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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Though Dickens provides no remedy for the abuses of the workhouse , he
permits the plot of Oliver Twist to execute narrative justice on the law ' s
representatives . Bumble marries Mrs . Corney for mercenary motives , but his
Narratives with believably human characters naturally appeal to all human
beings , the narrator implies , because they offer surrogate experience of persons
like ourselves and because they provide consolation and comfort . They are a
... aristocracy of A Tale of Two Cities has , as a class , institutionalized injustice
and will have a heavy debt of guilt to pay . The narrator provides a sample of this
behavior in the Marquis St . Evrémonde as he leaves the Monseigneur ' s party in
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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