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    The Use of Characters to Express the Author’s Feelings About the Management of England in Utopia by Sir Thomas More

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    In the passage Utopia, by Sir Thomas More, More uses characters to speak about this fantasy world that he tries to pass off as a real place, in order to express his feelings about how his country of England is running. In the story, Thomas More creates this main character, also by the name of Thomas More, and another character that is also a narrator in a sense, named Raphael Hythloday. In Book I, More meets Raphael and learns who he is and how knowledgeable he is of a place that he has visited, named Utopia. Once he learns a little more about Raphael, More tries to persuade him to become a part of the king’s council.

    More believes that Raphael has a lot to offer to the king and his other counsels, because he knows so much more than them about a topic that no one else knows about. Raphael agrees that he is very knowledgeable, but because he knows so much about Utopia and no one else does, he does not think that the king and his council will be very receptive to his opinions and what he has to say. Raphael is very reluctant to join the king, so he decides to sit down with Thomas More and his friend Peter Giles, to explain to him the things that he witnessed while living in Utopia for five plus years. This is when we begin to enter the world of Utopia in Book II.

    In the entire narrative of Utopia developed by Thomas More, there are some problems with Raphael Hythloday, the narrator. Some of these problems are the fact that he may be too knowledgeable for his own good, tries too hard to persuade his listeners of Thomas More and Peter Giles to believe in Utopia, and finally, that he is not fully understood because he himself belongs in a world like Utopia and not in the modern and real world which in a sense, makes him somewhat unreliable.

    When we are first introduced to Raphael Hythloday, we do not know much about him other than he is one of Peter Giles’ friends and Thomas More does not know him yet. After Hythloday is introduced to More by Giles, he learns that Hythloday has recently gotten back from traveling in a faraway land named Utopia. As stated earlier, the more that Thomas More talked to Raphael Hythloday, he discovered how intelligent his new acquaintance was, and thought that he would be a great counsel to the king. “My dear Raphael, I’m surprised that you don’t enter some king’s service; for I don’t know of a single prince who wouldn’t be eager to employ you” says Thomas More (More, 578).

    Peter Giles also agreed that Hythloday would be a great addition to the king’s team, but Hythloday immediately refused. More claimed that his “learning and knowledge of various countries and peoples would entertain [the king], while [his] advice and supply of examples would be very helpful in the council chamber” (More, 578). Raphael Hythloday believes that the king’s council is already wise enough, or so they think, and that they do not need any more people to join them.

    Also, Hythloday is certain that if the court were to hear what he had to say, they would not listen because it is so different from what they are used to hearing or offering to the king. Hythloday is so advanced in his experiences because of his travels and voyages, the king’s court would be reluctant to hear his opinions, and more that likely would not use any of his suggestions. They “would think that their reputation for wisdom was endangered and they would look like simpletons” and therefore would not accept whatever it is that Hythloday would be bringing forth (More, 579).

    Because a lot of the king’s counsels have been stuck behind the walls of the kingdom and helping the king for so long, it has been a while since they have been able to explore the world, and because of this, they may not know of a lot of the new things that have come about like Hythloday does. Because he has heard and seen things, whenever he speaks of what he has witnessed, the councils may not understand and think that he has gone mad. Because of all of these factors, Raphael Hythloday decides to turn down the idea of working with the king for his own good. He knows that he would not be understood by the others, and he is content with living his life for him and helping the greater good his way.

    Because Raphael Hythloday lived in Utopia for a while, he was more than happy to share his knowledge about the beautiful and affluent country to Thomas More and Peter Giles. This is what leads us into Book II. As Hythloday goes on to tell his story about Utopia, he touches on a lot of different topics such as its geography, its cities, the officials of those cities and the different occupations the people had, social relations, their military, and so much more. The main occupation of the people that live in Utopia is agriculture. Men, women, and children all pitch in to put in their share of work. Other than agriculture, everyone is responsible for learning a trade such as wool-working, linin-making, masonry, metal-work, or carpentry.

    For women, “as the weaker sex, [they] practice the lighter crafts, such as working in wool or linen” (More, 603). While everyone does their fair share of work, they all wear the same styled clothes that are ideal for the work they do, this way no one is discriminated against. Raphael goes on to explain that everywhere except Utopia, people work endlessly from sun up to sun down, and are exhausted at the end of the day. In Utopia, however, the people only work six hours of the day. Three of those hours they work before noon, and then they go to lunch.

    After everyone is finished with their meals, they have a rest period. In between time when people are resting, eating, or working, they have their own individual recreation time to themselves to do whatever they please. After they are well rested and their food has digested, they go back to work for three more hours then have dinner at eight o’clock. Once dinner has been served, and everyone is full, they all go to bed and have a restful slumber and sleep through the night for eight full hours. It sounds like the perfect day.

