Lit & The Arts Reviews: Utopia by Thomas More

Discussion in 'Literature & The Arts' started by amantine, Nov 23, 2004.

  1. amantine

    amantine Premium Member

    You'll be reprised how modern the ideas are in this book from 1516. That's no suprise considering the friends of Thomas More (1478-1535): Erasmus, Colet, Grocyn, etc. More is probably the most famous humanist in the United Kingdom and rightly so.

    In Utopia, Thomas More describes his fictional conversations with a traveller called Raphael Hythlodaeus. Raphael went to the just discovered continent America and lived for several years in a country called Utopia. In the book, Thomas More describes the contrast between the 16-century Europe, where crime, corruption and poverty rule, and Utopa, where everyone is equal and content.

    Utopia comes closest to a socialist or a communist state. Everyone has to work the same hours and everyone gets the same in return. Public education, public healthcare, diplomacy instead of war when possible, environmental protection, freedom of religion, Thomas More thought of it all. The first sparks of democracy are also visible; the Utopians choose representatives from their own families.

    There is also a darker side to Utopia. The laws are brutal, with slavery and the death penalty as punishments. The government is totalitarian and punishes those that don't fit into the system. Atheists have no civil rights and can't be elected. This is the only way Utopia's system can work. When it doesn't remove those critical of the system, the system collapses.

    If you read Utopia, you have to keep in mind that you're reading a 16th-century book. Everything in Utopia was much better than in Europe, and although some aspects now seem more like a distopia, you can't deny that Utopia is some ways even a better society than ours.