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 this book , the chief spokespersons for the ruling order of the eighteenth
century are not pleasant figures . Lord George Gordon is the opposite of what a
nobleman should be . He is a weakminded fanatic , appealing out of vanity and ...
I wish I could collect all the Facts we hear so much about , ” he says to Louisa , “
and all the Figures , and all the people who found them out : and I wish I could
put a thousand barrels of gunpowder under them , and blow them all up together
Dr . Firmin is among the most wicked figures in the novel , but he is never utterly
condemned by the narrative , no matter how much individual characters damn
him . The admirable Dr . Goodenough loathes Firmin , a clear signal that we may
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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