Rebekah Newby March 28, 2013 Psychology Mr. Zeglin Road to Perdition Throughout Road to Perdition, Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development is evident mostly through the Post-Conventional stage in the abstract moral reasoning and quest for fairness by the main characters. Throughout the movie it follows an orphan named Mike Sullivan who’s raised by a crime boss by the name of Jeff Rooney. Mike Sullivan then becomes a hit man for Jeff Rooney. One night while on the job Sullivan’s own son Mike Sullivan Jr. witnesses him doing his job by killing someone.
Sullivan makes his son promise to keep what he saw a secret. He then swears that his son will keep the secret and not tell anyone but Rooney’s biological son Connor is not satisfied with this. Connor then goes and kills Sullivan’s wife and younger child. This causes Sullivan to have to make some difficult choices while fleeing Chicago with his son Mike Jr. Right in the beginning of the movie we witness Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development through the fact that Sullivan becomes involved in crime like Rooney.
This shows the Conventional stage of Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development because the Conventional stage states that in this stage one is more concerned with behaving in their own social roles expected of them by society. Society expects Sullivan to become involved in crime just like Rooney did because Sullivan didn’t really have parental figures and Rooney was his only real parental figure in life. Depending on the way that one looks at it some may argue that this could also be the Post-Conventional stage.
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The Post-Conventional stage states that in this stage one will go through what they have to go through to get fairness. One could argue that becoming a hit man to protect Rooney could be Post Conventional because Sullivan may feel as though it is fair to do this since Rooney raised him like a son. We can also see the Post-Conventional Stage of Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development through the series of bank robberies done by Sullivan and his son.
After the killing of his family Sullivan requests help from Al Capone in order to get revenge on Connor. Sullivan is declined by Al Capone and goes on a spree of bank robberies in order to get Capone to release information on Conner’s whereabouts. This is an example of the Post-Conventional stage Kohlberg’s theory because Sullivan is able to think abstractly and is able follow his own moral codes. Sullivan is able to go outside of cultural morals and norms and make his own morals based on the situation at hand.
Unlike the conventional stage Sullivan is able to think in the Post Conventional stage and get revenge on those who harmed his family. The Post-Conventional stage of Moral Development is also seen closer to the ending after Maguire shoots Sullivan and Mike Jr. grabs the gun and nearly shoots Maguire. This stage of moral development is post conventional because Mike Jr. ’s motivation to kill Maguire is concerned with his quest for fairness and his own moral codes of killing one who kills your family.
Some could also argue that this scene shows the Conventional stage where people do what society expects them to do. This shows the Conventional stage because Mike Jr. ’s father was a hit man and had the same moral philosophies. So, as a result of having a father like Sullivan society will automatically expect him to be violent and on a path to crime like other men in his family. However, in the end Mike Jr. goes against this and he exemplifies the Post-Conventional stage by not becoming involved in crime like his father.
He shows his ability to think outside of the social norms and social expectations by doing something other than crime like his father and grandfather had done. To summarize, throughout The Road to Perdition, Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development we can see Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development in many ways. We mainly see the theory through the Post Conventional and Conventional stages. We are able to see these stages through the quests for fairness by Sullivan and Mike Jr. We are also able to see it through the abstract moral thinking done by Sullivan throughout the film.
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