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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Caleb ' s is an active secret , a lie about the world . John ' s is a passive secret , a
fear about the truth . Though John is wrong about his wife , there are grounds for
his suspicion because Dot has a secret of her own for which she blames herself ...
... has had her lapse and her secret . But this secret is not the kind that exposes
Clavering , nor is it a false secret like Pen ' s ... Unlike others with real or
supposed secrets , Laura does not have to be found out . She offers up her secret
Rachel has understood the secret of her heart from its inception and sought to
keep it . Though she confesses her love for Esmond , she does so only in the
context of renunciation . Much later , after the disaster of James Stuart ' s failed
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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