Characters of the Crucible in Relation to Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Reasoning

Characters of the Crucible in Relation to Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Reasoning

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Lawrence Kohlberg, a developmental psychologist, identified six developmental stages of human moral reasoning. The first stage that he recognized was the Punishment-Obedience Orientation, where the person’s concern is for avoiding punishment through obedience. The second stage was the Instrumental Relativist Orientation, where the person’s concern is to work in their self interest, and better their position. The third stage of moral development was the Good Boy-Nice Girl Orientation, where the person’s concern lies with their reputation. Next was the Law And Order Orientation, where the person was less concerned with their own immediate well being to the maintenance of a larger society. The fifth stage was the Social Contract Orientation, where the person’s concern was for social unity, and the last stage was the Universal Ethical Principle Orientation, where the person’s concern is only for moral principals. In The Crucible, Arthur Miller portrays all six stages through his characters.
In the first stage rests Mary Warren. She is not a character with strong conviction, and in the course of the play, she changes sides to whichever will keep her safe from harm at the time. During the first act of the play, we come to understand that she had been one of the girls dancing in the forest with Abigail and Tituba. She saw that the girls were being cornered, and felt that they should confess before it got out of hand, but was silenced after being threatened by Mercy Lewis and Abigail Williams. When Elizabeth Proctor was arrested, John Proctor employed his power as her boss and as a stronger human to coerce her to go with him to the court and expose the girls as frauds. Because he’s stronger than she, she agrees. When they g...


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...uld not alter his ways to please the public. By the end, however, not only did he not care about his reputation, but so intensely focused on higher ethics was he that he gave his life to maintain his sense of “goodness”. Elizabeth also starts out less moral than she ends, she is cold and unforgiving towards Proctor and though her circumstance may be deserving of pity, she does not elicit much sympathy from the audience because of her frost. However, by the end of the play, she sees her faults and repents, and also forgives Proctor, and she understands what others in the final act cannot, she understands why Proctor’s name means more to him than his life.
All of the stages of moral development are presented in The Crucible, related to a character by their actions and motives. This is a way to categorize the characters without there being any overlap or gray areas.

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