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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Lesson XXXIX on the death of Judas declares : It was very wicked in Judas to
hang himself instead of praying to God to forgive him . Where did Judas ' soul go
when he died ? " It went to hell , and to Satan . Judas is in the wicked place now ...
Witnessing the funeral of an infant brings home to Oliver some truths about death
that had not struck him when he worked for Sowerberry in the undertaking trade .
The narrator pauses to instruct us . We need be careful how we deal with those ...
John Forster saw the artistic need for Nell ' s death and took credit for that feature
of the narrative . “ I was responsible for its tragic ending . He had not thought of
killing her , when , about half - way through , I asked him to consider whether it ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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