For students wishing to understand fully the extent of interest in the creation of imaginary commonwealths and fascination over accounts by mariners of remote regions, certain other works of fiction not precisely utopian ought to be examined. Examples are: Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Voltaire's Candide (especially the Eldorado episode), Samuel Johnson's Rasselas, Henry David Thoreau's Walden, Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance, and Herman Melville's Typee.
The name of "humanist," in the Renaissance, meant one who was trained in the study of Latin and Greek languages to the point of easy familiarity, who had read widely in those literatures, who had adopted the ancients' attitude toward man on earth, and who believed that the prescription for enlightenment in modern society was to be found chiefly through the study and imitation of those ancient classics.
The only ancient authors other than Plato who have been mentioned as possibly influencing or suggesting comparison with More are Lycurgus, Cicero, and St. Augustine. Lycurgus is reputed to have dictated a body of laws for ancient Sparta, the best account of which is found in Plutarch. It declared equal possession among the "citizens" — that is, the upper-class members of the community. The "helots," who were in the vast majority, were virtually on the level of slaves. Instead of gold and silver for coins, iron was used. All luxuries were banned, and both men and women were disciplined to endure hardships and were motivated to sacrifice everything for the welfare of the state.
The reports of the above books must not be regarded as reviews of them as literary works. They are all cast in novel form with a plot line and cast of characters. Our study is concerned only with those aspects that throw light on the concepts of society reshaped. In each case it is fair to say that the author has concentrated more attention on the "brave new world" concept than on the accompanying romantic fiction.
Utopia is an ideal community or society possessing a perfect socio-politico-legal system. The term has been used to describe both intentional communities that attempt to create an ideal society, and fictional societies portrayed in literature. It has spawned other concepts, most prominently dystopia. Many books that deal with "utopia" are actually putting out a plot or message of a "false utopia".
Bergen has reported on al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, counterterrorism, homeland security and countries around the Middle East for a range of American newspapers and magazines. He is a contributing editor at The New Republic and writes a weekly column for CNN.com. He has also written for newspapers and magazines around the world, and he has worked as a correspondent or producer for multiple documentaries that have aired on National Geographic, Discovery and CNN.
The application of scientific methods begins in the "Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre." There humans are bred in test tubes, transferred as they grow to larger jars, and nourished under controlled conditions until they reach the stage for hatching or "decanting." Even in the test tube stage they are marked for treatment that will produce the type of human desired. The types are labeled alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and epsilon, with certain plus or minus grades within each type. In infancy the individuals are scientifically "conditioned" to cultivate certain desires, to abhor certain things, to believe certain truisms, according to the kind of service for which they are designated. The conditioning takes the form of nutritional treatment, electric shock, screeching sirens, or hypnopaedia — that is, sleep-teaching.
Thomas More was born in 1478. He succeeded Wolsey as Lord Chancellor of England, but came into conflict with the king, Henry VIII, by refusing to acknowledge him as sole head of the church. Charged with high treason, More steadfastly refused to takean oath impugning the pope's authority or upholding the king's divorce from Catherine of Aragon. He was beheaded in 1535. Paul Turner was educated at Winchester and King's College, Cambridge, and became an Emeritus Fellow of Linacre College, Oxford.
The rulers in the City of the Sun are men of superior intelligence and probity. The head of the government is called Hoh. His chief ministers are Pon, Sin, and Mor, which are translated Power, Wisdom, and Love. The requisites for the chief are a familiarity with the history of all kingdoms and their governments, a thorough knowledge of all sciences, and a mastery of metaphysics and theology. This concept of a head of state is clearly reminiscent of Plato's philosopher-king. The word Hoh means metaphysics.
The reader, following the narrator's shifting attitude from admiration to surprise and finally to contempt, is led to believe that the author is bent on demonstrating the vast inferiority of the Erewhonians to his fellow Englishmen; but it gradually becomes clear that he attributes to Englishmen much of the irrationality and the ingenious equivocations that make the Erewhonians look foolish. The difference is only one of degree. The technique is close to that of Swiftian satire. In some places it is confused and inconsistent, but in other passages it is both clever and devastating, worthy of the master.
What happens to those slaves (bondsmen) who helped feed the citizens of Utopia by butchering animals for food and thus suffering the apparent moral consequence of diminished compassion is not stated. Perhaps Utopia uses only slaves gotten from outside the citizenry of Utopia for their necessary killing. Utopia has slaves captured in wars they fought and other "foreigners who have been condemned to death" which the Utopians "acquire [...] sometimes cheaply, more often gratis and take them away." Foreign slaves are kept "constantly at work" and in chains. (95) Utopia also has slaves who entered into slavery by choice. These are "poor, overworked drudges from other nations [...] who chose to be slaves among the Utopians." Such slaves can relinquish their slavery whenever they choose, but in doing so they leave Utopia, although they are not "sent away empty-handed." (96)
Utopia has a quality of universality, as revealed by the fact that it has fascinated readers of five centuries, has influenced countless writers, and has invited imitation by scores of "Utopianists." Still, however, an examination of the period of which it was the product is necessary in order to view the work in depth. Remembering that Utopia was published in 1516, we need to recall what some of the major events associated with that era were, who More's great contemporaries were, and what were the principal ideas and drives that framed the cultural patterns of that brilliant era, the Renaissance.
Utopians are ambivalent, in fact illogical if not morally arrogant, about killing for food or defense. They eat animals but "they do not allow their citizens to be accustomed to butchering animals" but rather have "bondsmen" do this because they believe that butchering animals for food "gradually eliminates compassion, the finest feeling of human nature." (68) Bondsmen are apparently immune to such a descent into moral corruption, or else they are bondsmen exactly because they are already morally degraded and so either immune to further corruption or they are beyond moral rectification, and therefore the moral consequences of killing for food cannot matter for their moral selves. So bondsmen who butcher animals either have no compassion, it having been gradually eliminated through butchering, or because their moral precondition, their qualification of moral impurity, includes diminished compassion from which their moral descent continues, or else they have compassion and, being bondsmen, they are somehow immune from the moral consequences of killing for food, either because of their moral deficiency or because bondsmen have a moral strength that the citizens of Utopia lack.
Forbidden Planet (1950) is a movie directed by Fred M. Wilcox, which is today regarded as one of the most influential science fiction movies of all time. Its story revolved around Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen) in his quest across the stars to find an expedition colony that disappeared 20 years ago. By the end of the movie, he discovered those colonists were killed by the technology created by the long extinct race of aliens, called Krell. They managed to create a machine, which was able to materialize their every dream and help them in establishing perfect utopia. However, same technology led to their extinction when their subconscious fears and monsters also became real.
Samuel Butler, Erewhon. This hugely inventive 1872 satire by the author of the anti-Victorian novel The Way of All Flesh is perhaps more accurately described as ‘anti-utopian’, though it follows the utopian narrative structure. The fictional land of Erewhon – almost ‘nowhere’ backwards – is the setting for this novel. Among the things satirised by Butler in this book is the rise of the machines, which Butler argues will evolve at an ever-faster rate – along the lines of Darwinian evolution – until the machines eventually overtake humans.