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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When charged by Ralph with assault against Squeers , Nicholas replies , “ ' I
inflicted such punishment upon a wretch as he will not readily forget , though far
less than he deserved from me ' ” ( 251 ) . When Smike is concerned about
As Lawrence Frank points out , she , like David Copperfield but less
professionally , is engaged in an essay of self - creation . She too struggles to
define a self - constructed identity as opposed to identities offered by others , with
perhaps less ...
Because the novel is concerned primarily with charitable sentiments and acts in a
world mainly insensitive and self - serving , there is far less in it about punishment
and forgiveness than in any of the other substantial novels . In fact , it is almost ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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