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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If we all had hearts like those which beat so lightly in the bosoms of the young
and beautiful , what a heaven this earth ... by the Jewish process , so is the image
of God worn from heart and brow , and day by day the child recedes devilward .
disparity in marriage like unsuitability of mind and purpose " ; she is thankful to
her husband " for having saved me from the first mistaken impulse of my
undisciplined heart ” ( 660 – 61 ) . The reconciliation is confirmed in words that
will echo ...
There are good and bad secrets in our hearts and we must learn to understand
them ourselves and face them . Lucie ' s heart is “ a mystery " to Dr . Manette , but
it is clear to everyone that it is a benign mystery ( 128 ) . So certain is Carton of ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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