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 he could have seen her in the street , and she had done no more than look at
him as she had been used to look , he would have passed on with his old cold
unforgiving face , and not addressed her , or relaxed it , though his heart should ...
to look out for Number One . Bitzer fulfills the ... Bitzer looks forward to personal
advantage from the act . The narrator ... He looks forward to the time when he will
leave school and home and be rid of his education in facts . “ ' I wish I could ...
Look at her as she stands there , tortured by the knowledge of her own secret -
the hideous secret which she is hiding from the innocent girl , whom she loves
with ... Look at her , bowed down under a humiliation which is unutterable in
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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