Utopia & Utopian Literature By Sir Thomas More Summary and Analysis Book II: The Discourse on Utopia: Geographical Features of Utopia

Summary

The island is approximately 200 miles by 500 miles, and is crescent shaped. A harbor is formed by the crescent that is 11 miles broad, but the entrance is dangerous to approach, hence easily defended. Originally this land was connected to the mainland, but an early ruler had a 15-mile channel dug to create an island kingdom.

There are 54 cities distributed over the island at fairly regular intervals, about 24 miles apart and of approximately equal plan and population. The capital city, Amaurot, is near the center of the island.

Analysis

More's idea of giving geographical particulars for his ideal commonwealth was novel and effective — novel, since neither Plato nor his successors had employed that device, and effective inasmuch as nearly every succeeding utopian writer adopted it. Not only is the island kingdom given a name, but much data is reported in businesslike fashion of numbers and measurements, lending an air of credibility to the story. This is the same device that was later employed with consummate skill by Swift in Gulliver's Travels.

Still further credence is lent to the story by the creation of the imaginary witness, Raphael Hythloday, who reports having visited the distant island. This, too, was a device of More's invention, inspired by the new discoveries of the preceding quarter of a century. The accounts given by returning explorers of primitive societies in those newfound lands did not furnish More with the overall pattern for his civilized Utopia, but certain aspects of those "noble savages" did find a place in his book, notably the absence of private property and of money. His Utopian society was much closer to Plato's, but in this one respect, the community of property, Plato and the primitives were in accord.

The even distribution of cities through the land and their uniformity of size contribute to the overall impression that the author wished to create, that of an orderly plan for all aspects of living in Utopia.

It will be noticed that through the early portion of Book II, topics are treated in a brief, rather matter-of-fact fashion. As the work progresses, it becomes increasingly discursive and philosophical.

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