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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After telling the story of Mary Magdalene , he mentions Christ ' s lesson that the
debtor with the greatest debt will ... Later , he instructs his children that they must
forgive if they hope to be forgiven , and tells the story of the bad servant , which
She tells Em ' ly that she would like to see her whipped to death and suggests
that the best solution is suicide . This unforgiving fury arises partly from envy ,
partly from frustrated passion . It is a secular version of the Murdstones ' wrathful ...
From childhood Esther has understood the efficacy of confession , telling all of
her youthful secrets to her doll . But if she can tell her secrets after the events of
the narrative are in the past , she cannot , while those events are under way ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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