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Utopia | Study Guide

Sir Thomas More

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Utopia | Book 2, Chapter 6 : Of the Travelling of the Utopians | Summary

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Summary

As with other aspects of Utopian life, there are very specific rules for how Utopians may travel. In order to go to another town, they must ask for and receive special permission from the local government. They must also request a passport granted by the Prince that "limits the time of their return."

Once the permissions are granted, travelers are given "a wagon and a slave" who handles the animals that pull the wagon. Anyone who stays out of town longer than one night must work while traveling. Anyone who travels without permission or wanders the countryside without a destination is punished as a fugitive and sent home in disgrace. If the person repeats this crime, he or she is "condemned to slavery."

Individual men are allowed to travel within their own province, but only with "his father's permission and his wife's consent." Even then, however, he must work: "There are no idle persons among them, nor pretenses of excusing any from labor."

To keep the people from misusing their time, Utopia has no taverns or brothels. In fact, "all men live in full view," so there are no opportunities for misbehavior, conspiracy, or private commerce of any sort.

Raphael describes the treasury of Utopia in this chapter, saying Utopians value iron more than gold because of its greater utility. He says, "Nature, as an indulgent parent, has freely given us all the best things in great abundance." With no financial exchange, Utopians have no desire to hoard gems or precious metals. As a result Utopia has a huge treasury of precious metals, and they use gems as children's toys. Gold and silver are not for special use but for chamber pots and fetters for slaves.

Raphael tells a story about a visiting ambassador from another country who arrives in Utopia draped in gold and jewels. He says the children called out, "See that great fool, that wears pearls and gems as if he were yet a child!" The ambassadors, seeing that finery was kept for children and slaves, were ashamed.

He goes on to discuss the Utopians' amazing achievements in science and moral philosophy. Although they have never heard of the Greeks or Romans, they have made all of the same discoveries about the movement of the planets and natural science. They also share a single religious principle: "That the soul of man is immortal, and that God of His goodness has designed that it should be happy." Happiness to Utopians, however, lies not in pleasure but in love and reason. They find it impossible to understand how people can find happiness in gambling, taking from others, or hurting the weak. In addition, Utopians value the pleasures provided through physical health. They also value pleasures attained through the mind, "the chief of which arise out of true virtue and the witness of a good conscience."

Analysis

Utopian values are, in many ways, almost directly opposed to English values. Gems and precious metals are valueless while iron is of great value. Pleasures gained as a result of power over others have no place in Utopia. It is actually impossible for Utopians to understand the allure of such pleasures. As the servant of the king and the head of the Exchequer, however, More himself not only values position and prestige but also protects treasure.

More uses the character of Raphael to provide rational explanations of the Utopians' odd value system. Raphael also marvels at the Utopians' health, happiness, purity, and intelligence. Because Raphael has already been shown to be at odds with the character of More, he is able to separate himself as author from these ideas. After all: the "real" Thomas More disagrees with much of what Raphael believes!

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