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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Gowan , Wade , and Rigaud have little in the way of conscience , yet they bring
about their own punishments . They are so self - conscious that they can never
look beyond their own imagined deserts . They are the embittered alternatives to
They all too often bring their own punishment . Rose Dawson could have been
the contented wife of Peter Butt the farmer instead of the miserable Lady Crawley
, married to crude and violent Sir Pitt , “ but a title and a coach and four are toys ...
When Esmond delivers this news , Beatrix can think only of her own injury , and
Esmond exclaims , “ O woman , O sister ! . . . can you bring no mourners but your
revenge and your vanity ? God help and pardon thee , Beatrix , as He brings this
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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