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A Review of Thomas More Book Perfect Society in Utopia

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Utopia: The “Perfect” Society

Thomas More’s Utopia depicts a society in which citizens behave a certain way and participate in practices that represent the things that they have been programmed to believe. Since the Utopians do not experience many problems with this system, there is no need to ever change it or see any flaws. Although things may seem like they were only created so that this country may appear perfect, each ideal practice reflects something that More saw as a human belief that should be recognized.

As their main source of labor, the Utopians work in agriculture. They all have the skills to execute this job, and they also have the skills to execute a secondary trade that involves an otherwise useful task. Producing this agriculture serves several purposes. First and foremost, it gets them the food that they eat. Having plenty of food keeps everyone happy and healthy. They do not produce products that they do not need, but they all work hard and thus produce more than they need of what they do make. This results in surplus that will serve them well in trade, therefore gaining money. Since they are producing so much, they do not have to work for very long at any time. More says, “(T)hey, dividing the day and night into twenty-four hours, appoint six of these for work, three of which are before dinner and three after,” (95). Since everyone shares the same job and they work for the same amount of hours at the same exact time, this eliminates the social ranking that is often associated with occupations. Several other practices represent this belief as well. The Utopians do not wear different clothing from one another. Their bland clothing only allows them to distinguish between gender and the married and unmarried. They also all live in houses that look exactly alike. There is no need for any one person to feel as though they are superior to another because they are all living the same way. Each citizen works to benefit the greater good instead of themselves. There is no greed, therefore no jealousy.

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Since only six hours of the day are spent working, there is time for other things for the Utopians. They are allowed to travel, as long as they get permission before doing so. However, if they should stay for more than one night in a place that is not their home, they must partake in the normal work that they do, so that they are still benefiting the society more than themselves. The Utopians have a lot of money. However, they do not use it amongst themselves for pleasure spending. Anything they need is free and available to them, and they do not wish for more than they need. This is because they believe that an object’s use determines its value. This is why gold is not of any value to them. They are much more likely to use something like iron, which is also easier to obtain. More states, “Nature, as an indulgent parent, has freely given us all the best things in great abundance, such as water and earth, but has laid up and hid from us the things that are vain and useless,” (113). This means that they believe that one should not look past what is freely given to them and want for more. They gain their money by trading their surplus, as previously mentioned. Then, they save their money until wartime. If Utopia must engage in battle, officials use the extra money to purchase mercenaries to fight for the country so the actual citizens do not have to risk their lives. Since the country is very rich, it is easy for them to bribe any foreign troops and they do not find it difficult to keep their own people safe. All of these practices that keep the Utopians happy reflect the belief that the sole purpose of life is pleasure.

Another way the Utopians gain pleasure is through marriage. Women cannot marry until they are eighteen years old and men cannot marry until they are twenty-two years old. If there are inappropriate relations before marriage, there will be serious punishment. Divorce and adultery are not allowed. Therefore, the Utopians partake in a sort of ritual before marriage that allows each future spouse to understand fully what they will gain in the marriage. The man and woman view each other naked for the first time before marriage so that they may judge the body of their proposed spouse and make sure that they are willing to be committed to them for the rest of their lives. Although it may sound ridiculous and harsh, “All men are not so wise as to choose a woman only for her good qualities, and even wise men consider the body as that which adds not a little to the mind, and it is certain there may be some such deformity covered with clothes as may totally alienate a man from his wife, when it is too late to part with her,” (More 143). When pleasure can no longer be reached by a Utopian because they are too sick and too close to death to enjoy life any more, an option to end their life early is presented. The Utopians take very good care of their sick, but when there is no way to get better from an illness, it is seen as very honorable to take one’s own life, with assistance of course. This relates to how the Utopians believe the only purpose in living is to enjoy pleasure. Once someone who is ailing has passed away, it relieves the burden of having to care for them, and they are no longer in pain so it benefits everyone involved. It is not mandatory for someone to take this route of death when offered to do so, it is merely an option. Authority must be granted for death by suicide, however, and if one were to choose to do so without being granted permission “they give him none of the honors of a decent funeral, but throw his body into a ditch,” (More 141). It is important for the citizens of Utopia to follow all rules, because if they do not, they are made into slaves.

Though Utopia may appear as a strange and different country, the things that they do represent basic human beliefs that are apparent anywhere. When each and every member of their society wishes to benefit the whole country instead of only themselves or their family, things run smoothly and everything is accomplished as it should be. Utopians relish in true pleasures every day because of their pure beliefs.

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