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9/01/2007
A Morality Tale - Part II
Thanks to everyone who gave their thought provoking and insightful comments on my last post. If you need to, go back and read the Sad Saga of Stephan and Nicole for a little review and be sure to read the comments to see what people thought. You can also check out Sarcasta-Mom to see what she wrote on her blog.

I know that you're all wondering about my take on Stephan, Nicole, et al. So without further ado, here's my ranking:




  1. Earnest: He's an ass. Sometimes there is nothing worse than a person who turns a blind eye and pretends not to see the world. But legally speaking, he did nothing wrong. I'm sorry, but I can't turn the lawyer switch off sometimes. Earnest is a butt head, but we can't hold him responsible for what he did not do. Of course, if he were a police officer or something like that, I'd throw his ass under the jail.

  2. Donald: Physical violence is never the answer, but his motives were pure. During our CLE discussion, someone pointed out to me that Donald is the only one here who has technically broken the law. I hear you. Maybe at one time I could never have seen the justification for violence, but having children has made me a little more irrational.

  3. Nicole: Nicole, you ignorant slut! Seriously, I don't think she's a slut. Her motives, again, were pure, but in her impatience she ruined her relationship. Plus, she gave Robert power over her by giving in to his coercion. I hate that.

  4. Stephan: How I view Nicole affects, in part, how I view Stephan. If I take the fact pattern at its face, Nicole had 2 choices: sleep with Robert or forever be parted from Stephan. She was coerced into sex, which frankly I view as one step above rape, and Stephan punishes her for it. Neither of them is blameless, but Stephan loses points for failing to get over himself.

  5. Robert: Scuz bucket. I view his coercion of Nicole as little more than rape. There's a special place in hell reserved for those who take advantage of others.

For shits and giggles, I asked my husband to rank the characters too. I think T. and I share similar values and a similar way of thinking, so I wanted to see if his gender might come into play here. Here's what T. had to say:

  1. Donald: He only helped after the fact

  2. Earnest: Would not help a friend

  3. Stephan: Not forgiving

  4. Robert: Just a low life

  5. Nicole: Compromised her principles


When my firm discussed this with Professor Moliterno, he asked us to pair off with someone who had dissimilar rankings and attempt to convince our partner to change their rankings. As you can imagine, in a roomful of 30 stubborn attorneys, only 1 person changed her mind in any significant way. Once decisions are made and values assigned, those judgments rarely waver.

What was revealing about the CLE discussion and the discussion in the comments, are the rationales that people use to justify their decisions. We all seem to focus on one of two things: (1) the morality of the act of each character or (2) the motivation behind the action. I, despite my claims to rationality, tended to focus on the motivating factors behind each action.

Another interesting twist would be to see if your answers differ if we switch around the genders.

Let's say Nick is trying to get across the river to Stephanie. He sees Roberta with a boat and asks for help. Roberta offers a lift in exchange for sex and Nick declines. Nick sees Earnest with a boat and asks for help. Earnest refuses to get involved. Nick sleeps with Roberta, gets across the river and Stephanie tells him to take a hike. Nick tells his friend Donna what happened and she beats the crap out of Stephanie.

Do your answers change?

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18 Comments:

Blogger Julie said...

I sort of raise the question of gender in my comment on yesterday's post and I like your twist on it here. I have to admit that my assessment of the two lovers changes significantly when the gender changes, but everyone else still seems the same to me. But I can't help but think of Stephanie as more of a hero than I thought Stephan was, and I think of Nick as grosser than I though Nicole was. Interesting.

Blogger slouching mom said...

Funny that you thought Earnest was the best, and I thought he was the worst.

Anonymous Emily said...

Nope. My opinion does not change at all. Except that I worry Earnest would get off on watching Donna and Stephanie in a cat fight.

Blogger flutter said...

I think I stick with my original answer, which I think may be very similar to yours but for slightly different reasons

Blogger ewe are here said...

