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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Esmond offers these sentiments in old age , long after his disillusionment with
James III , who loses his opportunity for kingship by lustfully pursuing Beatrix
Esmond , itself an insult to his firmest supporters . But Esmond ' s progress from
his wife , Esmond says it is unthinkable that Rachel has sinned . Castlewood
replies , “ ' Do you fancy I think that she would go astray ? No , she hasn ' t
passion enough for that . She neither sins nor forgives ' ” ( 7 : 164 ) . Rachel ,
Rachel is conscious of her mixed motives , and soon after her outbreak returns to
take Esmond ' s hand and apologize . “ ' I beg your pardon , Henry , ” she said ; “ I
spoke very unkindly . I have no right to interfere with you — with your — ' " ( 7 ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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