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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Often forgiveness occurs in a dramatic , even melodramatic situation in Dickens '
fiction so that , at least for modern readers , some of its force is lost in what
appears to be a spectacular insincerity , if not on the part of the characters , then
in the ...
... the narrator does provide clues to Harmon ' s identity , thus purposely inflating "
the reader ' s confidence in his powers of ... Boffin is only playing a role as a
miser , but I agree with Mundhenk that Dickens fully intends to deceive his
Jack P . Rawlins says that Thackeray wanted to make his readers aware of the
difference between the way they read and the ... Wolfgang Iser , however , claims
that Thackeray ' s narrator goes out of his way “ to prevent the reader from putting
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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