Dickens and Thackeray: Punishment and Forgiveness
Attitudes toward punishment and forgiveness in English society of the nineteenth century came, for the most part, out of Christianity. In actual experience the ideal was not often met, but in the literature of the time the model was important. For novelists attempting to tell exciting and dramatic stories, violent and criminal activities played an important role, and, according to convention, had to be corrected through poetic justice or human punishment. Both Dickens' and Thackeray's novels subscribed to the ideal, but dealt with the dilemma it presented in slightly different ways.
At a time when a great deal of attention has been directed toward economic production and consumption as the bases for value, Reed's well-documented study reviving moral belief as a legitimate concern for the analysis of nineteenth-century English texts is particularly illuminating.
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TWELVE David Copperfield DAVID COPPERFIELD ( 1849 – 50 ) is an anomaly
among Dickens ' novels for its gentleness . We tend to think of the Murdstones
and Uriah Heep as distinctly unpleasant people , but Dickens ' treatment of them
suggests a tendency to treat “ real ” histories in a similar fashion , and certainly
the history that David is narrating has all of the same features that we find in
Dickens ' other narratives : its forms of characterization , its plays on language , its
David will not have to seek her forgiveness for unwisely marrying her , and she
will not have to seek his for proving so ... To some degree her death is a
punishment to David for his undisciplined heart , but it is also a providential
release for ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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