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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Carton ' s conjectured story tells what the future will bring both for the individuals
he loves and for England and France . The narrative that Carton projects into the
future ends with Lucie ' s son telling Carton ' s story to his son . So the narrative ...
denied to the young couple , doubtless in order that this story might be written , in
which numbers of their wonderful adventures are narrated - adventures which
could never have occurred to them if they had been housed and sheltered under
Their fates were predetermined and the narrator merely recounts the preexisting
stories . But if the narrator is right in saying that all stories are old stories already
known , then the critic ' s judgment upon him is meaningless , since any story that
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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