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 get there and Abby and the other girls begin to play their cards and act out the “little bird” scene, she gets frightened with the prospect of hanging, and reverts back to her original story because that will get her off the hook.
In the second stage stands Abigail Williams, who has a motive for whatever she does. Throughout this play, she is fueled by lust for John Proctor, as well as a desire to be recognized and respected by the others in the town. Putnam and his wife also fall into the second stage. Putnam accuses Rebecca Nurse because he needs a scapegoat for his dead children, and the others that he accuses are on the boundaries of his property. He is not moved by principle, but by greed and want of more land, which he acquires when others hang.
In the third stage is Reverend Parris, who is controlled by his reputation. In the beginning, he is afraid of what Betty’s illness, should it be related to “unnatural causes” will do to his repute. Salem had had more ministers in a few years...