The historical Thomas More, the author of Utopia, was an extraordinarily complicated man who tied up all the threads of his life in his heroic death. The Utopia is the sort of complicated book that we should expect from so complicated a man. It is heavy with irony, but then irony was the experience of life in the Sixteenth Century. Everywhere--in church, government, society, and even scholarship--profession and practice stood separated by an abyss.
The great difficulty of irony is that we cannot always be sure when the ironic writer or speaker is being serious and when he is being comical. We find that difficulty in Utopia. Edward Hall, the great chronicler of English history of More's time wrote, "For undoubtedly he beside his learning had a great wit, but it was so mingled with taunting and mocking that it seemed to them that best knew him, that he thought nothing to be well spoken except he had ministered some mock in the communication." (*)
In Utopia three characters converse, and reports of other conversations enter the story. Thomas More appears as himself. Raphael Hythlodaeus is the fictional traveler to exotic worlds. More's young friend of Antwerp Peter Gillis adds an occasional word.
Yet the Thomas More of Utopia is a character in a fiction. He cannot be completely identified with Thomas More the writer who wrote all the lines. Raphael Hythlodaeus's name means something like "Angel" or "messenger of Nonsense." He has traveled to the commonwealth of Utopia with Amerigo Vespucci, seemingly the first voyager to realize that the world discovered by Columbus was indeed a new world and not an appendage of India or China.
Raphael has not only been to Utopia; he has journeyed to other strange places, and found almost all of them better than Europe. He is bursting with the enthusiasm of his superior experiences. However, I shall devote most of my remarks to the second "book" or chapter in More's work--the description of the island commonwealth somewhere in the New World. Since the Utopians live according to the law of nature, they are not Christian. Indeed they practice a form of religious toleration.
Utopia provides a second life of the people above and beyond the official life of the "real" states of the Sixteenth Century. Its author took the radical liberty to dispense w...
... middle of paper ...
... marriage is allowed but strictly controlled so that conjugal relations relieve sexual needs without creating any genuine bonds of intimacy between husbands and wives.
Utopia is thus not a program for our society. It is not a blueprint but a touchstone against which we try various ideas about both our times and the book to see what then comes of it all. It helps us see what we are without telling us in detail what we are destined to be. Utopia becomes part of a chain, crossing and uncrossing with past and present in the unending debate about human nature and the best possible society possible to the kind of beings we are. Utopia becomes in every age a rather sober carnival to make us smile and grimace and lift ourselves out of the prosaic and the real, to give ourselves a second life where we can imagine the liberty to make everything all over again, to create society anew as the wise Utopus himself did long before in Utopia. His wisdom is not ours. But it summons us to have our own wisdom and to use it as best we can to judge what is wrong in our society in the hope that our judgment will make us do some things right, even if we cannot make all things new this side of paradise.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- What is it about Thomas More's Utopia that makes it as accessible and relevant to a 21st century westernized Catholic teenage boy as it did to an 18th century middle aged Jewish women. Utopia, a text written 500 odd years ago in differing country and language, is still a valid link to a contemporary understanding of society, human nature and morals. Through More's Utopia, it becomes evident that the trans-historical and trans-cultural nature of the text emerges through More's conscious and subconscious inclusion of universal human truths, in particular those of happiness, money and values, which allows the reader a higher quality of textual engagement and insight.... [tags: European Literature]
517 words (1.5 pages)
- Thomas More’s Utopia is a work of ambiguous dualities that forces the reader to question More’s real view on the concept of a utopian society. However, evidence throughout the novel suggests that More did intend Utopia to be the “best state of the commonwealth.” The detailed description of Utopia acts as Mores mode of expressing his humanistic views, commenting on the fundamentals of human nature and the importance of reason and natural law while gracefully combining the two seemingly conflicting ideals of communism and liberalism.... [tags: Book Analysis, Humanism, Utopian Society]
1109 words (3.2 pages)
