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MonkeyNotes-Utopia by Sir Thomas More
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BOOK TWO

Geographical Features

Hythloday starts his discussion of Utopia culture and society with a description of the island. It is crescent-shaped and between the two horns of the island, the sea is protected and calm. It is easy for ships to anchor there and therefore ships from every port of the world arrive at Utopia. However, the sea at both the corners of the crescent is rough and treacherous. A high rock rises from the sea at the center and on this a tower has been built. Soldiers are garrisoned in the tower and act as sentries. There are also other hidden rocks that are very dangerous to seafarers. Unless one knows the lay of the land or is a local, he should not venture into these perilous seas.

Utopia has fifty-four cities or shire towns that are large and well maintained. All the people speak the same language, have the same manners, institutions and laws. These cities are situated at equal distances from each other. They follow a similar plan. All the towns are only twenty-four miles apart. The capital is Amaurot, situated at the center of the island. The land surrounding each city provides all the resources that the citizens need.

Husbandry is very important. Every house has a shed to hold the tools. These homes average about forty persons and there are two slaves in every household. Every thirty families are under a sort of bailiff called the Philarch. There is a constant rotation of the population between the country and the city to enable everyone to learn all skills and to ensure that the knowledge is kept fresh. People, after working for about two years in the country, are sent to the cities. Working on a farm mainly means tilling the land, growing crops, and raising cattle and poultry. There is an abundance of everything and the Utopia stockpile grains for two years and sell their surplus with other countries. The money acquired from selling grains and produce is put into the national treasury to be used for wars.


Notes

The reader is struck by the precise geographical description of Utopia. From it, the island can easily be imagined. This lends an air of credibility to Hythloday's account and also makes reference to the many exploring expeditions that returned to Europe full of details and descriptions of faraway lands. More's concept of creating a physical land was novel and subsequently was used by many Utopia writers. For example, Jonathan Swift in Gulliver's Travels employed this device effectively when creating the land of Lilliput.

One of the foundations of Utopian society is introduced in this first description -- orderliness. Even in the first book, Hythloday remarks on the order that exists in Utopia. Cities spaced at equal distances from each other; enough land for each city to be self- sufficient, the citizens work equally at home, in industry and husbandry. Labor is equally divided. Changes in the nature of jobs gave people an opportunity to enjoy various trades thereby not getting bored. Farming is similar to farming in England with only a few differences; farmers work the land for two years and then are given the opportunity to work in the city. This allowed people to have a break from strenuous agricultural work.

Order and efficiency appear to be the cornerstones of Utopian culture. Another important aspect of Utopia society is its hierarchy. Even at this early stage of description, the reader comes across it as being a main contribution to the order of Utopian life. Families report to the Philarch who reports to a Tranibore, who in turn represents them in Amaurote and so on.

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