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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The narrator of Hard Times is particularly antagonistic toward Gradgrind and his
associates because one target for their abuse is precisely the kind of story he
appreciates and likes to tell . He is personally threatened by their inaesthetic
return , a kind of hopeful suspense , just as Sheherezad ' s narration , by coming
each evening to a narrative suspension , reinforces the hope of her continued
existence . This was , of course , Dickens ' own mode of serial publication , by ...
But it is important to keep in mind the kind of rules of reading that Peter
Rabinowitz calls to our attention . One kind of metonymic enchainment he
describes in his rules of signification is the assumption that the presence of one
moral quality is ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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