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MonkeyNotes-Utopia by Sir Thomas More
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Minor Theme

The minor theme is the inequality in European society in general, particularly in England. Conditions for the poor and unemployed were quite destitute. Money and power was in the hands of the rich who only made up a few and the nobles. The nobles often had many people employed in their service who did nothing but pay lip service to them. If they fell out of favor with the noble, they were left to manage for themselves and often become homeless and indigent. Kings did not look after the welfare of their people. Instead, kings were despotic and their councilors were self-serving sycophants. Instead of giving correct advice, they abetted the king in all his wickedness and folly. This theme is developed when Peter Giles asks Hythloday why he has not entered the service of a king. Hythloday replies that he does not want the servitude. Giles is skeptical, as is More. Hythloday, to convince them, offers an example. Kings like war and are interested in the science of war. They want to increase their territories. The councilors do not tell him that war is wrong, that taxing the people exorbitantly is harmful, that he should rule over his own kingdom first and not covet other territories. To illustrate the point, Hythloday describes the Achoriens who forced their king to either rule over them or his newly conquered country. Ruling over both would not be effective.


Hythloday, the shrewd observer, describes the sorry conditions of English society and gives the correct reasons -- wounded soldiers unfit for civilian life, disabled retainers of lords unable to earn their own living, poor farmers hounded out of their homes when their farms were converted to pasture for sheep.

Hythloday also quotes the example of the imaginary King who could, by law, have only a certain amount of money. This is to prevent him from amassing too much wealth at the cost of his subjects. More wants to show that a poor king ruling over a rich populace is better off than a rich king ruling over a poor populace.

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