The idea of Utopia discusses faultlessly designed society structure, which actually does not exist. The word Utopia comes from Greek where “ou” stands for “nonexistent, “eu” for “perfectness”, and “topos” for area or country. Nowadays, Utopias are well-known as the society forms that are impossible to make it occur. There are two types of Utopia, negative and positive. The negative utopia is called Dystopia; which describes the type of society that has strict rules, authorities, and no room for people’s fault. The positive utopia is called Eutopia, expresses the real perfectness and the perfect country. The most famous example for positive utopias is Thomas More’s Utopia.
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The author of the book Utopia, Thomas More, was born in 1478 in London and he had an education on law. He was a commissioner and a Member of Parliament. He was against the wars, unfair taxes, death penalty. Although he seems to be anti-monarchic due to his behaviors and thoughts, he was the consultant of King of England Henry 8th. More was always protecting the rights and thoughts of the humanity and that was the reason for Thomas More to write Utopia.
The book Utopia, is originally written in Latin, and translated into English. The title of the book in Latin is “Libellus vere aureus, nec minus salutaris quam festivus, de optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia”, and “No Less Beneficial Than Entertaining, A Truly Golden Little Book” are the two translated titles in English. In the book, Thomas More tells about the nonexistent country called Utopia. The narrators of the book are Vespucci who is an Italian sailor, and the guest person in the trip is Raphael Hytloday. Utopia is an island which no one knows where it is located. It consists of fifty-four cities and they speak the same language. In Utopia they have management system which is known as “philarch”. In “philarch” people work collectively three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, a total of six hours a day. All the problems are discussed in the law congress which all people can attend. In Utopia, all people have their rights and these rights are protected by the perfect state system.
The book Utopia is written in 1516 which is the same time range with Renaissance. The Renaissance time is when people desire to expand the limits and explore more about the life and the nature. Thomas More completes Utopia only twenty-four years after the discovery of America. At that era, people have curiosity about exploring new places in the world which have not explored yet. This curiosity of exploring new places in the world affects Thomas More as well as the other people and creates his imaginative wok Utopia. The book is affected by the situation of that era as well as More’s personal interests such as his interest on astronomy.
Thomas More wanted to have an astronomy education, however it did not happen. He reflects his interest in astronomy by telling that the Utopian people are good in astronomy. Another example is that Raphael Hythloday is a sailor like Vespucci. This is not a coincidence because Thomas More is affected by Vespucci’s sailor stories. So it can be seen that the author writes the book under the effects of other people’s books and the reflection of his own interests.
In More’s book, there are many conditions that match with the real life. In sixteenth century, addition to Spain and France, England developed in the economical aspect. During the discoveries, all of the treasures that were found or stolen helped bourgeoisie to progress and it created the unfair economical differences between people. In addition to bourgeoisie’s development, monarchy was increasing with it full strength and pressure over the society and England was either sending their colonies or taking the control of many lands. Thomas More is against the English imperialism and the book Utopia shows this ideology. In the book, Utopian society is against having wars and colonies and that’s how the author illustrates his idea of being against the wars and colonies. In Utopia, the system is tolerant of people’s new ideologies and it is even tolerant of their faults or tolerant of religious. An example is a person who comes in to Utopian environment and makes propaganda of his Christianity and he understates the other religions. This situation is not appreciated by Utopians because they have respect for every ideology and religion. Although the person is disrespectful, Utopians tolerate him. Utopians have respect for the nature, for the world and it is all about perfection. “I believe that More’s account of religious freedom in Utopia (1516) is a deep and original contribution to Western political thought. I also surmise that More favored religious freedom for Christians when writing Utopia, and that he designed Utopian religious freedom to serve in some sense as a model for Europe.” (Sanford,207-208)
Another interesting point is that in the book, More and Hythloday first came across in 1497. At that time, a Venetian diplomat visited the UK whose name was unknown. This person has written his impressions about “the sun on the buoyant empire”. The unknown person had some information about the wealth and life-form in England before going to England. Venetian diplomat’s observations on England show parallelism with Raphael’s observations on Utopia in More’s Utopia.
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Thomas More wrote Utopia to create the ideal country without having unfair economical status, slavery, dead penalties. In More’s Utopia, which is a figment of his imagination in his work, Raphael Hytloday represents the ideas of More that he was never been able to express but more important Utopia became an ideology rather than a place like Bill Ashcroft says “Thomas More unleashed an idea that has remained a critical focus of all visions of a better society. For most contemporary Utopian theory Utopia is no longer a place but the spirit of hope itself, the essence of desire for a better world (see for example, Jameson 1971).” (8)
However, Raphael can be character that represents his ideas; there are some conflict statements that show More was under pressure by the monarchy. On the one hand, Hythloday defends the fact there should not be private property and equal division of wealth. On the other hand, More emphasizes in his statements that he is not against private property. Since More emphasizes that, it can be considered that under the pressure of the monarchy More had to declare the opposite ideology of Hythloday’s.
When More’s Utopia and Plato’s government are compared, although there are several similarities, More was not affected by Plato’s ideologies. Plato’s ideology has class society which consists of rulers, fighters, money winners and the wealth is only in use of elite and noble people where Thomas More’s Utopia has classless society and common property for all citizens as Eric Nelson mentioned “34 More’s solution to this problem, like Plato’s, was Utopia – the Hellenic land without private property where the entire community was one large family, and where gloria had been replaced by felicitas as the organizing goal of social life.” (1038) Plato is against democracy, More believes in democracy. On the one hand, in Plato’s society concessions for fighters and the rulers are not valid for other citizens and that shows the inequality of the people in the society. On the other hand, More’s Utopia everything is for equality and being fair. In Plato’s work there is a positive approach to war, nothing related with love or emotions. In More’s work there is opposition to war, peace, love for everyone even for the slaves. In More’s Utopia family is the foundation of society is maintained by the state, but also open for all sorts of innovation and technical development where Plato’s government has conservative attitude towards new experiences. This comparison shows how perfect Thomas More’s Utopia is and that is how our lives should be.
The idea of the word utopia varies person to person, area to area, or time to time. At the time Utopia was written, Thomas had an idea of everyone working together for an ideal society. Nowadays, it can also vary from region to region, where utopia for a businessman can be high salary, and for someone starving in Africa, utopia could be only a society where food would be available every time hunger arrives. Another example can be a women in Iraq who is in the middle of the war, and utopia can be the hope for the end of the crime as Gorman Beauchamp explains “Utopia, by contrast, is-or theoretically ought to be-a world without crime” ( 281).
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