Utopia Essay Questions

Society in Utopia by Thomas More Essay

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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. In England, thieves are punished with death. There is no distinction between the severity of crimes in the justice system and a man who steals a loaf of bread is given the same sentence as a man who kills. According to More,…show more content…

Result-hundreds of farmers are evicted." (More, 47) Without land, people have no means of supporting themselves and are forced to either turn to begging and lose all of their self respect or steal to survive and More says "theft comes easier to a man of spirit".(More, 48) More sums up his feeling on the matter by saying "Thus, a few greedy people have converted one of England's greatest natural advantages into a national disaster." (More, 48) When examining the problems of English society, More points out that another of the main contributing factors is the centralized kingship of the country. More says, "it is generally agreed that a king can do no wrong, however much he may want to, because everything belongs to him, including every human being in the country...". (More, 61) Because the king has so much power over his country and his land, there is nothing to assure that the people under his command can lead happy and healthy lives. One of the main points More focuses on in Utopia is the kings powers and how he uses them. Kings have the ability to make war, but More questions why anyone would want to go to war in the first place by saying "I don't see how it can be in the public interest to prepare for war, which you needn't have unless you want to, by maintaining innumerable disturbers of the

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When UTOPIA first appeared, many people thought More was relating an incident that had actually happened. To make the realistic framework of the story convincing, More includes himself as a character. He and his friend Peter Giles meet Raphael Hythloday, a Portuguese seaman who has been to the New World.

More, Giles, and Hythloday engage in a conversation concerning the value of entering a king’s service in order to promote the public good. This discussion leads to an analysis of the economic and social ills in the Europe of the 16th century.

Book II, actually written first by More, contains Hythloday’s description of the representative government, communistic economy, and religious toleration of the Utopians. Although individual Utopians are fallible, the Utopian state is organized upon rational and humanistic principles.

Much controversy concerning UTOPIA has arisen because the Utopians, whose imaginary state is described in Book II, have abolished private property. Marxist critics have claimed More as an early forerunner of Karl Marx, interpreting UTOPIA as a critique of bourgeois capitalism.

More was canonized as a Catholic saint in 1935. His canonization has intensified speculation about the orthodoxy of UTOPIA. Since the Utopians practice mercy killing and divorce, some critics have argued that More did not regard Utopia as a good place. Other critics have insisted that UTOPIA should not be taken seriously, that it is a witty joke.

Modeled in certain respects on Plato’s REPUBLIC, UTOPIA is an important touchstone for subsequent works which describe imaginary societies.

Additional Reading

Ackroyd, Peter. The...

(The entire section is 699 words.)

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