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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Thomas à Kempis says : “ Turn thine eyes unto thyself , and beware thou judge
not the deeds of other men . In judging of others a man laboureth in vain , often
erreth , and easily sinneth ; but in judging and discussing of himself , he always ...
he has betrayed puts Dombey on his track , the other turns out to have betrayed
Carker in his turn , leaving him a confused fugitive hunted down less by Dombey
than by his own destiny . 16 Carker may be the agent who punishes Dombey for
Tom , and Louisa , and Bitzer do not turn out well because they lack this reservoir
of comely images of virtue . Dickens makes this connection very clear when
Louisa is returning to her parents ' cheerless home after her marriage . The
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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