    To Thomas More and Peter Giles, this sounds amazing. Raphael was going on and on about their work days and how everyone had to pitch in, and that made More and Giles reflect on their days in England and how it was nothing like the Utopians. Hythloday knew that Utopia was completely different from England, or any other country for that matter, so he continued on and began to tell them of the gold and silver in this unbelievable country.

    Because Utopia has “been carrying on trade for a long time now” the country has an abundant amount of gold and silver (More, 610). Because they have so much, it is almost not even worth as much as gold and silver would be in another country, because they have so much of it. Who has ever heard of a place with too much gold and silver? Only in Utopia. The way trade works within the country is this: if the senate of their capital, Amaurot, finds that a poor city has a shortage of goods or materials, and they see that another city has a surplus, the more affluent country will give some of their goods to the poorer city to make up for their shortage. Once all the cities of the country are back to good standards, they begin trading with other countries. They often times sell them honey, wool, dyes, leather, and livestock.

    In return they receive materials that they lack, plus gold and silver. They have done this so many times for so long; therefore they have accumulated an excessive amount of gold and silver. Hyltholday goes on to explain how they use the precious metals, but before starting, he is kind of ashamed to tell them. He thinks that More and Giles will not believe him because the way in which they use their gold and silver is completely absurd, but he continues to tell them anyway. In Utopia, the chamber pots and vessels that people use every day in their homes are made of the precious metals. Also, when criminals are arrested for some heinous crime and are then turned into slaves, they “are forced to wear gold rings in their ears and on their fingers, golden chains around their necks, and even golden headbands” (More, 612).

    When it comes to other jewels like pearls or diamonds, if someone were to find them along the ground somewhere, normally they clean it off and give it to their small children as little toys and trinkets to play with. The different customs of Utopia are completely different from those of England or any other country, and Thomas More and Peter Giles definitely learned that after Raphael Hythloday shared his experiences of the country. Hythloday sold the country just a little too well to his listeners, and that was the goal.

    The definition of utopia is: an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. This is precisely what Raphael Hythloday made the country of Utopia out to be. From the way people lived and conducted their work, to how they interacted with one another, their government, the use of precious metals such as gold and silver, and so much more, Utopia seems absolutely perfect. Anyone would be lucky to live there. This is exactly the problem. Raphael Hythloday finds his friend Peter Giles and is introduced to Thomas More, and begins telling them of this wonderful place. He tells them that he spent time in England so he knows what their country is like, and that it is nothing like Utopia. Hythloday seems to have a strong regard for the country, but this is only because it is so perfect. But how could he be so infatuated with a country that does not exist?

    Throughout this whole story, Hythloday tries to show Thomas More and Peter Giles through his anecdotes, how wonderful a place like Utopia is, when in reality, it is not real. Hythloday belongs in a place like Utopia because he has enough knowledge of what it would be like if it were real, and because of this, he really does not fit in in the real world. Raphael Hythloday is too caught up in the world of Utopia, and cannot function in the real world. This is the main reason that he cannot be a part of the king’s council, because when he speaks, it is so different from that of other people, no one would appreciate the meaning behind what he is saying. Hythloday belongs in the world that was created.

    In the entire narrative of Utopia developed by Thomas More, there are some problems with Raphael Hythloday, the narrator. Some of these problems are the fact that he may be too knowledgeable for his own good, tries too hard to persuade his listeners of Thomas More and Peter Giles to believe in Utopia, and finally, that he is not fully understood because he belongs in the world of Utopia and not in the modern and real world which in a sense, makes him somewhat unreliable. Because of this, Raphael Hythloday is not the ideal narrator of the story of Utopia.

    The original Thomas More, and author of this narrative, created Utopia as a way to complain about England and what is wrong with it. He knew that if he spoke directly of the issues of England as himself, he would be severely punished and perhaps killed. In order to prevent that from happening, he created Utopia and used the fictional characters of Thomas More and Raphael Hythloday to tell his story. In order to perfectly express his feelings, he created an idealistic society, where everything was perfect, and created it to kind of give England some ideas of how to fix their problems such as the justice system and their poverty crisis.

    By the end of the story, Thomas More and Peter Giles still wanted to know more about the fictional place, but decided to save that for another time. The author Thomas More was able to vent in a way that would not get him in trouble, but still allowed him to express the way he felt toward his country.

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    The Use of Characters to Express the Author’s Feelings About the Management of England in Utopia by Sir Thomas More. (2023, Mar 11). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/the-use-of-characters-to-express-the-authors-feelings-about-the-management-of-england-in-utopia-by-sir-thomas-more/

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