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.
The City of the Sun (1623) by Calabrian monk Tommaso Campanella, today represents one of the most important utopian philosophical works. In it, Campanella described the fictional theocratic utopian society that was governed by equality of all its citizens, shared work toward common good, and choosing the wisest for the governing roles.This vision of the perfect world even today represents one of the purest examples of the early literary utopian works.
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Yet, the puzzle is that some of the practices and institutions of the Utopians, such as the ease of divorce, euthanasia and both married priests and female priests, seem to be polar opposites of More's beliefs and the teachings of the Catholic Church of which he was a devout member. Another often cited apparent contradiction is that of the religious tolerance of Utopia contrasted with his persecution of Protestants as Lord Chancellor. Similarly, the criticism of lawyers comes from a writer who, as Lord Chancellor, was arguably the most influential lawyer in England. It can be answered, however, that as a pagan society Utopians had the best ethics that could be reached through reason alone, or that More changed from his early life to his later when he was Lord Chancellor.
The planning of their extensive program of amusements has two main purposes. First, it is intended to stimulate the economy. The games and feelies all require expensive equipment; that means more factories and also more opportunities for people to distribute their pay checks. Second, the government is concerned to keep everybody busy during waking hours to leave them no odd moments for thinking.
Bacon left this work unfinished, and it is impossible to say how he planned to treat other aspects of life in New Atlantis. He did not discuss the social and governmental systems of the islanders; hence, we do not know what his attitude toward communism was. Marriage was held sacred. His Atlantians exhibited a love of finery in costumes and jewelry that sets them apart from the typical utopians.
Equality for all mankind is not a realistic goal in Wells's view. That, he believes, would mean a loss of individuality, and individuality is an inherent requirement of human nature. Similarly, competition is necessary to a thriving society. Taking what he considers a practical position, he sees the new society as divided into four classes of persons which he calls poietic, kinetic, dull, and base. There is a leader caste, called Samurai, which is drawn primarily from the poietic group, though some from the kinetic class may qualify. Persons who volunteer for Samurai membership must meet stringent requirements, both physical and mental; and they must pledge to conform to the rules of the caste, which forbid eating meat, smoking, drinking, gambling, and participation in public sports or entertainments. The Samurai furnish the World State with its administrators, legislators, lawyers, doctors, and other leaders. Furthermore, they are the only voters in the commonwealth. The male members of the Samurai are encouraged to marry women of comparable qualifications, and they are encouraged to produce children with the aim of improving the quality of the population. The lower classes of citizens, the dull witted, the criminals, and the deformed are exiled from society and prevented from childbearing.
The features of Erewhonian society that surprise the author are those that differ from the England that he knew. According to the early impressions of the travelers, the people all appear to be exceptionally healthy, exceedingly handsome, and altogether contented. Their life style is characterized by simplicity and gracious manners, best described as Arcadian. Gradually, however, oddities, or what appear to be oddities to the visitor, begin to surface. Duplicity pervades every aspect of thought and action. The natives habitually profess agreement to a proposition although they do not believe in it, and their friends are perfectly aware that they do not mean what they say. There are two separate banking systems in operation and two sets of religions. The people give lip service to what they call the Musical Banks, but they transact all serious business with the currency of the other chain of banks. Similarly they recognize a group of deities representing the personification of human qualities — justice, hope, love, fear — and erect statues to them; but their pragmatic morality is evidently dictated by a goddess — Ydgrun (Grundy). More and more they reveal themselves to the traveler as victims of self-deception and inverted logic. Their universities are called Colleges of Unreason, and the principal course of study is Hypothetics.
Lost Horizon (1937) is an American drama-fantasy film directed by Frank Capra. It follows the life of wise diplomat who after the plane crash in uncharted regions of Himalayas discovers the perfect utopian city of Shangri La. There he and his crew members struggle with the fact of will they stay in this utopia or return to the real world. This movie adaptation of the novel starred Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt and John Howard.
An early evidence of the impact of Utopia in Europe appeared in Rabelais's first book of Pantagruel (1532) in which a section is entitled "The Expedition to Utopia." Actually the narrative in no way resembles Utopia, but there are incidental parallels. Details of the voyage from France to Utopia are in a general way reminiscent of More's account of the travels of Hythloday. And it is noteworthy that Rabelais called the inhabitants of Utopia the Amaurotes, a word derived from More's name for the capital city of Utopia.
It is a fundamental disposition of humankind to concoct imaginary Utopias, although their names for such places may differ. The word utopia, which has become the familiar designation for such states, was More's creation. It is inevitable that people, recognizing the manifold stupidities, corruptions, and inequities current in their society, should attempt to devise a better system for people living together. Omar Khayyam voiced the attitude admirably in The Rubaiyat.
In George Orwell's 1984 (1949), the society of the year 1984 which Orwell projects for us is based on the assumption that a "limited" nuclear war of the 1950s had left civilization severely crippled and that government controls were seized by well-organized opportunists employing the familiar methods of a police state to maintain power. London, the scene of the novel's action, is the capital of Oceania, one of three superpowers. The other superpowers are called Eastasia and Eurasia. The city of London contains a few enormous government buildings and a small number of fine apartment buildings, but the vast majority of the buildings are eighteenth- or nineteenth-century houses in dilapidated condition which provide shelter for the common people. There are also a good many neglected bombed-out areas. Certainly this is not a picture of somebody's dream city.
Minority Report is a movie about a dystopian society in the year of 2054 in Washington D.C. The story is about a "Pre-Crime" police force unit, which revolves around three psychics, "Pre-Cogs", with special power to see into the future and predict crimes. Police manipulates these visions and arrest criminals before the offenses are even committed. Main protagonist, "Pre-Crime" Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) has the tables turned on him when he is accused of murder in the future. He must find a way to prove his innocence, for the thing he has yet to do.