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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

nobility…(431)

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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