlike Ned Kelly, Astorre was able to survive in the end, though inherited traits. He was able to keep his secrets, hence the name of the novel is Omerta; “a Sicilian code of honour which forbids informing about crimes thought to be the affairs of the persons involved” (Page-2). Most of Astorre’s skill is suggested to have been his father’s. Don Raymond Aprile had no skill with weapons according to the novel, where as Astorre is skilled with knives and guns.

This is all natural to Astorre because he is the prodigal son of Don Vincenzo Zeno. The Don Raymond Aprile did not take part in any of his children’s lives and sent them all to separate boarding schools, thus disproving the theory of nurture. Alternately, Ned Kelly keeps his family close, learning from their experiences and taking active role in their lives. Written in Mario Puzo’s, Omerta, “After that everything was fate, the Don believedIn the back of the Don’s mind, a vision was forming, a vague outline of the boy’s destiny.

Just mentioning these simple words prove that Mario Puzo believes that every life has fate and that nature just takes it course. Peter Carey’s in his novel, True History of the Kelly Gang, provides a contradictory line, of a glance of what humanity is. “I lost my own father at 12 years of age and know what it is to be raised on lies and silences my dear daughter, you are presently too young to understand a word I write, but this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false.

By these lines mention, Peter Carey wishes to convey the theory that a person’s life is nurtured to a certain developed state that dictates what a person will become. Mario Puzo suggests in his book, Omerta, that the state of the human race is entirely nature by itself and that we are all naturally evil. In Peter Careys, True History of the Kelly Gang tries to convey that Ned is actually a good-hearted person but he has been corrupted by society. That it is nurture is what makes us all evil.

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