Visions

We Can Always Use More Utopia
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River Road
The Virginia Exhibit
A Lost Car on Spike Canyon
The Beneficiaries
Invisible The Morning After
Beautiful Shadows
Something Like Wonder
Try to Keep Up
A Series of Moments Between Clocks
The Unromantic REAL World of Gulliver's Travels
Meant for One Thing
The Lesser of Evils
Love and Nemesis
The Sinning Bishop
The World In Your Pocket
Higher Purpose
A Promising Look at Genesis
Not For The Ladies
Fooling Around and Falling In Love
The Tediousness of Tragic Love
Poetic Analysis for "The Trees"
Creation On Dub
Creating the Universe
Fast Acting In Small Doses
As Crazy As They
We Can Always Use More Utopia
A Little Church in Corinth
The Theory of Carl Rogers
Historically Speaking
Different Shades, Same Color
A Rose for a Funeral
Reflection
Obsessed With Race


     Although the characters in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia often argue with each other and present opposing viewpoints, it is the combined effort of the views that represents the author’s true message. By rhetorically taking away the direct, literal seriousness of the story, entering himself into the story as a fictional character, and creating a compound argument among many random characters, More does not choose a side, but rather gives the reader a "personification" of the conflict involving his own controversial views.
     More begins by giving his story a light, jovial feel by creating the character of Hythloday who is portrayed as obscenely radical. In the introduction and throughout, Hythloday is described as a man who could read and speak Latin and Greek, hinting the reader in to the Greek origin of Hythloday's name, which means "peddler of nonsense.(More x)." All the names of the peoples and cities Hythloday mentions in his travels are also hints. Utopia, for example is a pun on two Greek words, Eutopia (good place) and Outopia (no place). Sadly, very few people knew Greek at the time Sir Thomas More wrote, or these hints might have been a clue that the entire concept and the opinions surrounding it were based in foolery. On the other hand, they also might have been placed in the text to distract from the serious social criticisms More was making.
In the story, Hythloday receives great scoffing from the other characters for his comment on servitude for the Royal Family. He argues that rulers are interested in "military pursuits" rather than "pursuits of peacetime (16)", in conquering new territory rather than finding better ways to govern their own. He further argues that the advice of the ruler’s favorites, whether wise or foolish, will always be met with approval by men trying to "suck up". In such an atmosphere, the advice of an outsider, no matter how wise, would meet with disdain (16-17). The other characters more or less pass off this comment, viewing it as a comment made by just that- an outsider. The character of Hythloday is, from the start, not taken completely seriously.
     The issue of whether to join the service of the King or remain a philosopher was one that Sir Thomas More constantly struggled with in his life. At the time he wrote Utopia, this question was of particular interest to him, as he was on the brink of joining the King's service. The argument between More and Hythloday can therefore be seen as an internal argument Sir Thomas More was having with himself. The struggle between remaining free to pursue the ideal and pragmatically compromising that purity for the sake of social utility is an important theme in Sir Thomas More's life, right down to his final decision to rather be a martyr.
     The fictional frame of Utopia allows Sir Thomas More to put the discussion of issues into a dramatic, character-based argument and show those issues from multiple sides. Here, Sir Thomas More gives a subtle clue that while the character More bears his name and perhaps some of his views, Hythloday also embodies aspects of Sir Thomas More's beliefs and ideas. The set-up of this fictional argument further allows Sir Thomas More to explore issues that, in a non-fiction work, might get him into trouble with the King, or the wealthy as a whole. He directly accuses the rich of "cornering the market," the King of setting "specious" judgments on criminals- in other words "making them into thieves and then punishing them for it (25)." These criticisms were likely to result in a punishment of beheading in 16th Century England. By having his character More argue with these criticisms in the fictional work, it appears that Sir Thomas More does not believe these opinions himself, thus he is safe from punishment.
     With this in mind, it is no accident that Sir Thomas More gave his name to one of the conservative characters in the book that basically defends the status quo (or opinion of the King). The fictional More stridently disagrees with Hythloday's more radical propositions such as the eradication of private property, and in doing so provides a sort of cover for Sir Thomas More. The disagreement by his namesake seems to imply, at least on the surface, that Sir Thomas More also disagrees with Hythloday. This might be a clever way for the author More to display his own struggle with forming an opinion on these matters- putting on paper the inner commentary he had while trying to make a realistic decision about his social criticisms.
     The exchange between More and Hythloday can be seen as a conflict between two separate ways of thought, combined in this piece of literature to utilize the good qualities of both. Hythloday adheres to a belief in the purity of the philosophical ideal of truth; More has a more pragmatic belief that such purity has no value and that it must be tempered and put to public use, even if that means compromising the original ideal. This is a classic political and philosophical conflict, with roots spread at least as far back as Plato.

Katherine Kennon (2004)