Presented as a conversation between friends, Sir Thomas More’s Utopia offers an alternative to European life that is hopelessly unobtainable, but undeniably superior. Utopia is absolutely fiction, and yet it is written in a style that makes its content remarkably believable. More’s conversational attitude towards a serious and scholarly piece of thought makes his thesis at once obscure and obvious. He spends a majority of the narrative describing small, unconnected details of the lives of the Utopians, ignoring the lengthy scholastic explanations which are to be expected of a man of his education, and yet through the detail he reveals an expansive and original hypothesis. More sees the value of the European lifestyle and yet, through his fictional acquaintance Raphael Hythlodaeus, makes a convincing argument for the practices of the Utopians. The dichotomy between the virtues of one culture and the failures of another highlight More’s most central point: perfection would be obtainable in real life only if the world could be destroyed and created again. Pride and human ambition will forever limit the people of the real world from seeing the success of the people on More’s fictitious island.Raphael Hythlodaeus is a well traveled, well educated, and well opinionated man. He has seen enough of the world to know the world, and is articulate enough to share his opinions of it. Hythlodaeus’s discovery of Utopia and his persuasive account of the society he finds there create the narrative through which More discusses his ideas on perfection. More cleverly creates an incarnation of himself to hear about and question Hythlodaeus’s findings, effectively discussing weighty ideas in a causal and approachable manner. Utopia seems real beca…
… one. In his final words, the fictional More, and inessence the real one, acknowledges the brilliance of Utopian policy and at the same time makes certain it’s impracticality. He comments, “But I readily admit that there are very many features in the Utopian commonwealth which it is easier for me to wish for in our countries than to have any hope of seeing realized” (152). European wealth and pride make the perfection of Utopia absolutely unobtainable. The only sure way of creating it would be too destroy every established custom and start anew, an action that More knows will never happen. He is left, instead, wishing for progress in the right direction, but knowing that even the most humble and well meaning of wishes are not necessarily ever realized.
More, Sir Thomas, Utopia, 2nd Edition, Trans. and Ed. Robert M. Adams, New York, Norton. (1992)