The "classical revival" was at the center of the intellectual and artistic agitation of the age. It involved a realization — or rediscovery — that a very great civilization had flourished in ancient Greece and Rome and a conviction that conscientious study and imitation of that civilization offered the key to new greatness. The Renaissance artists studied ancient works of architecture and sculpture, not only for their form and technique but also for their spirit. Renaissance scholars came to appreciate the literature of the ancients as a storehouse of wisdom and eloquence, and through their study they acquired attitudes and developed tastes of enormous value: to challenge dogma, to recognize the authority of nature, and to regard living a full life in "this world" as an opportunity and an obligation. They came to believe in their right to accept and enjoy physical beauty and the whole sensory world. Finally they acquired a sense of the worth of the individual and of the dignity of man. Growing gradually out of these concepts came the philosophy of "humanism" and the magnificent achievements in the fine arts.
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.
There are several religions on the island: moon-worshipers, sun-worshipers, planet-worshipers, ancestor-worshipers and monotheists, but each is tolerant of the others. Only atheists are despised (but allowed) in Utopia, as they are seen as representing a danger to the state: since they do not believe in any punishment or reward after this life, they have no reason to share the communistic life of Utopia, and will break the laws for their own gain. They are not banished, but are encouraged to talk out their erroneous beliefs with the priests until they are convinced of their error. Raphael says that through his teachings Christianity was beginning to take hold in Utopia. The toleration of all other religious ideas is enshrined in a universal prayer all the Utopians recite.
A Traveler from Altruria (1894) by William Dean Howells is a utopian novel that describes the differences between the late 19th century US and fictional island of Altruria. During the novel, visitor from Altruria compares the lifestyle of those two countries, discovering that US is still lagging in the political, economic, cultural, or moral aspects of life. This critique of capitalism and its consequences was greatly influenced by the previous utopian works - The City of the Sun, New Atlantis, Looking Backward and News from Nowhere.
Utopia has a more playful tone than one might think. While More's world is illustrating whatever point he is trying to get across, he is having fun engaging in creating his own world, as is demonstrated in the way he phrases "Then let me implore you, my dear Raphael,' said I, 'describe that island [Utopia] to us!"(Getty 323). He also says "When Raphael had finished his story, I was left thinking that quite a few of the laws and customs he had described as existing among the Utopians were really absurd." This demonstrates that he realizes his world is bizarre, and wants others to realize how out of place it was in their society. More is quite anxious to create his world, and pieces it together in great detail, taking pleasure in what makes world different from our own. However, he wants the reader to take his story seriously, which is why he bases it in reality, saying it is a part of the “New World.” This being the parts of America and its surrounding islands discovered by Amerigo Vespucci in 1497.
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.