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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has led many readers to identify the lively single gentleman with the narrator of
the tale , even to the degree that he is supposed to be Master Humphrey , the
original first - person narrator . 10 The narrator must superintend the opposition of
Yet the whole account of Pen ' s deviating from the straight and narrow is
detoxified by the narrator ' s positioning relative to his subject . Pen passes
through his first trial scarred , educated , but certainly not perfected . His second
trial comes ...
But since he is the hero of a Thackeray novel , he will have his faults , which
brings us back to the narrator ' s admission that Clive is selfish enough not to
realize all that his father is doing for him . “ Did we not say , at our tale ' s
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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