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In Thomas More?s book Utopia, there is a great deal of irony in the way
the people of this mystical place live and prosper. Much of what the people of
today?s society assume to be universal truths of life are completely opposite
from the Utopian perspective of the way things should be done. Some of these
differences include the way they protect themselves from other nations, their
economy, their system of land rights, and the nature of their relationships and
marriages. In all of these areas Utopians differ greatly from the norm of
western society. These differences serve as a commentary on the world which
westerns take for granted. In the book Utopia, More uses irony to demonstrate
some of the positive and negative aspects of western society.
In comparison with the ways of the western world where vast amounts of
the tax money is spent on the protection of the nations in terms of weapons and
training of armies, the Utopians have a much different system of nation
protection. Rather than fight themselves, they hire mercenaries to do their
battling for them. It is a very strange policy to adopt, and history has shown
that this is not the most effective way to protect a nation. Their stand on the
issue is that these soldiers are all out for money, and since the gold and
silver which they possess in vast amounts is available, they have nothing to
worry about. This is truly an ideal way of life, but the reality is that no
mercenary will fight as hard as a man who is protection his homeland. Any
person would agree that paying someone else to go to war for them would be
great, but this is not the way life works, and More is making this observation
in his book.
Another area where the people of Utopia differ greatly form the way of
the western world is the way in which the land rights are controlled. The basic
ideas of property ownership are unheard of to the people of Utopia. All of the
land is owned jointly, and the entire community works the land in shifts. This
prevents any man from having more than his neighbor which supposedly eliminates
jealousy and competition between citizens. Even though it is clear that there
can be no elimination of the innate competition between people or the human
instinct to acquire personal wealth, More is commenting the greedy nature of
the people of the western world. More?s description of their methods shows them
to be perfect, but the underlying suggestion is that they are far from perfect,
and that there is no possible way a system like this could prosper.
Another major difference between the European world and the Utopians is
the system of relationships, and marriage. There is what seems to be a very
cynical view of marriages. It is almost as thought they exist only because of
sex, and the idea of love is not even a factor.
?They suppose few people would join in marital love-with comfinment to a
single partner and all the petty annoyances that married life involves-unless
they were strictly restrained from promiscuity.?(452)
This quote implies that the members of this society would most likely have no
desire to commit themselves to one person if they had the freedom to be
involved sexually with other people. In other words if not for the conjugal
right marriages would not exist. This is a very cynical view of relationships,
and much different from that of the western world. There are no strict
punishments for adulterers in this society, as in Utopia and people are free to
act as they see fit. There is an underlying element of control in this society
of Utopia that resembles something close to hell for a person who likes to do
his own thinking and decision making. Many people do not want a higher power
telling them how to live, and this is the very point that More is making in
this book. The most significant difference that More presents in the
Utopian society is their economy. These people have absolutely no system of
money. They pay their mercenaries with the gold and silver which they have
mined strictly for that purpose, and there is an element of disgust for these
metals among the citizens the nation. They are living in a communal fashion.
They produce an excess of goods in order to trade with their neighbors, and the
citizens share all of the necessities of life in order to survive. Of course
this completely opposite to the western system of capitalism which allows
people to work for what they have and also allows them to fulfill that natural
desire to acquire wealth and personal security. Clearly More sees the flaws in
this entire system, and this is evident in his closing statements. He states:
I was left thinking that quite a few laws and customs he had described as
existing among Utopians were really absurd. These included their methods of
waging war, their religious practices, as well as others of their customs; but
my chief objection was the basis of their whole system, that is trier communal
living and their moneyless economy. This one thing alone takes away all of the
This shows that even though this entire concept comes from More’s imagination,
he still sees its ultimate flaws and that it is not a utopia at all, but rather
justification for the continuation of the present system flawed as it may be.
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