Thomas More lived from 1477 to 1535. He was convicted of treason and beheaded in 1535 for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. Utopia, written in Latin, was published in 1516. It was translated to English by Ralph Robinson in 1551. The translation by Clarence Miller was published by Yale University Press in 2001. [This review is based on the Miller translation.]
The study of human society as foreseen by Bellamy is contrasted at every turn with the institutions, customs, and mores of the late nineteenth century. Actually, more than half of the space in the book is devoted to the analysis of Bellamy's own time, which is a scathing denunciation of that society, often in eloquent language. In William Morris's News from Nowhere (first published in serial form in 1890, then in book form in 1891), the author, well known for his involvement in the Pre-Raphaelite movement and for the establishment of the Kelmscott Press, offers his vision of a bright future for England. The narrator of the novel goes to bed in his home in a London suburb one night in 1890, but when he wakes he finds himself in strange surroundings. The people he meets talk about events that occurred in the year 2001 as though they were past history.
Utopians are tolerant of differing views on religion and "on no other subject are they more cautious about making rash pronouncements than on matters concerning religion." (122) However, they scorn unbelievers in any deity or afterlife, and "do not even include in the category of human beings" nor "count him as one of their citizens" if he "should sink so far below the dignity of human nature as to think that the soul dies with the body or that the world is ruled by mere chance and not by prudence." (119) "For who can doubt that someone who has nothing to fear but the law and no hope of anything beyond bodily existence would strive to evade the public laws of his country by secret chicanery or to break them by force in order to satisfy his own personal greed?" (119) "He is universally looked down on as a lazy and spineless character." (119) In fact, "a religious fear of the heavenly beings" is "the greatest and practically the only incitement to virtue." (127)
The film depicts the life in the futuristic and idyllic utopian society where wealthy people live very comfortable lives. Carefree life of one of those citizens - Freder Fredersen, comes to an end when he discovers that below the residences of the wealthy is located an underground world of the poor who work their entire life on maintaining the machinery that makes the Utopian civilization on the ground functioning. He becomes involved in the attempt of the underground leaders to unite the two societies, bringing equality among two classes.
The influence of More and of Plato, as well, are evident at many points. The tale is told by a sea captain who has visited an island called Taprobane (possibly Sumatra). In that land there is community property and no use of money. There is an equitable sharing of labor, with the result that all work is finished in a four-hour day. There is also a community of women, with a scientific control of breeding, a feature which reverts to Plato's arrangement rather than More's adherence to the plan of the Christian family. Like More, Campanella dwells at length on the subjects of justice, war, and religion.
Denis Diderot's Supplement to Bougainville's "Voyage" (1772) is a prime example of the eighteenth-century vogue of primitivism which was spurred by Rousseau's thesis of the "noble savage" and which generated such novels as St. Pierre's Paul and Virginia and Chateaubriand's Atala. Diderot's book makes a case for the simple, natural ways of a South Sea Island culture as reported by Bougainville, a French explorer. The central portion of the story presents an imaginary dialogue between a French chaplain and a native of Tahiti (Orou) in which a comparison is made between the customs and institutions of Europe and those of Tahiti. The way of life of the islanders is eloquently defended, and that of the Europeans discredited. According to the Tahitian, man's natural instincts, which are equated with the laws of nature, are interpreted as justifying complete freedom in sexual relations. Their observance of community property is defended as minimizing personal conflicts and legal entanglements and promoting a general concern for the welfare of the community as a whole.