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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But if reformers sought to eliminate extremes of brutality , by far the greater
number still called for severe punishments , whether physical or mental . As
Edward Cox wrote in 1877 in a guide for judges and magistrates : “ Punishment
J . Hillis Miller has called attention to the “ intimations of immortality " in Oliver
Twist , and concludes from them that the only escape from this world is by death (
Charles Dickens : The World of His Novels ( Cambridge : Harvard University
she screamed out after Jim . ' Forgive me , ' he cried . ' Never ! Never ! ' she called
back . 14 Jewel marks a definitive moment when the illusions of moral romance
are canceled by the realism of a cruel existence . This movement away from a ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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