- Society in Utopia by Thomas More In his book Utopia, Thomas More examines a society that seems to be the ideal living situation for human beings. The main thesis of Utopia is his solution to many of the problems that are being faced in English society in the early 16th century. In forming his ideas for the country of Utopia, More points out many of the problems that he sees in English society. One of the most striking examples of English social problems that More points out is the punishment of thieves.... [tags: Papers Analysis Essays]
1575 words (4.5 pages)
- Utopia as a text is a clear reflection and representation of More’s passion for ideas and art. Through the character of Raphael, More projects and presents his ideas, concepts and beliefs of politics and society. More’s Utopia aims to create a statement on the operations and effectiveness of the society of England. This text is a general reflection of More’s idea of a perfectly balanced and harmonious society. His ideas and concepts of society somewhat contrast to the rest of 16th century England and indicate a mind that was far ahead of its time.... [tags: Analysis, ethics, social, political, commentary]
1080 words (3.1 pages)
- The Virtue and Vice of Reason in More's Utopia When reason permeates society, it does not necessarily imply greater happiness. When brought to the point of rationalization, or when there are errors in the analysis used in reasoning, reason tends to have adverse effects. On the other hand, when analysis is well thought out, and the correct conclusions are drawn, reason can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on a society. Many may think that Sir Thomas More's Utopia infers that reason must be the foundation, and even the preoccupation, of any perfect society.... [tags: Thomas More Utopia Essays Papers]
1416 words (4 pages)
- Utopia by Thomas Moore: Analysis The oxford dictionary describes as “an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. Sir Thomas More first used this word; he was born in 1478 in London, England and came to be one of the most influential figures of the early Renaissance. Not only did he work as a lawyer but he was also a well respected philosopher and historian as well as writer. In 1516, Moore wrote Utopia, a book based off of fiction and political philosophy. Utopia has been with us since the beginning of time – all religions for example has an idea of a perfect place; the Garden of Eden and paradise are examples within the Catholic religion.... [tags: renaissance, catholic church, greek]
1762 words (5 pages)
- i. Introduction Sir Thomas More was born in London to Agnes and John More a lawyer in 1477. Tomas after being a page in the Morton Household was sent to Oxford University and became a successful lawyer. After becoming an MP for the Under-Sheriff of London he started writing the book Utopia and finishing it 1516. After writing the book he was appointed as the privy councilor to King Henry VIII in 1518. He was latter executed in 1535 for refusing King Henry VIII to be the head of the church. Utopia is a fictional book about Mores talk with Raphael Nonsenso and his travels to Utopia.... [tags: essays research papers]
1546 words (4.4 pages)
- Sir Thomas More in 1516 first conceived utopia while he served as an ambassador For England on a party expedition to Flanders. In England his vocation was law and he held the position of Under-Sheriff his knowledge in this area is an obvious influence in Utopian society. Utopia is a chronicle of More's fictitious meeting with Raphael Hythlodaeus a traveller who has lived in Island, republic society of Utopia for five years. Almost five hundred years after its writing utopia is still the subject of controversy; it has been claimed by certain political and religious followings to be specific to their ideals and beliefs.... [tags: European Literature]
2073 words (5.9 pages)
- Although comparing one society to another does not require them to be different in government or human behavior, it does necessarily weight one’s faults against its victories to render it better or worse than the other. This comparative structure, found between Thomas More’s two books of Utopia, poses the country of Utopia opposite the broader communities of world civilization. Despite the comparison of Utopia as distinct from and morally better than widespread society, in truth Utopia is, at best, an extension.... [tags: Literary Analysis, Thomas More]
1844 words (5.3 pages)
- 	As its title hints, the essay which follows is not the history but biographical of an idea. The idea for the book called Utopia. Like all ideas for books it was born and had its whole life span in the mind of an author. Like all such ideas it ceased to be when the printed book Utopia became a black-on-white reality. Although there is no accurate record of its birth date, it seems to have been born in the mind of Sir Thomas More. As the writer I shall have to take into account the environment in which our subject passed its life and that environment was the mind of Sir Thomas More.... [tags: essays research papers]
1924 words (5.5 pages)