Over the past few centuries the word "utopia" has developed a variety of meanings: a perfect state, paradise, heaven on earth, but the original definition of the word means something quite different. "Utopia", coined by Saint Thomas More in his famous work Utopia, written during the English Renaissance, literally means "nowhere". It is ironic that a word meaning nowhere has become a catchall phrase for paradise. More’s work is popular because of its wit, its use of metaphor, and its proposals for the perfect state. The work is claimed by Nicholas Paine Gilman in Socialism and the American Spirit to be:
a masterpiece of wit, written by a man who knew the world, and sent forth this
book, inspired by Colet and Erasmus, not as a sure prophecy of
the form civilization must take in a thousand years or less, but as a
quickener of human sympathy and a stimulus for thought and faith in man (353).
The work is a masterpiece of metaphor written by a man with a tremendous imagination, an imagination that created a country called Utopia, that means "nowhere" with a capital city called Amaurote that means “"dimly seen",” with a "waterless" river, Anyder, flowing by (Gilman).
Utopia has caught the imagination of millions through the years with its government run by and for the people, its elimination of private property, and its care for the elderly. It is a place that seems to good to be true, and it most likely is. A state of Utopia has never existed in the world and will never exist, but a number of ideas suggested by More have either become a reality or have inspired further discussion of the perfect state.
The type of government More proposes and the manner in which he proposes it will run has spurred a tremendous amount of debate. At its inception, Utopia was taken seriously by More’s contemporaries. For instance, “Budoeus,..., wrote to Lupsetus: ‘We are greatly indebted to Thomas More for his Utopia, in which he holds up to the world a model of social felicity. Our age and our posterity will regard this exposition as a source of excellent doctrines and useful ordinances, from which states will construct their institutions” (Kautsky 14). After reading Utopia, these men were ready to go out and change the world, but did More really want to see his work become a reality or did he plan his work as a social commentary? There will never be an answer to this question, but many of the ideas and comments made about Utopia suggest that More believed in many of the ideas. However, he qualifies his full endorsement of the Utopian ideal at the end of the end of story, he writes, “I cannot agree with all that he said. But I readily admit that there are very many features in the Utopian commonwealth which it is easier for me to wish for in our countries than to have any hope of seeing realized” (More 152). While he may not agree with everything Hythlodaeus says, he also wrote Utopia in Latin which allowed for a very small circle of...