IDIOTS AND EGOISTS: AN EXPLORATION OF MORAL GROWTH AND RESPONSIBILITY AMONG CHILDREN, THE CHILDISH, AND THE CHILD-LIKE IN THE WORKS OF GEORGE ELIOT AND CHARLES DICKENS
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This thesis explores these attitudes towards sympathy and moral growth as illustrated in several novels by Charles Dickens and George Eliot. The issue of moral growth is what definitively separates Dickens and Eliot in their fiction and informs their interpretation of realism, suffering, and sympathy. Following the examination of the role of suffering in moral development in the first chapter of the thesis, the second chapter will look at how each author views childhood and the moral implications of inexperience. A further key area, and the subject featured in the third chapter of the thesis, is how the conflicting representation of childhood in the novels is extended to the portrayal of childish adults. Examining the depictions of intellectual disability and the distinction between ?idiot? characters and merely childish or immoral adults offers another important dimension to the comparison between two of Victorian fiction‘s key players. The final chapter deals with the role of ?idiocy? within each author‘s moral framework, and further illuminates the distinct ideologies of moral growth that essentially shape and differentiate their works.