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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Love you know ; but the knowledge of evil is kept from you ” ( 4 : 435 ) . Pen ' s
assertion is more significant than he can suppose , for the narrator has
established a context in which even the paragon , Laura , has had her lapse and
her secret .
This is Thackeray ' s knowledge too . It lies behind that irony he wears like a cloak
he cannot remove ” ( 113 ) . But if Beatrix has this part of Thackeray ' s and
Esmond ' s knowledge — if she has beforehand a knowledge that Thackeray and
Knowledge , conjecture , belief , memory - these are some of the terms of
cognition . Conceived of in these terms , the opposition between external and
internal focalization becomes that between unrestricted and restricted knowledge
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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