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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But I suggest that Dickens is actually constituting such a masterplot in the moral
design of his narrative . The rendering of punishment and forgiveness indicates
the parameters of that plot . I would not go as far as A . O . J . Cockshut and argue
George ' s narrative . But these issues are magnified when they rise to the level of
two nations in contention . The impulsive and more innocent Harry sides with the
Americans and George , prouder and colder and more intellectual , allies ...
Shlomith Rimmon - Kenan offers a summary statement of the relationship
between these narrative stances . “ Knowledge , conjecture , belief , memory -
these are some of the terms of cognition . Conceived of in these terms , the
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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