Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
The two books in Utopia contrast each other. The first book describes the unacceptable social conditions of English and European society in the sixteenth century where the division between the rich and the poor was quite wide and those in power practiced unethical and self-serving politics. In the second book, an ideal society is presented in the form of Utopia.
The first book describes kings who are selfish, power hungry and tyrannical whereas the Utopian king is an elected monarch with severely restricted powers. The king's councilors of the first book are corrupt venal self-servicing men who flatter and bow and scrape before the king. In contrast, Utopian councilors -- the Syphogrants and Tranibores -- are very kindly men who put the welfare of their charges above their own. Moreover, these men elect the king in Utopia and they can also depose him for tyranny. Their power is independent of the king and they need not flatter him. The punishment described in the first book is very harsh. Death for petty larceny. In Utopia, punishment for a crime is given after debate in the council, which weighs all the circumstances. Moreover, there is a family court where the husband corrects the wife and the parents correct the children. This is humane but strict justice.
These are some examples of the contrast used to highlight the flaws of European society. Knowledge of the conditions of the sixteenth century will help the reader note some more conditions of contradictions.
More's use of Latin names is yet another indication that the author did not intend others to take his book very seriously. More was well versed in Latin and Greek and very was proficient in using humorous names in elegant language. The names he has made up in this book are testimony to this.
The term "Utopia" is More's gift to the English language. It has come to denote visionary idealism. It is coined from the Greek words "not" and "a place", literally "not a place" or "nowhere", something that can only exist in the imagination. But it is closely related to "eutopia" or "the good place". The most important character in the book is Hythloday or Hythlodaeus, the mariner. His name is fabricated by More from Greek and it means "versed in babble" or "knowing the trifles. Hythloday, the purveyor of nonsense, describes the ideal country of nowhere whose capital is Amaurot meaning "dim or dark". Amaurot's river is Anyder meaning "waterless". The King of Utopia goes by the title Ademus "without a people". The Polylerites, the people with the marvelous form of punishment, mean "much nonsense". Achoriens are almost synonymous with Utopia and mean people "with no country". These original inventions show that More's humor and it also reveals that only people who knew Latin would understand these puns on place names and peoples. They show his rare and baffling gift of poking fun at his own invention.