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 is a modernized version of the law of cause and effect , otherwise known as
natural punishment ; it assumes as Thomas Carlyle and George ... Nature itself
offers the opportunity for therapeutic punishment for those who can perceive it .
This might serve as an emblem of Pecksniff ' s relationship to nature . He is
neither ... Throughout the novel “ nature " and " natural " are charged terms , often
directing us back to that " natural " trait of the age - old Chuzzlewit clan ,
Even Mercy Pecksniff says that she was always confident of his kindly and
forgiving nature , though she never showed it . J . Hillis Miller refers to Tom Pinch
as an example of “ the impasse to which total unselfishness leads , ” though
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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