Hmmmmm. I guess I would have to ask first: Does Stephanie tell Nick that he prostituted himself before dumping him? Or do the double standards hold up...

In the first scenario, Nicole is coerced, and can almost liken it to rape. But in the second scenario, Nick would, well, have to show a little interest to actually 'perform', so how 'coerced' was he...

Gah! So wrong! My answer shouldn't change, but I want it to... what does that say?!?

Blogger Christine said...

this is such an interesting exercise!

and it makes sense that people would splint in terms of morality/motive. i think i went with motive. i think.

Blogger painted maypole said...

motive is what I thought about, too, and didn't even think about the legalities of it. interesting.

Blogger Brillig said...

Incredibly thought-provoking stuff, LM! My answers were almost identical to yours, though I switched Nicole and Stephan. As you know, I've been obsessing over this since I first read it. Hahaha. Thanks for the many fascinating conversations you've sparked!

Anonymous Momish said...

I love this kind of stuff, so I am sad I came in late in the game! I wish I had more time to read through the comments. I will be back later.

What I would find intesting is to see all the romantics that find Nicole's actions justifiable. Happy ending fanatics. Which in turn, would find Stephen the ogre for refusing Nicole after such a heroic and sacrificial act.

Donald falls into the rescuer and Earnest as the cold hearted side kick. As for Robert? The devil in disguise.

Blogger ExPatSW said...

Hmmm, T and I had almost identical rankings. Must ponder that....

Jumping in here late, but I love this sort of thing. I knew I missed my calling as a lawyer or an ethics professor or something! I agree with your rankings completely, although, someone commented that Ernest is Stephen's friend so that makes it even worse. But he's still the one least at fault, in my opinion.
Thanks for putting this up, so fun.

Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Sorry I missed first go round.

From best to worst for me:

1. Earnest---should have helped, but don't know enough to judge him on his excuse

2. Donald---at least he stood up for a friend, albeit badly

3. Nicole---what a nimrod; conk Robert over the head and steal the boat (oh wait, that's illegal, eh) so...build your own boat. I'm pretty disgusted here.

4. Robert---creep

5. Stephan---heartless and cruel always trumps creep

With sex change scenario...I will have to think. I think my positions would change. So many years of trading on women's sexuality have left me biased. I think Stephanie might fare slightly better than Stephan. I'll have to ponder.

Cool topics!

Julie
Using My Words

Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Okay I thought, no my rankings hold.

The thing about "unfaithfulness" is intent. Were you running away from your lover to someone else? or were you using someone else to get to your lover?

It's a big distinction IMO.

Physical is just that; emotional trumps physical IMO.

The first one is so much more hurtful and harder to forgive; the second one makes it easier to blame the situation.

Although it's crazy hurtful and not good in either case, IMO.

Very interesting! I am going to have to think on the gender thing..........HMMMMMMM

Blogger Jenn said...

I'll take, "Too Lazy to Re-think My Answer" for $5,000, Alex.

And I'll stay the hell away from rivers for a while.

Blogger sognatrice said...

I missed the first go-around as well, but I have to say your CLE was *way* more interesting than any I've ever attended!

I put the characters in the same order as you did for pretty much the same reasons, although I did have some trouble on where to put Nicole, that hussy (hah!).

With the gender flip? Same order, but would I have put them in the same order had I heard the second version first? That I question.

Blogger bubandpie said...

There are actions, and there are motives, and then there are ASSUMED motives. Do we make different assumptions about Nick's decision to sleep with Roberta than about Nicole's decision to sleep with Robert? Is it more difficult to believe that he was really just trying to get back to Stephanie?

Same thing goes for Earnest - all we know about him (as I said before) is that he says he is busy. What do we assume is his motive for saying that? Depending on how we answer that question, everything changes.

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

B&P - I don't know. I wish I'd had the opportunity to see this with the genders reversed so I'd really know if I'd assign different motives. I'd like to think my answers would be the same, but I really can't say for sure!

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