Utopia Book

Aug 26, 10 Utopia Book

Utopia Book Review

Even though Sir Thomas More (1478 – 1535) was a brilliant lawyer, he never lost his love of literature and philosophy. He became a judge at only 32, and during this time he wrote Utopia which is, even today, considered to be a great Socratic dialogue. Utopia mocks English policies at the time and, because of that, More had it published in Belgium in 1516.

Utopia is the story of a story, told by a traveler, Raphael Hythloday, who meets the main character, More, through a friend, Peter Giles, while they are all traveling in the Low Countries. Raphael talks about the many places he has visited when sailing with Amerigo Vespucci and especially focuses on their social structure and government. He clearly states that one country in particular, Utopia, is very well ruled and the citizens are allowed to criticize the laws of their own country. He admits that this would not be welcome in England and says that he would not want to be a King’s counselor because he enjoys his free, traveling lifestyle.

The country of Utopia, perfect according to Raphael, is divided into identical towns with 6,000 families who are ruled by magistrates, called Philarchs, which are chosen every year by thirty families. Everything is free and gold has no value in Utopia, so it is used to pay other people to go to war so that its citizens need not, even though they do regular military exercises. Raphael talks about the issues of marriage, religion, slaves and prisoners of war and believes that they are dealt with in a very wise way. He explains that the people of Europe could learn from them.

Religion is one of the main themes, which proved true in Sir Thomas More’s life. In Utopia all people must believe in a Divine Being, but they can worship in any religion they chose. Having written this, More could have saved his life by acknowledging Henry VIII as the head of the Church in England.

More, in the story, wants Raphael to continue talking because he found the descriptions so fascinating, but Raphael is tired and needs to rest. More wishes in the end that England would adopt some of these customs but realizes there is not much chance of that happening.

During the Age of Discovery, when Amerigo Vespucci was sailing to the New World, it was a time when new hope of a better society started to blossom. Sir Thomas More’s vision of a perfect society has influenced many writers and thinkers over the centuries. John Locke, Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau and even Marx and Engels are a few who were inspired by Utopia.

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