Utopia

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Although comparing one society to another does not require them to be different in government or human behavior, it does necessarily weight one’s faults against its victories to render it better or worse than the other. This comparative structure, found between Thomas More’s two books of Utopia, poses the country of Utopia opposite the broader communities of world civilization. Despite the comparison of Utopia as distinct from and morally better than widespread society, in truth Utopia is, at best, an extension. The sloth of governments abroad have led Utopians to pursue lives of group work rather than personal property. In Book I, Hythloday confronts the wealthy as "rapacious, wicked, and useless, while the poor are unassuming, modest men who work hard" (36). The duality of the claim of wealth versus work makes them appear dichotomous, not to mention cruel, and results in the desire of the Utopians to be free of not only "private property," but of laziness. Thus they partake of group labor, but wherein "every person learns a second trade, besides agriculture" (45). This appears fair and useful, especially when coupled with how "Utopians do not work very long hours, for to "exhaust himself with endless toil" is "such wretchedness, really worse than slavery" (45). Yet In Book I, Hythloday makes a positive example of the Persian Polylerites, whom, "apart from their constant work, they undergo no discomfort in living" (23). This contradiction of values is met with another: their own enslavement of others. Though the struggles of the poor amid the wealth of leadership motivate the Utopians to abolish money, it is not to the effect of equality. Hythloday is critical of "a solitary ruler who enjoys a life of pleasure...while all about him are grieving and groaning," for he is "acting like a jailer, not a king" (32). The comparison of wealth or joy for one to a multitude of pain condemns the king for his unfair treatment of others. Instead of this injustice of jailing, the Utopians choose to take slaves. The fate facing slaves in Utopia is to be "kept constantly at work, and are always fettered" (70). Considering the premise in Book I of the Polylerites' constant work, Utopian slavery sounds vaguely tolerable, aside from the fetters, and the fact that the Utopians do not need to work full days. The Utopians excuse slavery by claiming they "deal with their own people more harshly" because they had "the best of moral training" (70). In this case, the criminal is punished for moral delinquency in the form of slavery's high moral standing. But perhaps the most remarkable and revealing of justifications is that "A third class of slaves consists of hardworking penniless drudges from other nations who voluntarily choose to become slaves in Utopia" (71). The appeal here, beyond the hilarity, is the existence of a third class of slaves. Not only do Utopians believe in and use slavery, but also they take no issue with the concept of a class system: not only to have slaves, but to have classes thereof. With slavery considered voluntary for some, punishment for others, and simply the luck of the draw for the rest, it appears the Utopians cannot reach the rationality they claim to behold. Although they consider politics of other states to be flawed and corrupted, Utopia is not without its suspicions. Kings of other nations are deemed by Hythloday to be "infected with false values" and "the seeds of evil and corruption" (28). With these the rulers of countries that "are constantly passing new ordinances and yet can never order their affairs satisfactorily," one could understand the Utopian's change of leadership. Instead of a king, they have a makeshift parliamentary system, with "syphogrants" and their superiors the "tranibors" electing a "governor" (43). This system appears free of doubt until the amendment that "the governor holds the office for life, unless he is suspected of tyranny" (43). While concerns of corruption may be common to...
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