Thomas More


Thomas More’s Utopia Essay, Research Paper

Thomas More’s Utopia

Thomas More’s use of dialogue in “Utopia” is not only practical

but masterly layed out as well. The text itself is divided into two parts. The

first , called “Book One”, describes the English society of the fifteenth

century with such perfection that it shows many complex sides of the

interpretted structure with such clarity and form that the reader is given the

freedom for interpretation as well. This flexibility clearly illustrates

More’s request for discussion and point of view from this reader. In one

concise, artistic paragraph, More clearly illustrates his proposition of the

problems people possess within a capitalist society and the fault of the

structure itself; clearly showing More’s point of view for “Book One”. If More

attempted to get anything across to the people of England it was this:

Take a barren year of failed harvests, when many thousands of men have been

carried off by hunger. If at the end of the famine the barns of the rich were

searched. I dare say positively enough grain would be found in them to have

saved the lives of all those who died from starvation and disease, if it had

been divided equally among them. Nobody really need have suffered from a bad

harvest at all. So easily might men get the necessities of life if that cursed

money, which is supposed to provide access to them, were not in fact the chief

barrier to our getting what we need to live. Even the rich, I’m sure, understand

this. They must know that it’s better to have enough of what we really need than

an abundance of superfluities, much better to escape from our many present

troubles than to be burdened with great masses of wealth. And in fact I have no

doubt that every man’s perception of where his true interest lies, along with

with the authority of Christ our Saviour….. would long ago have brought the

whole world to adopt Utopian laws, if it were not for one single monster, the

prime plague and begetter of all others—I mean pride. (More, pg.83) For one to

fully realize the significance of this virtueous paragraph they first must

remember the time period it was written; more so now that we are in the

twentieth century dominated by capitalism.

Before More accounts for his rhetorical, socialist society of “Book Two”

in detail, he strengthens his idea of communism by pre-establishing the

problems of England in “Book One”. This measurement makes one see the strengths

and weaknesses between the two; as well as, their similarities. It is

difficult to title Utopia as a socialist, communist society, in as much, it is

just as valid to argue that Utopia is as opressive as the England described in

“Book One”. If Utopia is a truely socialist state, then one can see that

opression is unescapable in either society. Either way, it just shows the

absurdity to claim either of these as an utopian commonwealth. However, it is

clear that More’s attempt was to make Utopia an egalitarian society for the

better of the people as whole. His description of the institutions Utopia is

so prescise and well formatted that it is difficult to see any flaws other than

the ones that were out of his control. More, just as anyone, was a slave of the

society he lived in. No matter how hard More tried to escape it, his morals and

values were still derived from the society he lived in. This is why one must

look at Utopia as a society designed only to better the people of the

capitalist England. It is absurd to look at Utopia as a perfect state, in as

much, the knowledge which was true to More would interfear with many areas

within the society of Utopia; More’s faith, his ignorance of the evolving

future, and the societies outside of Utopia described in “Book Two” would make

the society of Utopia a paradox. The strength of it all, is that More amazingly

knew his socialist state was not perfect; even for the society of England:

…though he is a man of unquestioned learning, and highly experienced in the

ways of the world, I cannot agree with everything he said. Yet I confess there

are many things in the Commonwealth of Utopia that I wish our own country would

imitate—-though I don’t really expect it will (More, pg. 85)

In correlation to both societies described in “Utopia”, with both

opressing the people within it, controlling their knowledge and way of life, it

is clear that utopia is impossible to reach as long as human kind is confined

to any institution. The difference between the two societies is seen when one

looks at where this opression stems from. England’s capitalist society is

structured in such a way that it allows the people within it to opress or be

opressed by each other. In Utopia the oppression is derived not from the

people but from the structure itself. Therefore, a capitalist societies’

structure allows more freedom for the people than the egalitarian society; thus,

ironically, it is argueable to state that capitalism is more socialist than

socialism. The problem of a capitalist society stems not from its’ structure but

from the people within it. In contrast, the people of the socialist society are

all equal; yet, what makes this possible is the structures’ control over the

people. Both societies have strengths and weaknesses. Untill humankind can be

resocialized losing the terms power, greed , and pride from our vocabulary,

will there be terms like opression and freedom in it as well. The only

possibillity for this, is if humankind is confined within a similar society as

described by More called Utopia; then evolve into a society with the same

structural freedoms like capitalism. Therfore, for the capitalist England of

the fifteenth century, More’s society in “Book Two” was not his ideal utopian

state; but a path leading towards it.

As you can see, More’s liturary dialogue called “Utopia”, as stressed

through out this essay, is not an attempt to illustrate an utopian society, and

would be a parodox if done so. I think one get’s this false interpretation

through the title of the text and the name of his socialist imaginary state

with perfect political, social, conditions or constitution.”(pg.395) It also

states that “Utopia” is derived from the Greek words “no place”. If More had

this definition in mind it would clarify the a majority of the ambiguities

within the context of the text, also illustrating even more of the opression

More faced in England; as well as, his fear of it. More’s “Utopia was done in

such a way to enlighten the people of England about their opressing capitalist

society. Instead of leaving the reader with a sense of hopelessness, he gives an

alternative society; not to make the reader interpret it as an ideal society

to want over England’s, but make one realize the possibility of change. It is

aimed to make one contemplate on the weaknesses and strengths of their own

society and how to go about changing it to better the common wealth of their

people as a whole

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