Sir Thomas More
I did look forward to reading this book, but I ended up disliking it, as it bored me terribly. I admit: I also found the writing tricky. But overall, the historical story - about More - behind the fictional one was more interesting to me.
Utopia is a conversation involving several fictitious characters, including: More, himself, who works for King Henry VIII (which he did in reality); his friend, Giles; and another man, Hythloday, who traveled, with Amerigo Vespucci, to the New World and came to the island of Utopia. Hythloday spends an evening describing Utopia to More and Giles, and they discuss its ideals, comparing them to 16th century Europe.
In short, Hythloday says that the Utopians lived in perfect harmony because there was no poverty, no greed, no love of wealth, no class structure, no private property, very little crime or moral corruption, and no war (except in self-defense or to help neighbors). Everyone was educated and worked joyfully and willingly hard. And there was also religious tolerance for all religions (except for those who rejected God altogether). Utopia was a society based wholly on reasonable thought or common sense. The End.
I would like to know where Utopia found its inhabitants because they do not sound human. More and Giles are skeptical, too; but mostly they are reluctant to agree on certain notions, like community property and war, because they know those principles would never be implemented in Europe. This was probably true, too.
I was more curious about why More wrote on this topic at all, given that he worked for King Henry VIII. More wrote Utopia on the Eve of the Protestant Reformation. He was an ardent defender of the Catholic Church throughout the Counter Reformation. And when he would not support the King's break from the Church, to divorce his first wife, More was imprisoned as a traitor of the King, and later beheaded.
It is challenging to pin point why More wrote Utopia. Was it to provoke thought, which he knew would be impossible to reach about the perfect human society? Was it to promote his own humanistic thought, as a humanist Catholic, in which one uses Christian principles and rational thought, as opposed to traditional dogma? Or did he only want to critique what he thought was incorrect about 16th century Europe, the feudal system, and the unfair English justice system? Maybe it was a little of all three.
Whatever the answer, I found the idea of Utopia totally dull, and I would never want to live there because no one was different; everyone was equal --- equally boring. Even their clothing was very similar. It was totally unrealistic.
IS THIS BOOK FOR YOU?
Again, if you like old texts, classics, and the like, this is one you should read. At least once. But if you are looking for a riveting story about people in the perfect society (*yawn*), you may want to find different "utopian" literature. Personally, I found Gulliver's Travels much more intriguing than this.