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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Though he is entirely innocent of any crime or moral obliquity , he distributes half
- crowns as conscience money to palliate any number of afflictions . He becomes
so confused about his own moral position “ that he entertains wandering ideas ...
But Dickens realized that this authority can be imitated in fiction . 13 The narrator ,
in the role of Fate , Providence , or whatever directing power , can so arrange the
distribution of justice that the moral pattern will not easily be mistaken .
For the narrator , this is a moral danger for the young man . Have you taken your
children to the National Gallery in London , and shown them the “ Marriage à la
Mode ” ? Was the artist exceeding the privilege of his calling in painting the ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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