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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This prison followed the separate system , which Adshead considered more
humane and moral than solitary confinement , which he viewed as primarily a
means of punishment , not reformation . The Pentonville experiment seemed to
Narratives with believably human characters naturally appeal to all human
beings , the narrator implies , because they offer surrogate experience of persons
like ourselves and because they provide consolation and comfort . They are a
A snob is at one point defined as a person " who meanly admires mean things , ”
such as rank for rank ' s sake ( 14 : 11 ) . ... To a great extent it is designed to help
the reader discover snobbery in his or her self , a means thereby of finding out ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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