The aim of this blog is to serve as a meeting point to those who study or have studied English philology and, more broadly, to all those who love literature and language.

15 Nov 2008


I recently finished reading Utopia by Thomas More and I’ve just commented on it with a friend. The conversation has aroused the question of utopias and dystopias in fiction and derived in the preference of writers to show tragic, thrilling and imperfect worlds rather than happy and comforting societies. Life is made up of good and bad moments, of tragedy and comedy, but apparently, when choosing fiction we feel more attracted to sad grave stories which show human faults in situations and relationships.

Utopia in fact contains both visions, as More intends to expose the main social and political defects of his society by criticising them explicitly through the dialogues in the first book and, next, by the implicit comparison the reader is allowed to do when learning about the orderly, practical and probably happy society of the Utopians.

These are three quotes from an English version that can be downloaded from the Net, which reflect ideas on health service, euthanasia and lawers:

The hospitals are furnished and stored with all things that are convenient for the ease and recovery of the sick; and those that are put in them are looked after with such tender and watchful care, and are so constantly attended by their skilful physicians, that as none is sent to them against their will, so there is scarce one in a whole town that, if he should fall ill, would not choose rather to go thither than lie sick at home.

‘…but when any is taken with a torturing and lingering pain, so that there is no hope either of recovery or ease, the priests and magistrates come and exhort them, that, since they are now unable to go on with the business of life, are become a burden to themselves and to all about them, and they have really out-lived themselves, they should no longer nourish such a rooted distemper, but choose rather to die since they cannot live but in much misery;’

‘They have no lawyers among them, for they consider them as a sort of people whose profession it is to disguise matters and to wrest the laws, and, therefore, they think it is much better that every man should plead his own cause, and trust it to the judge, as in other places the client trusts it to a counsellor; by this means they both cut off many delays and find out truth more certainly;

Anyway, when reading this book, I could not avoid feeling that such a ‘perfect’ world might be boring to some extent. Would it help foster imagination? What kind of literature would Utopians produce? Do we not need a certain dose of fears, insecurity and chaos to imagine and desire a better world?

1 comment:

  1. Yes, happiness is boring. We need drama, tragedy, suffering! Without all that things get boring. Who wants to read a story in which all the characters live a peaceful life? Who wants to watch a movie in which the protagonist is having a happy love affair? Who wants to live a life in which everything goes right? Oops! I’m sorry, this last one has been unintended!