Utopia

The Garden and the Island Symbol Analysis

The Garden and the Island Symbol Icon

The garden and the island are two interrelated symbols in Utopia. The former represents human work and desire imposed onto, and in harmony with, the natural world. It also represents the idea of Paradise, where people live in perfection and happiness, just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden before disobeying God. In Utopia itself, Raphael Hythloday presents his dialogue of counsel and discourse on Utopia while sitting with Thomas More and Peter Giles in More’s garden in Antwerp. It is as though these men, through learning, virtue, and philosophical inquiry, have been restored, if only temporarily, to Eden, there to meditate on the ideal society (Utopia, of course, also comes to read as an earthly reflection of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the perfect City of God in Heaven). The Utopians themselves, moreover, follow their founder Utopus in finely caring for their gardens, and this is one of their highest pleasures. They are, More is suggesting, closer to Paradise than their proud, warlike counterparts in Europe. The connection between the garden and Paradise is finally strengthened by the fact that Utopia is located off the coast of the New World, that is, the Americas, which Europeans optimistically imagined to be the site of the Garden of Eden.

While Utopia is perhaps a kind of Paradise, it is also an island, which represents its disconnection from other societies as well as from the violence of human history. Utopia is physically apart from other lands, just as it is spiritually apart from them. In fact, the land Utopia is founded on was once connected to a mainland, but Utopus had a channel fifteen miles wild dug between the two, perhaps because he knew that, otherwise, the Utopians would either be conquered by others or corrupted. Compare this with Hythloday’s claim that the good philosopher must be disconnected from the governments of men if he’s to preserve his sanity and virtue. By setting his Utopia on an island, More is suggesting that Utopia is, at least for now, too fragile an ideal to be connected to real places inhabited by real people. Utopia will rejoin the mainland only when the world is ready to become a utopia, and the Garden of Eden will grow again only when it can grow everywhere.

The Garden and the Island Quotes in Utopia

The Utopia quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Garden and the Island. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Travel, Discovery, and Place Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Oxford University Press edition of Utopia published in 2009.
Book 2: Discourse on Utopia Quotes

Utopus…even at his first arriving and entering upon the land [which was to become Utopia], forthwith obtaining the victory [over the natives], caused fifteen miles space of uplandish ground, where the sea had no passage, to be cut and digged up. And so brought the sea round about the land.

Related Characters: Raphael Hythloday (speaker), Utopus
Related Symbols: The Garden and the Island
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2: Of Their Towns, Particularly of Amaurote Quotes

They set great store by their gardens. In them they have vineyards, all manner of fruit, herbs, and flowers, so pleasant, so well furnished, and so finely kept, that I never saw thing more fruitful nor better trimmed in any place.

Related Characters: Raphael Hythloday (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Garden and the Island
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Garden and the Island Symbol Timeline in Utopia

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Garden and the Island appears in Utopia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1
Travel, Discovery, and Place Theme Icon
Bad Governance, Pride, and Idleness Theme Icon
Ideals and Practicality Theme Icon
More, Giles, and Hythloday go to More’s house and sit in the garden where Hythloday tells of his travels. During one voyage, he says, he received Vespucci’s permission... (full context)
Ideals and Practicality Theme Icon
The Ambiguities of Utopia Theme Icon
Thomas More asks Hythloday to describe the island of Utopia in great detail, from its geography to its cities to its people to... (full context)
Book 2: Discourse on Utopia
Travel, Discovery, and Place Theme Icon
The Ambiguities of Utopia Theme Icon
Hythloday begins his discourse on the island of Utopia by describing its geography. The island itself is about 200 miles broad and... (full context)
Travel, Discovery, and Place Theme Icon
Ideals and Practicality Theme Icon
The Ambiguities of Utopia Theme Icon
Utopia was not always an island, Hythloday says, nor was it always called Utopia. Its first name was Abraxa, perhaps meaning... (full context)
Book 2: Of Their Towns, Particularly of Amaurote
Travel, Discovery, and Place Theme Icon
Property, Labor, and Utopian Society Theme Icon
The Public Good, Virtue, and Religion Theme Icon
Ideals and Practicality Theme Icon
...Gorgeous houses line them in gapless rows. In the back of every house is a garden. Each house has a front door to the street and a back door to the... (full context)
Travel, Discovery, and Place Theme Icon
Property, Labor, and Utopian Society Theme Icon
The Public Good, Virtue, and Religion Theme Icon
Ideals and Practicality Theme Icon
The Utopians care for their gardens meticulously, and they grow vineyards, various fruits, herbs, and flowers. They do so out of... (full context)
Travel, Discovery, and Place Theme Icon
Property, Labor, and Utopian Society Theme Icon
The Public Good, Virtue, and Religion Theme Icon
Ideals and Practicality Theme Icon
Indeed, chronicles have been written since the island’s founding 1,760 years ago, and these show that the houses in Utopia were at first... (full context)
Book 2: Of Their Magistrates
Property, Labor, and Utopian Society Theme Icon
The Public Good, Virtue, and Religion Theme Icon
The Ambiguities of Utopia Theme Icon
...consult with their families. Sometimes such matters are brought before the council of the whole island. Another custom of the council is to not debate a matter on the day it... (full context)
Book 2: Of Their Traffic
Travel, Discovery, and Place Theme Icon
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
...too large, its excess members are moved into smaller cities. If the population of the island itself becomes too large, the excess members relocate to a nearby land where there is... (full context)
Book 2: Of the Travelling of the Utopians
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
...cities with an abundance of goods give freely to those with a lack. The whole island is like a family or household in this way. When every city in Utopia is... (full context)
Book 2: Of the Religions of the Utopians
The Public Good, Virtue, and Religion Theme Icon
Ideals and Practicality Theme Icon
The Ambiguities of Utopia Theme Icon
Hythloday turns now to his last topic: the religions in Utopia. All over the island, and even within a given city, people worship different deities, from the sun to great... (full context)
Bad Governance, Pride, and Idleness Theme Icon
The Public Good, Virtue, and Religion Theme Icon
Ideals and Practicality Theme Icon
The Ambiguities of Utopia Theme Icon
...Utopus himself when he observed how religious disagreement caused strife among the natives of the island—and was what enabled his conquest of them in the first place. For the sake of... (full context)