Thomas More's Utopia is the bastard child of European conventions and humanist ideals. Inspired by More's belief in the elevation of human manners, education, and morals, the text also concedes to the omnipresent traditions of European society. While More accepts parentage of the text, he distances himself from its radical notions and thinly veiled condemnation of Europe's establishment. Through the use of a benign narrator, Raphael Hythloday, and the assumption of a royalist persona by a character of his own name, More discloses the tale of the island of Utopia and its communist society. Rife with realistic details that lend life and credibility to the existence of such a foreign nation, the text ostensibly centers on the stark contrasts between Utopia and Europe. However, a deconstructive reading of the text reveals common origins, history, and representations that underscore a close kinship between the outwardly contradictory worlds.
Thomas More employs satire to expose the intrinsic greed and pretension of the European hierarchy. He posits Utopia as its converse, and his narrator's descriptions of Utopian society, government, and beliefs show little resemblance to the Europe of More and his contemporaries. Critic Robert C. Elliott outlines More's strategy: "Here are the two sides of Utopia: the negative, which exposes in a humorous way the evils affecting the body politic; the positive, which provides a normative model to be imitated" (184). Emphasizing the communist and socialist framework of the island, the narrator, Hythloday, praises the community spirit and selflessness that it inspires. Conversely, when speaking of European economics and social structure, he...
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Chambers, R.W. "The Meaning of Utopia." Utopia. Ed. Robert M. Adams. New York: Norton, 1992. 137-142.
Culler, Jonathan. On Deconstruction. New York: Cornell University Press, 1982.
Elliott, Robert. "The Shape of Utopia." Utopia. Ed. Robert M. Adams. New York: Norton, 1992. 181-195.
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Hall, Donald. Literary and Cultural Theory. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
More, Thomas. Utopia. Trans. Robert M. Adams. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1992.
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