Study Guide

Utopia Book 2, Section 4

By Thomas More

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Book 2, Section 4

Social and Business Relations

  • Every city in Utopia has families basically along the lines we're used to. Um, except for almost everything that follows.
  • When women grow up, they move in with their husband's family. To keep everything balanced, they make sure family sizes stay at a certain number. That means sometimes someone has to move from their family to another, smaller one.
  • In fact, they are so obsessed with this whole number-balance thing that they make people move to different cities that are too small and will even send them out of the country to make a new colony if the total population of Utopia gets too big.
  • Utopians will declare war on another country if they aren't making good use of their land. They think that this is totally justifiable because otherwise the land goes to waste.
  • If the whole population of Utopia gets too small, they call back people from colonies.
  • But back to family life. The oldest male gets to be in charge, and women and children help out.
  • Families share everything they produce in a big, common storehouse of the city and take whatever they need. It's this system that prevents greed from being a problem in Utopia. After all, if no one owns anything, no one fears losing anything.
  • Food works the same way, though they have one distinct practice: someone called a bondsmen kills all the animals they eat, because they don't think it's ethical for their actual citizens to kill anything. (These "bondsmen" are confusing. More doesn't mention them again, and they seem quite similar to the slaves he quickly mentions earlier, but he gives them a different name.)
  • Everyone has dinner at various town halls run by a syphogrant (kind of like the eating hall in a college dorm).
  • Sick people have first dibs on food, and they rest in public hospitals located in every city. They're built well to take the best care of the sick.
  • After that, everyone has an equal amount food—except the syphogrants, prince, and any foreign visitors, who have more. People can take extra food home after dinner if they want to, but no one does because it's considered kind of rude.
  • Slaves have to do the hard cooking labor, while women do the skillful preparation.
  • Nurses take care of children in a separate dining hall, and there are plenty nurses who love to take care of the children.
  • Young children all eat together.
  • Seating is arranged by prestige of position but young and old are mixed so that the young have good examples to follow and the eldest are served first.
  • Meals begin with a reading about some moral topic which then everyone discusses. And, of course, there is always music and dessert.
  • In the country, people eat in their own home.
  • We're starting to wonder how Hythloday is remembering all these details.

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