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Utopia

Utopia

by Thomas More

Power Theme

Think Utopia is just a story about three regular guys having a little chat in a garden? Fine, it is. But it's also a profound examination of the power of, um, power: who should have it, how they should get it, and how they should use it. It's no accident More starts the whole book by praising the King of England (his employer). This book was written during a time when the people who were powerful were super-duper powerful. It's also no accident that this model of super-duper power it totally different from the way power exists in Utopia, which has a semi-democratic government. So, which is better? Well, folks, that's the million dollar question.

Questions About Power

  1. What are the specifics of how power is distributed in Utopia? Does one person have most of the power? Many people? No one?
  2. What kinds of power dynamics do we see depicted in Book 1 (i.e., not in Utopia)? Are all the characters equally powerful, or are some under the authority of others?
  3. What kind of power does Hythloday have? How does he describe his power, or lack thereof? 
  4. Considering that the book is organized as a series of conversations, what, if any, is the connection between conversation and power? Is conversation ever powerful? What can it do or not do?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Hythloday, More, and Giles are all pretty privileged people; they can't have an honest discussion about power.

Utopia can't call itself a semi-democracy—after all, it was founded by some king.

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