Utopia Book Review by Austin R.
Utopia is a largely philosophical classic masterpiece that conveys Thomas More’s vivid imagination of a fictitious society. The story is a dialogue between Raphael Hythloday, More, and Peter Giles. Raphael is a traveler that spent five years on the island of Utopia, and relates the unusual ideas that make up the politics and society of the Utopians. More first describes the principle idea of Utopia, the abolition of private property. In the world of Raphael, private property “makes the many far more wretched than the few, and even puts the few ill at ease for fear of the dissatisfied masses”. Everything in Utopia is homogeneous, or as close to everything else as possible. The political ideas presented in Utopia were all very radical for the time it was written.
The word Utopia translates into Ancient Greek as “no place” and “good place”, and has been translated as “a good place that is no place”. The people of Utopia certainly have strict rules they must follow, such as all wearing the same plain clothing. However, it seems the people all willingly accept these rules, as they know that they’re necessary to keep order, due to the nature of humans. The people of Utopia are very pleased with their society, and it’s easy to see why. Everyone works only six hours a day, and everyone has food to eat and a house to live in. For this security however, they have to sacrifice privacy, everyone is watching everyone else, and so you have no choice but to just get on with your work. I thought one of the most interesting ideas presented in the book was how their society devalued gold. They made their slaves wear elegant gold, and let little children play with it, and so no one assigns a very high value to it. Because of this, the society is very rich; they have huge stores of gold that they keep whenever they may interact with the outside world, but also much more practical materials. I love how Utopia considers unusual political and economic thoughts like these; Actual societies rarely employ such creative ideas.
I liked how Thomas More used his own character in his story, while still maintaining the fiction part of it. I suspect he created Raphael and More out of aspects of himself, and proceeded to debate his own conflicting opinions in the book. In it is a frank critique of European and English society. Thomas More was a brave fellow to publish something as controversial as this in that time. There really is a lot to discuss about Utopia; I think alternative thinking books such as this should be read more often.
I recommend this book to anyone, it’s a short read and it’s guaranteed to make you think. I’m not sure if I would want to live in this land of Utopia, but I sure enjoyed reading about it sitting in this land I’m on now.