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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A great irony of prison reform is that prisons at the turn of the eighteenth century
allowed prisoners a good deal more personal freedom than they would later be
allotted . Prisons were certainly not wholesome places , but if you possessed ...
It was the prison chaplain who would bind prisoners with the cords of love . He
would persuade offenders to accept their sufferings as an impartial and
benevolent condemnation . He would force them to accept their own guilt . It was
he who ...
Prison populations , not families , were referred to in official parlance . The
metaphors of command also became increasingly military in derivation " ( 190 ) .
Partly this was because many of the new prison officals were former military men
, but ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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