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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It seems to me hard , ' ” she says , “ ' that he should have lost so many years and
suffered so much , and at last pay all the debts as well . It seems to me hard that
he should pay in life and money both ' ” ( 422 ) . This , however , is the law , even
But he asserts that the happy ending that follows “ seems like a literary
confidence - trick which fools us into thinking that the issue of guilt has been
settled ” ( 130 ) . The narrative depends on compulsive , irrational character types
or " humors ...
With Colonel Newcome ' s victory over Barnes the traditional plot seems to assert
itself . The heroic Colonel has defeated his rascally enemy in what serves as a
punishment for his many trespasses . Justice seems to be served . But , as the ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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