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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In right action Nature has her origin and her existence ; to right action she owes
an absolute allegiance . Hence it is , sin works its own punishment : there is no
deception , no defect , no error in Nature ' s justice ; each wrong , however it may
This incident makes clear that when Nicholas ' impulse to take action is endorsed
by the narrative it is because he is taking action for others and not for himself .
Nicholas wrangles with Hawk because the latter bandies Kate ' s name about in a
The conclusion to Book One is thus a strange amalgam of error ,
misunderstanding , and unwise action . Nonetheless , an appropriately
conventional ending to Book One makes it appear simpler than it is , largely
because its many ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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