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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14 While the narrative is increasingly giving itself over to the punishment of
offenders and fools , Nicholas is learning not to enact revenge or retribution on
his own account . If revenge is not directly tied to many of the punishments
handed out ...
though he recognizes beforehand the error of his earlier preoccupation with
retribution . With Rudge in the hands of justice , Haredale no longer seems to
have an object for his revenge , yet the dynamics of the narrative itself have left
will in this case only fashion a continuing web of violence and retribution . Set
against such a determinant sequence is the golden thread of love , forgiveness ,
and mercy embodied in Lucie Manette . The connection between national and ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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