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 thy grace and mercy , give him one minute ' s penitence , and strike him dead ! '
” ( 129 ) . It would be a quick and merciful end - penitence and then death before
any backsliding can occur . Rudge is a walking emblem of retributive justice ...
When Clemency shows her thimble with “ For - get and For - give " engraved on it
, the lawyers Snitchey and Craggs laugh at it . “ ' So new ! ' said Snitchey . So
easy ! ' said Craggs . Such a knowledge of human nature in it ! ' said Snitchey .
Laura , admiring his honorable and generous heart , applauds his decision ,
though it may give her pain for other reasons . Pen has less respect for his own
conduct and tells Laura that she wouldn ' t think as she does if she really knew
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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