, Research Paper
An interesting individual, by the name of Lawrence Kohlberg, came up with a fascinating way of looking at morality in our society. This man originated a scale, in which he explains his comprehension of human moral development. Kohlberg’s postulate is “action determines the stage, not just conscience.” He put together three levels of morality, one being the lowest and three being the highest. Kohlberg calls the first level premoral, which is mainly for children who believe good and evil will be punished or rewarded. “Conventional role conformity” is the way he illustrates the second level of morality. This is where the child practices the sort of morality, which wins approval from parents, teachers and peers, as explicated by L. Kohlberg. The third and highest level is “the morality of self-accepted principles.” This level also deals with the intellectual side of a child, which helps involve a moral system. While morality is considered to be a part of life, many people are now realizing how it can be used to evaluate a character in a book. The novel The Bean Trees is about a young woman who struggles to get through life’s choices and decisions on her own with a baby in her possession. Taylor, the main character in the book, reaches the highest level and stage of moral development according to Kohlberg’s scale. Even though Taylor makes many stage five decisions, she belongs in stage six.
In the book The Bean Trees Taylor starts out in stage five. Her decision to move and become independent due to the low success-failure ratio automatically places her into stage five. Taylor makes the decision to move not because she would get recognition for it or even personal profit but because it is the right thing to do and that is a clear example of a stage five decision. “Judgements are based on abstract, more personal principles that aren’t necessarily defined by society’s laws.”(Becker). Stage five is an extremely high level because only 20 percent of the entire adult population reach such a high stage; yet Taylor reaches this stage at a relatively young age. This decision shows maturity and intelligence.
Stage six is the highest stage in Kohlberg’s theory. Taylor makes a decision to except a girl who was “abandoned” by her parents; this is a clear example of a stage six decision. Stage six is explained as, “Laws to a person at this level can be considered somewhat arbitrary, depending on the situation. This person realizes that laws are important to keep society running relatively smoothly, but also knows that they can be too rigid in some cases.” It is against the law to except a child without any legal papers, Taylor knows this but it is the right thing to do and she decides to make the right decision. People who belong to be in stage six are Saints, Martin Luther King .JR, Ghandi (Becker) Decisions that belong in stage six are usually the hardest to make because it is difficult to make a decision especially when no benefit will be received by making this decision. Taylor reaches the highest stage in Kohlberg’s theory, while the book is not even half way through. Taylor decides that even though the child will bring lots more work, responsibility and effort she still decides to keep the child.
The most daring and yet the most mature decision that Taylor makes is the decision to drive her best friends, Estevan and Esperanza to Oklahoma. Her friends were illegal immigrants and if she was to get caught by the police she would destroy her entire life due a harsh prison sentence and an extremely high fine. Though Taylor realizes the dangers, she also realizes that her friends are in need of her help. Taylor decides to help her friends because her maturity tells her that in this situation the law can be bent. This is a clear example of stage six because in this stage one is ready to destroy his/her life or even die for his/her beliefs. In this case Taylor believes that her friends deserve a clean chance at life and if it takes a jail sentence to get them that, she is ready to except the jail sentence. This is the highest maturity level in Kohlberg’s theory possible because excepting punishment or even dying for your beliefs is the highest maturity possible for a human being.