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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Michael Wheeler observes that for Victorians the question of hell turned on the
notion of hope . For Newman , for example , a suicide loses all hope whereas
Frederick W . Farrar ' s " eternal hope " embraces even the worst of sinners (
One is insulting the ideal of hope - a large , abstract notion represented by the
bells of the church . The other is a rash judgment upon a fellow creature whose
circumstances he does not understand . He must literally learn to put himself in
Littimer insincerely declares that he sees his past follies and hopes that his
former companions may find forgiveness . ... It would ill become me to bear
malice . I freely forgive you , and I hope you ' ll curb your passions in future . I
hope Mr . W ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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