Updated September 10, 2022

Theme of Excess in “A Tale of Two Cities”

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Theme of Excess in “A Tale of Two Cities” essay
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An inscription in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi said “Nothing to Excess.” In today’s society moderation is essential to having a positive life. Charles Dickens in his novel A Tale of Two Cities makes a social comment on the effects of excess in a society. One of Dickens’ characters in A Tale of Two Cities named Sydney Carton expresses his love for Lucie Manette. Carton realizes that Lucie does not return Carton’s romantic feelings, but he still wishes to do everything in his power to make Lucie happy. Carton later takes his own life in place of Lucie’s husbands in order to make her happy.

Through this event, Dickens wishes to show that even an excess of a beneficial emotion such as love will eventually become harmful. Carton had too much love for Lucie and therefore got killed trying to make her happy. Another character, Madame Defarge represents this idea of excess versus moderation. Madame Defarge’s family was killed by the Evremonde brothers.

While this would be a logical reason to seek revenge, she took revenge many steps too far and set out to kill all the descendants and their families. She went on an excessive killing spree and attempted to kill many innocent people who happened to have a connection with the Evremondes. Dickens strives to show how feelings of wanting revenge are natural in a situation like this, but excessive negative feelings can lead to an extremely dangerous outcome. Some may say that an excessive amount of a positive thing is beneficial.

An article in The Huffington Post titled “6 Thoughts that Prove you can Never have too Much Kindness” discusses how a person can never perform too many acts of kindness. The author’s perspective is that the world will never have an excessive amount of such a beneficial thing like kindness. Similarly, an article from the Entrepreneur’s Yoda titled “To Achieve Entrepreneurial Success, You can Never know too Much” discusses the idea of a person never being able to obtain too much knowledge.

This article supports the popular idea that knowledge is power and therefore it is impossible for an individual to know too much. Everything should be done/used in moderation. While kindness is clearly a positive thing, a person should think about themselves as well as others. According to an article in Psychology Today, too many acts of kindness and generosity could be  “a sign of an overly submissive nature, or even as a symptom of mental illness.” (Simons) Acts of kindness should clearly be performed but to such an extent that a person ends up hurting themselves.

Having too much knowledge can also be a major disadvantage. An article in Elite Daily says that rather than benefiting a person “having too much information on a subject can curse you (a person) into thinking you (they) need to figure it all out before you (they)get started.” (Choi) A person with too much knowledge tends to overthink and overanalyze data leading to anxiety. For example, when my principal told people that our school had received a threat, I began to worry about the school’s safety and other facts that I would not have been worrying about had he not told us.

The paradox of first line of the novel is used to illustrate how nothing is either one thing or the other. Nobody should have too much or little of one thing or emotion. Dickens wants to address the point that balance is key and that everything should be done with moderation in mind. As the inscription at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi said “Nothing to Excess.”

Theme of Excess in “A Tale of Two Cities” essay

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Theme of Excess in “A Tale of Two Cities”. (2021, Dec 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/theme-of-excess-in-a-tale-of-two-cities/


How is the theme of duality reflected in A Tale of Two Cities?
Duality is an instance of opposition or contrast between two concepts or two aspects of something. The author, Charles Dickens, uses duality throughout the fictional novel, A Tale of Two Cities, to bring characters who would be thought of as polar opposites together .
What are the themes of A Tale of Two Cities?
Themes The Ever-Present Possibility of Resurrection. The Necessity of Sacrifice. The Tendency Toward Violence and Oppression in Revolutionaries. Sacrifice. Class. Justice.
What are three motifs for A Tale of Two Cities?
In ''A Tale of Two Cities'', Charles Dickens uses motifs such as shadows, imprisonment, and doubling to highlight his themes of self-sacrifice and resurrection.
What is the theme of A Tale of Two Cities Book 1?
Theme #1. The theme of resurrection and change is one of the major themes that seem to emerge on both social and personal level. The character of Sydney Carton and his death saves the life of Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette. He also saves his name with his heroic act of going to the gallows to save Darnay.
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