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 Rudge ' s false position is stressed by a secondary manifestation of his bad
conscience , showing that part of his sin is his preoccupation with himself . When
he hears the mob moving through Newgate , he is so engrossed with his own ...
This position , taken early , remains basically consistent throughout Thackeray ' s
career . In a review of Disraeli ' s Sybil in the Morning Chronicle of May 13 , 1846
, Thackeray declares that morals and manners are the novelist ' s best themes ...
But it is a good deal more appropriate , and a good deal more Christian than his
uncle ' s moral position , which asserts that the indignities that attend those who
transgress “ ought to be a lesson to a man to keep himself straight in life , and not
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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