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MonkeyNotes-Utopia by Sir Thomas More
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Philosopher - Councilors

More still insists on the fact that Hythloday can be a tremendously effective adviser to a king, but Hythloday is of another opinion. He insists that his advice will have no effects at all on a government.

When More questions him about eradication of private property, Hythloday talks about Utopia where he has lived for some time. He contrasts the goodness of the country with the evil in Europe. Utopia has very few laws but those that exist are clear and just. Private property has been abolished and no one is poor, as there is an abundance of goods in the commonwealth. Abolition of private property abolishes a great deal of vices like greed, theft, pride, envy and so on. With private property, a few are very rich and others very poor.

More does not agree with Hythloday. To him abolishing private property means that men will become very lazy. If there is nothing to be gained by work, then why should anybody work? Hythloday is not surprised at More's doubts. But having lived with the Utopia for some five years, he is willing to set his doubts at rest.

Peter Giles, who has been quiet for so long, bursts in with the comment that Utopia cannot be such a wonderful place. Europe, with its lasting civilization, has to be better. Hythloday corrects Giles and tells him that Utopia is an ancient civilization, only Europeans have never heard of it. So to clear their doubts, he will describe the commonwealth in great detail.


Notes

At the end of the first book, Utopia is introduced by Hythloday who has managed to savagely critique European society. He suggests that European society can be a more just and reasoned place if private property as well as money are eliminated. When More and Giles rebut this proposal, he agrees that it is strange but he has seen for himself how eliminating these two aspects of European society can improve the quality of life for all.

More here gives a very clever introduction of the main theme -- the commonwealth of Utopia. In the preceding pages he has described all the ills of Europe in the sixteenth century. He has described the selfishness and wickedness of kings. The misuse of good advisers and the popularity of bad ones and the waste that war creates are brought to light. More has shown the wretchedness of people who have no means of livelihood. As a whole, European societies are depicted as being very bleak and corrupt. In contrast, Utopia will prove to be a place where all are taken care of, not just those who own property or have wealth.

The two main characters here, More and Hythloday, reveal their differing thoughts. More has definite opinions on kings and the commonwealth and what responsibilities those who are knowledgeable have on political affairs as well as morally good. On the other hand, Hythloday argues with More to show that there are better ways to run a society than on the principles that the European monarchies have founded. More uses the technique of dialogue to build arguments and reason. By arguing with Hythloday, More establishes some facts that are very dear to him. The dialogue sustains interest. If More had just listed his beliefs, they would not have been as convincing. Debate lends a certain amount respect to the victor.

A fair amount of autobiographical touches are seen in this book, since More had written it when he was in a dilemma whether to join the services of the king or not. This decision came down to whether he should stick by his personal ideals or give in to a sense of duty. Therefore, the character More, in his insistence on the importance of having good moral counsel for the king is voicing his own opinions yet one can discern traces of More's thought in Hythloday's arguments about the unfair treatment of the poor and dispossessed.

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