Study Guide

Utopia Society and Class

By Thomas More

Society and Class

What's more, these gentry drag around with them a great train of idle servants, who have never learned any trade by which they could make a living. (1.17)

Hythloday is not a fan of these "gentry" (i.e., aristocrats). But his problem with them isn't only that they themselves are lazy, but that they make the people around them lazy and useless, too. Double whammy.

Among [the Utopians] virtue has its reward, yet everything is shared equally, and all men live in plenty. (1.38)

We're definitely picking up a connection between no wealth and equality. This Utopian characteristic seems to be challenging the idea that inequality can be a helpful motivator.

But no one [in Utopia] has to exhaust himself with endless toil […] as if he were a beast of burden. (1.51)

Be on the lookout for these animal-people comparisons; they turn up often when Hythloday is describing what he considers to be economic injustice. Why do you think he chose this kind of metaphor?

The limit on adults [in a Utopian household] is easily observed by transferring individuals from a household with too many into a household with not enough. (2.55)

Wow, these Utopians do take social equality very seriously—and very literally. What purpose does having an equal number of people per household serve?

At the middle of the first table in the highest part of the dining hall sits the syphogrant with his wife. This is the place of greatest honor... (2.59)

Does this scene of Utopian dinning count as hierarchical? We're a little confused. Can you find any other possibly contradictory moments like this in the text?

The phantom of false pleasure is illustrated by other men who run mad with delight over their own blue blood, flatter themselves on their nobility, and gloat over all their rich ancestors... (2.72)

We love this image of the phantom, which nicely adds to the mysteriousness of Hythloday's character. The unspoken contrast to this "false phantom" would be the very real pleasure they get in Utopia from honoring actual virtuous behavior.

The Utopians keep as slaves only prisoners taken in wars fought by the Utopians themselves. (2.80)

Slaves? In an equal society? Don't ask us, we're confused too. Notice how Hythloday has presented it using positive language: "they only have these kinds of slaves..." Does he have good reasoning for this aspect of the system?

[The Utopians] do allow divorce for adultery or for intolerably offensive behavior (2.82)

Do you think divorce and social equality have any connection? Hythloday seems to think so.

What kind of justice is it when a nobleman, a goldsmith, a moneylender, or someone else who makes his living by doing either nothing at all or something completely useless to the commonwealth gets to live a life of luxury and grandeur, while in the meantime a laborer, carter, or a farmer works so hard and so constantly that even beasts of burden would scarcely endure it? (2.107-108)

Just another example of how Hythloday likes to gauge social problems using comparisons to animals (remember the man-eating, mutant sheep?).

My chief objection [to the Utopian way of life] was to the basis of their whole system, that is, their communal living and their moneyless economy. This one thing alone utterly subverts all the nobility, magnificence, splendor, and majesty which [...] are the true ornaments and glory of a commonwealth. (2.110)

This passage comes at the end of Utopia, as More narrates his response to what Hythloday has been describing. For some reason, More doesn't elaborate on why he sees the communal living in Utopia as so problematic. Might he secretly agree with Hythloday? Or does he think the answer is just so obvious?