by Thomas More
Since Utopia is essentially one long discussion between friends, we get some pretty straightforward depictions of what people are like. If you're often traveling around Europe the way More is, having solid connections with people and knowing who's trustworthy would have been particularly important. We can't be that surprised, then, when Peter Giles is described in this way:
"I hardly know a young man of more learning or better character. Apart from being cultured, virtuous and courteous to all, with his intimates he is so open, trustworthy, loyal and affectionate that it would be hard to find another friend like him anywhere." (1.9)
Pretty direct, huh? Case closed.
More just can't get enough of his word games, and that extends to names of his characters. In fact, it's a safe bet that if they aren't a representation of an actual, historical person, their name is some kind of pun. Let's take our good friend Hythloday, our narrator and Utopian explorer. His name means "speaker of nonsense" in Greek. So, are we supposed to think he's dumb? Not quite. Instead, it should put us on guard about the "facts" Hythloday is telling us, as well as about his own extreme opinions. Just because he thinks he's always right, doesn't mean we have to.
Speech and Dialogue
It shouldn't come as a surprise in a book that is almost entirely dialogue that we learn a lot about our characters through how they speak and react. Take Hythloday, who has the most to say in this book. Even when he's arguing about something factual, we can tell he's the kind of person who doesn't let something go easily if he believes it's important, even to the point of coming across as a bit rude. A good example of this is his reply to the lawyer when they're having dinner at the Cardinal's house: "'Oh no, you don't, you won't get out of it that way," he says, totally cutting down the lawyer's response. If you're going to argue with this guy, you need to know your stuff.