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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But like Snagsby , he is a man whose sense of guilt is groundless and thus
impossible to absolve without the assistance of others . A groundless sense of
responsibility for sin balances the concealment of sin in Bleak House , and the
Dickens wants a regime that combines a sense of justice with a sense of mercy ,
but under these requirements it is difficult to assign authority to punish . Christ
recommended forgiving of offenders and advised turning the other cheek .
( 258 ) Earlier he had been driven by a sense of “ repentance " to visit his
hometown and stay with Joe ( 213 ) . Coincidentally , on this trip he encounters
the convict who had delivered the first gift from Magwitch . This association of Pip
' s moral ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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