Thomas More’s UtopiaThomas More’s use of dialogue in “Utopia” is not only practicalbut masterly layed out as well. The text itself is divided into two parts. Thefirst , called “Book One”, describes the English society of the fifteenthcentury with such perfection that it shows many complex sides of theinterpretted structure with such clarity and form that the reader is given thefreedom for interpretation as well.
This flexibility clearly illustratesMore’s request for discussion and point of view from this reader. In oneconcise, artistic paragraph, More clearly illustrates his proposition of theproblems people possess within a capitalist society and the fault of thestructure itself; clearly showing More’s point of view for “Book One”. If Moreattempted 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 beencarried off by hunger. If at the end of the famine the barns of the rich weresearched. I dare say positively enough grain would be found in them to havesaved the lives of all those who died from starvation and disease, if it hadbeen divided equally among them.
Nobody really need have suffered from a badharvest at all. So easily might men get the necessities of life if that cursedmoney, which is supposed to provide access to them, were not in fact the chiefbarrier to our getting what we need to live. Even the rich, I’m sure, understandthis. They must know that it’s better to have enough of what we really need thanan abundance of superfluities, much better to escape from our many presenttroubles than to be burdened with great masses of wealth. And in fact I have nodoubt that every man’s perception of where his true interest lies, along withwith the authority of Christ our Saviour. .
. . . would long ago have brought thewhole world to adopt Utopian laws, if it were not for one single monster, theprime plague and begetter of all others—I mean pride.
(More, pg. 83) For one tofully realize the significance of this virtueous paragraph they first mustremember the time period it was written; more so now that we are in thetwentieth 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 theproblems of England in “Book One”. This measurement makes one see the strengthsand weaknesses between the two; as well as, their similarities.
It isdifficult to title Utopia as a socialist, communist society, in as much, it isjust 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 thatopression is unescapable in either society. Either way, it just shows theabsurdity to claim either of these as an utopian commonwealth. However, it isclear that More’s attempt was to make Utopia an egalitarian society for thebetter of the people as whole.
His description of the institutions Utopia isso prescise and well formatted that it is difficult to see any flaws other thanthe ones that were out of his control. More, just as anyone, was a slave of thesociety he lived in. No matter how hard More tried to escape it, his morals andvalues were still derived from the society he lived in. This is why one mustlook at Utopia as a society designed only to better the people of thecapitalist England.
It is absurd to look at Utopia as a perfect state, in asmuch, the knowledge which was true to More would interfear with many areaswithin the society of Utopia; More’s faith, his ignorance of the evolvingfuture, and the societies outside of Utopia described in “Book Two” would makethe society of Utopia a paradox. The strength of it all, is that More amazinglyknew his socialist state was not perfect; even for the society of England:. . . though he is a man of unquestioned learning, and highly experienced in theways of the world, I cannot agree with everything he said.
Yet I confess thereare many things in the Commonwealth of Utopia that I wish our own country wouldimitate—-though I don’t really expect it will (More, pg. 85)In correlation to both societies described in “Utopia”, with bothopressing the people within it, controlling their knowledge and way of life, itis clear that utopia is impossible to reach as long as human kind is confinedto any institution. The difference between the two societies is seen when onelooks at where this opression stems from. England’s capitalist society isstructured in such a way that it allows the people within it to opress or beopressed by each other.
In Utopia the oppression is derived not from thepeople 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 thansocialism. The problem of a capitalist society stems not from its’ structure butfrom the people within it. In contrast, the people of the socialist society areall equal; yet, what makes this possible is the structures’ control over thepeople. Both societies have strengths and weaknesses. Untill humankind can beresocialized losing the terms power, greed , and pride from our vocabulary,will there be terms like opression and freedom in it as well.
The onlypossibillity for this, is if humankind is confined within a similar society asdescribed by More called Utopia; then evolve into a society with the samestructural freedoms like capitalism. Therfore, for the capitalist England ofthe fifteenth century, More’s society in “Book Two” was not his ideal utopianstate; but a path leading towards it. As you can see, More’s liturary dialogue called “Utopia”, as stressedthrough out this essay, is not an attempt to illustrate an utopian society, andwould be a parodox if done so. I think one get’s this false interpretationthrough the title of the text and the name of his socialist imaginary statewith perfect political, social, conditions or constitution. “(pg.
395) It alsostates that “Utopia” is derived from the Greek words “no place”. If More hadthis definition in mind it would clarify the a majority of the ambiguitieswithin the context of the text, also illustrating even more of the opressionMore faced in England; as well as, his fear of it. More’s “Utopia was done insuch a way to enlighten the people of England about their opressing capitalistsociety. Instead of leaving the reader with a sense of hopelessness, he gives analternative society; not to make the reader interpret it as an ideal societyto want over England’s, but make one realize the possibility of change. It isaimed to make one contemplate on the weaknesses and strengths of their ownsociety and how to go about changing it to better the common wealth of theirpeople as a wholeEnglish