Utopia was the book that invented a new genre of fiction. It was the first book to use a made up world, a “Utopia” in its framing. This spawned books and stories that have continued to dominate the industry of storytelling to this day. Books like “The Hunger Games,” and “Divergent” can all trace their origins back to Thomas More's most famous work (Getty 321). More wrote this story to make a point about collectivism, whether in defense or as a criticism of. It could be argued, however, that Utopia's greatest impact could be in its world creation. More was the first to create his idealistic world, and the framework he created has stuck around for hundreds of years (Getty 321).
One highly influential interpretation of Utopia is that of intellectual historian Quentin Skinner. He has argued that More was taking part in the Renaissance humanist debate over true nobility, and that he was writing to prove the perfect commonwealth could not occur with private property. Crucially, Skinner sees Raphael Hythlodaeus as embodying the Platonic view that philosophers should not get involved in politics, while the character of More embodies the more pragmatic Ciceronian view. Thus the society Raphael proposes is the ideal More would want. But without communism, which he saw no possibility of occurring, it was wiser to take a more pragmatic view.
Plato, Republic. In a sense, the utopian genre might be said to begin with Plato’s Republic, in which he sets out his ideal society (famously, no poets were allowed). The Republic sees Socrates debating with a number of other people about the nature of justice and the ideal city-state. The book also discusses various possible forms of government, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Other significant innovations of Utopia include: a welfare state with free hospitals, euthanasia permissible by the state, priests being allowed to marry, divorce permitted, premarital sex punished by a lifetime of enforced celibacy and adultery being punished by enslavement. Meals are taken in community dining halls and the job of feeding the population is given to a different household in turn. Although all are fed the same, Raphael explains that the old and the administrators are given the best of the food. Travel on the island is only permitted with an internal passport and any people found without a passport are, on a first occasion, returned in disgrace, but after a second offence they are placed in slavery. In addition, there are no lawyers and the law is made deliberately simple, as all should understand it and not leave people in any doubt of what is right and wrong.
The publication of Utopia followed Columbus's first voyage to America by only 24 years. Utopia preceded by just one year Luther's publication of the Ninety-five Theses that fomented the Protestant Reformation. Michelangelo had completed his four years' labor on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1512. Henry VIII had recently come to the throne of England (1509), was still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and was being guided in his government by Cardinal Wolsey as his Lord Chancellor. Some of the principal literary figures of More's generation were Erasmus, Ariosto, Machiavelli, and Castiglione, along with More himself. One of the great periods in Western art was in full swing with Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian heading a long list. The chief explorers in the first decades after Columbus were Vasco da Gama, John Cabot, Amerigo Vespucci, and Balboa.
(Kobe) The second and third stops on our itinerary bring us to another Pacific archipelago, and the ports of Yokohama and Kobe, Japan. With its blend of modern industry amidst preserved ancient culture, Japan presents a variety of options for experiential learning. Students often enjoy getting a glimpse into traditional Geisha culture, taking a train to Tokyo, or exploring the many options for top-notch Japanese cuisine in Yokohama’s Minato Marai 21 neighborhood or the Harborland district in Kobe.
Although published only 25 years after The City of the Sun, Bacon's book belongs to the early enlightenment period. Bacon pictures a world in which scientific experiment could be the core of the progress of an enlightened state. As such, the book is testament to the changing conceptual framework of the early 17th-century, though, like Campanella and More, Bacon set his ideal state in a remote location, this time the South Pacific.
The name Raphael, though, may have been chosen by More to remind his readers of the archangel Raphael who is mentioned in the Book of Tobit (3:17; 5:4, 16; 6:11, 14, 16, 18; also in chs. 7, 8, 9, 11, 12). In that book the angel guides Tobias and later cures his father of his blindness. While Hythlodaeus may suggest his words are not to be trusted, Raphael meaning (in Hebrew) "God has healed" suggests that Raphael may be opening the eyes of the reader to what is true. The suggestion that More may have agreed with the views of Raphael is given weight by the way he dressed; with "his cloak... hanging carelessly about him"; a style which Roger Ascham reports that More himself was wont to adopt. Furthermore, more recent criticism has questioned the reliability of both Gile's annotations and the character of "More" in the text itself. Claims that the book only subverts Utopia and Hythlodaeus are possibly oversimplistic.