Utopia

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Utopia Book 2: Conclusion Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Hythloday says that he has described as truly as possible the form and order of Utopia, which he thinks is not only the best commonwealth in the world but also the only one worthy of the name “commonwealth,” for nothing is private there. Unlike nations founded on the institution of private property, Utopia provides equally and abundantly for all its citizens. There is no justice when a banker or usurer can sit idly and live richly while common laborers live in poverty and misery, as is the case in Europe.
Hythloday concludes by summarizing Utopia’s merits and comparing its collective economy favorably to the property-based economies of European commonwealths. He emphasizes his overarching argument that private property gives rise to both pride and idleness, and that together these spawn poverty and misery.
Themes
Bad Governance, Pride, and Idleness Theme Icon
Property, Labor, and Utopian Society Theme Icon
The Public Good, Virtue, and Religion Theme Icon
Indeed, Hythloday sees in most nations a conspiracy by which rich people exploit and oppress the poor. By getting rid of money, the Utopians pull wickedness up by the root and eliminate poverty, too. If it were not for Pride, Hythloday thinks that Europeans would have followed Christ’s teachings and abolished private property long ago as well. The Utopians have devised such a prosperous, virtuous, and peaceful way of life that their commonwealth will endure while empires fall around it.
Hythloday connects his argument about private property and pride to Christian teachings, specifically by condemning the institution of private property as unchristian. The image of falling empires is an allusion to the “bad” empires of the Bible: Egypt, Babylon, and Rome. Despite its Christianity, Europe more resembles these, Hythloday suggests, than it does Utopia.
Themes
Travel, Discovery, and Place Theme Icon
Bad Governance, Pride, and Idleness Theme Icon
Property, Labor, and Utopian Society Theme Icon
The Public Good, Virtue, and Religion Theme Icon
Thus ends Hythloday’s tale. Thomas More thinks to himself that many Utopian laws and policies are founded on no good reason, even when it comes to the principal foundation of their ordinances—that is, their collective ownership of resources and moneyless economy. However, Hythloday seems weary from his discourse, and More doesn’t want to offend him by disagreeing with his claims (Hythloday said earlier, after all, that we contradict others’ ideas only because we didn’t come up with them ourselves).
More’s disagreement with Hythloday’s major findings is a source of much ambiguity in Utopia, and further adds to the “slipperiness” of the work. This brief reaction of More to Hythloday leaves us with more questions than answers. Does More the author agree with More the character? Is he presenting Hythloday and Utopia as ideals, or as symbols of nonsense, or something in between? Does he agree with the society of Utopia (which he himself created, after all) that abolishing private property is inherently good? Does he just consider it hugely impractical and an unrealistic ideal for Europe, or does he think Utopia to be founded on “no good reason” altogether?
Themes
Property, Labor, and Utopian Society Theme Icon
The Public Good, Virtue, and Religion Theme Icon
Ideals and Practicality Theme Icon
The Ambiguities of Utopia Theme Icon
Consequently, More praises the Utopians and leads Hythloday back into the house for dinner, saying that they will examine and evaluate the Utopians’ laws and policies at another time, which More hopes to God will come to pass. For now, More cannot agree with Hythloday in everything; however, he confesses that, though he wishes for many features of Utopia to be realized in Europe’s cities, he doesn’t dare hope as much, for such a hope would be unrealistic.
More’s response to Hythloday’s account of Utopia is never presented to us, and so all our questions are left unanswered. This ending adds to the sense of the work as a “joke” or a playful satire, but perhaps the suggestion is also that we as readers are responsible for conducting that dialogue among ourselves. The text requires that we reason for ourselves about Utopia, and what system of governing might be best for an ideal society. This is, after all, the first step we all must take before any utopia can become a reality.
Themes
Travel, Discovery, and Place Theme Icon
Bad Governance, Pride, and Idleness Theme Icon
Property, Labor, and Utopian Society Theme Icon
Ideals and Practicality Theme Icon
The Ambiguities of Utopia Theme Icon
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