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 are all so imperfect and must constantly be watchful of our own corrupt
nature , how can we presume to judge others ? The answer , generally , is that
we cannot , as Robertson pointed out indirectly in his description of Joseph
refusing to ...
And judge none lost ; but wait and see , With hopeful pity , not disdain ; The depth
of the abyss may be The measure of the height of pain And love and glory that
may raise This soul to God in after days ! 43 The old standby Of the Imitation of ...
... but by materialism . Its blue bags , its documents , its wigs and other
paraphernalia disguise the selfinterest of judges and lawyers ... Indeed , this is its
one central command — judge and judge promptly and fairly . It fails dramatically
in this ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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