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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of Judgment as Arising from its Justice , ” Edward Bouverie Pusey acknowledged
that there would be a division of the faithful and the sinful on the last day and that
there would be degrees of joy and suffering to all according to their deserts .
When directed to an audience believing in judgment after death and fierce , if not
necessarily eternal punishment to follow , the scene becomes not merely
dreadful , but imposing by virtue of its affinity with conventional instruction . In
As the narrative develops , we discover that such rash judgments can engender
reactive judgments that punish the punishers . Hence when Pen finally learns
that Fanny was forcefully driven from his sickroom , he instantly passes judgment
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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