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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... believes that chastisement of some form must follow transgression , he must
frame strategies by which both ends may be served . Sometimes the underlying
rationale for these strategies is directly exposed . Thus the narrator of “ The
( 247 ) The true purpose of mercy , compassion , and forgiveness is to follow
Christ ' s teaching and to be good to others , but the negative version of this
teaching is that failure to follow Christ ' s precepts will engender a natural
11 The novel does follow the structure of melodrama , which , according to Peter
Brooks , moves from the presentation of virtue - as - innocence to the introduction
of menace or obstacle , which places virtue in a situation of extreme peril .
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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