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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Conniving becomes plotting , which in turn leads to criminal action - planting
evidence and perjury . Quilp , being an ... Pure evil cannot continue to inhabit the
fictional world in which the principle of good has become triumphant . But agents
In addition , one of Gradgrind ' s most successful products , young Bitzer ,
becomes the last nettle in his suffering as Bitzer attempts to prevent young Tom '
s escape . Bitzer has no compassion , thinking only of himself and of his potential
( 5 : 497 ) This “ punishment , ” then , though following naturally from Lord Kew ' s
youthful dissipations , now becomes an opportunity for changing his life ,
beginning with an act of forgiveness . Lord Kew ' s mildness and new demeanor
are set ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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