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MonkeyNotes-Utopia by Sir Thomas More
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H. G. Wells' The Time Machine (1895), The War of the Worlds (1898), When the Sleeper Wakes (1899), A Modern Utopia (1905), Men Like Gods (1923) and The Shape of Things to Come (1933) are all Utopias of a sort although they are often unpleasant and frightening.

Utopias written by authors such as Jonathan Swift, Samuel Butler, Aldoux Huxley and George Orwell are certainly frightening and do not depict a society free of oppressive institutions and tyrannical leaders. Although more grim than Utopias, these books also bring to light problems in society yet they are rendered in a satirical manner. These books are called dystopias or anti-Utopias.

Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels is a fine example of a dystopia. In all four books Gulliver meets with extraordinary adventures. He meets pygmies, giants, twisted men and women, sorcerers, deathless human beings and, finally, a race of reasonable, talking horses and their dung-throwing servants. Many people have regarded Gulliver's Travels as a children's book but Swift's purpose is very serious. By exaggerating the ills of 18th century England to the point of ridiculousness, Swift shows the opposite -- the reforms that are needed, using antithesis and hyperbole.

Swift, a man not given greatly to admiration, admired Sir Thomas More and called him one of the great writers of the world. His ideas of Utopia, which emerge from the four books, are very akin to More's, i.e., there are good and only a few laws, no private property, equitable labor, sane education and moderation in everything.


Samuel Butler's Erewhon (1872), an anagram of 'nowhere,' is another dystopia where unreason is worshipped. In Erewhon, sickness is punished and crime is treated as a sickness and machines are destroyed as it is thought that one day they may subjugate humans to their own will. The absurdity and irrationality of Erewhonians is like Swift's very extreme and is meant to be a reflection and critique of contemporary English society.

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) is a grim picture of a controlled society where humans have no individuality, no privacy or freedom.

George Orwell's book 1984 (1949) is a savage indictment of authoritarianism in a society where every move is watched and noted. It is a condemnation of fascism in the Third Reich and Stalinist Russia yet also turns its eye to democratic societies as well who may find individual rights being more restricted as government influences and controls the media more and more. In most of these works, societies are reshaped or analyzed in terms of what they lack and what they could offer for the majority of its people rather than the minority. Although they present many ideas that seem far-fetched and unfeasible, many of these books have influenced the actual attempts by religious groups, artists, and political idealists to create their own Utopias on a small scale. Communes have existed in America since the country's early inception. Seen as part of the "New World," many communities such as the Hutterites and Shakers have come to the U.S. fleeing religious persecution and have set up ideal communities of equality and communal living. Other artistic Utopia communities such as Brook Farm in New England were established in the 19th century and frequented by Hawthorne, Emerson, and Margaret Fuller.

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