The rate and characteristics of childhood cognitive development has been a topic of interest for many people throughout the ages, as classification of different stages can help us to better understand the actions of children. A common categorization method divides development into four stages: sensimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and the formal operational stage. When analyzing Caliban in The Tempest, categorizing him into the preoperational stage is critical to understanding his actions and his role in the play.
Caliban’s categorization in the preoperational stage equates his actions and instincts to those of most two to seven year old humans. Although children in this stage can think, they are largely limited by what they can actually do. To a large extent, they cannot reason, and they lack the cognitive capabilities necessary for understanding any complicated ideas. Children in the preoperational are also generally egocentric. They see the world only from their own eyes, and any attempt to question their viewpoint results in pointed opposition. Caliban reflects this generalization because he is constantly stressing the loss of his inheritance (the island) to everyone, and schemes to get it back at every turn.
Caliban’s childness is displayed when he rejects Prospero’s castigation, saying that he objects to being subjugated when he was once "mine own king." In yet another instance of Caliban acting childish, he is outraged that Prospero is punishing him when he has, from his point of view, done no wrong. Also like a child, the idea of being his own ruler dominates his thoughts. This is reinforced by his immediate course of action...
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...th any further depth. Additionally, when Caliban discusses plotting for revenge against Prospero, he says: "brain him/...or with a log/Batter his skull, or paunch him with a stake,/ Or cut his wezand with thy knife," which again sounds like a childish taunt. The egocentric child, inspired mostly by the id, sees revenge as an immediate and satisfactory remedy to most conflicts. These factors reinforce Caliban’s categorization in the preoperational stage of mental development.
Throughout The Tempest, Caliban’s actions seem childish, primitive, and immature. When his actions are analyzed through the lense of developmental stages, it can be determined that he is, mentally, a 2-7 year old. This gives the reader a new perspective on Caliban, and allows them to see him through a different light: as less of a savage, and more of an underdeveloped, miscared-for child.
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