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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( 50 ) Thackeray began his career as a writer at a time when authors dealt
sharply with one another . ... Writing in 1840 of fashionable French writers , he
observes that Balzac , Hugo , and Sand assume godlike roles and warns that we
The notion of life as a narrative has become a commonplace of modern critical
writing in various disciplines . What makes Thackeray ' s narrators so interesting
is their reluctance to claim that they represent full literal truth , while nonetheless
writers should not be in a passion with their characters as I imagine , but describe
them good or bad , with a like calm . ... I believe that Thackeray was consciously
writing against convention in Philip , but , as Peter Rabinowitz observes , “ No ...
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Attitudes Toward Punishment and Forgiveness
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