Utopia and the Sensible Reformer

In Thomas More’s book, Utopia, there is a dialogue between the narrator, More, and a well-traveled Portuguese man, Raphael Hythloday.

One day as More was visiting Antwerp he spotted an old friend, Peter Giles.  Giles told More about his friend Hythloday, who was with Giles at the time, and how knowledgeable he was about the affairs of the world since he had seen “everything” by being such an accomplished traveler.  After introducing Hythloday to More, the three of them went to More’s garden to chat about Hythloday’s experiences in his travels.

While they chatted Hythloday revealed his many views and opinions about how an ideal society should function. In the narrative it shows that Hythloday was in favor of major reforms- church, political, family, and many other types.  More, the narrator, told him that those types of reforms were not logical and could never be put into place because they would be rejected.  The two of the men then went into a more in depth debate about Hythloday’s experiences.

Many of Hythloday’s opinions developed while he was traveling; most of them coming from the experiences he had in Utopia.  He had accidently come across the region of Utopia during his travels and while he was there he was amazed by how wonderfully the society functioned.  It’s apparent to me that Utopia had impacted Hythloday greatly, in fact, I’m surprised that he even returned from the place after having such a great experience there.

More was obviously against the ideas of Hythloday, both in the story and in the real world.  In fact, when you discover what More had chosen to name Hythloday in Utopia you can see that More was trying to make Hythloday out as a fool because his name actually means “talking nonsense” in Greek.

In my view, some of Hythloday’s ideas were actually nonsense, such as hating the free market, hating enclosed sheep ranches, the banishing of taverns by the state, and favoring the welfare state.  Many other nonsensical things were mentioned, but those ideas came from the land of Utopia, not from Hythloday’s personal ideas.  Some of the nonsensical ideas from Utopia were that everyone in Utopia was diligent, there was no greed, the family sizes were limited, the number of families per city was limited, and there were few conflicts.  Excuse me but, what if a family had more than the regulated amount of family members?  Was that family supposed to ban or sacrifice the extra family member?  I bet that there would be a few conflicts if that situation occurred.  This Utopia does kind of seem like a “no-place” (the Greek meaning of Utopia) because I can’t imagine that people would abide by such ideas.

In writing the first book of Utopia, More presents Hythloday as a sensible reformer in the beginning by way of Giles speaking highly of him.  But as the narrative continues More depicts that Hythloday is not as sensible as he first appeared to be by More engaging in a debate with Hythloday about his theories.

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