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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For births , deaths , marriages , and all the events which are of interest to most
men , have ( unless they are connected with gain or loss of money ) no interest
for me . But now , I swear , I mix up with the loss , his triumph in telling it . If he had
As Nell comes to a quiet retreat under the care of the schoolmaster and others ,
the Marchioness gradually liberates herself from virtual slavery , thanks partly to
Dick ' s interest . Eventually she escapes altogether from the Brasses to tend Dick
But forgiveness goes beyond self - interest . By pitying De la Motte , she
demonstrates the deeper humanity that is the energetic source both for her
imperious judgments upon others and for her willingness to acknowledge mortal
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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