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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Virtue , expulsed , eclipsed , apparently fallen , cannot effectively articulate the
cause of the right . Its tongue is in fact often tied by the structure of familial
relationships : virtue cannot call into question the judgments and the actions of a
father or ...
collapse before virtue . But unlike much melodrama , they collapse primarily by
their own weight or by the treachery of other villains and fools , not as a result of
the aggressive actions of the good characters . The increasing moral debt of such
Throughout his career Thackeray located the truest virtues in women . He is often
harsh on women ' s vanity and cruelty ( especially to their own sex ) , but his best
models of virtue are also women . Beatrice Merger in The Paris Sketch Book is ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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