The idea of Humanity/human nature in the novel Utopia by Thomas More, translated by Robert Adams

Thomas More in his famous work of literature, Utopia, has portrayed the idea of humanity in a very subtle but effective manner. A character in the story, Raphael Hythloday, relates to More and his friend Peter Gilles, the experience of his extensive travels all around the world; the discourse through which it is conveyed to the reader how skillfully More depicts the wondrous nature of humans.

In the novel, Thomas More has very clearly talked about the concept of life after death. Religion   is one of the most significant factors involved in guiding a man through life. Someone who doesn’t believe in God, religion and life after death, will not know the sanctions that are imposed on him as a human being, let alone as a person, as an individual.

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“A man who is afraid of nothing but the law, and apprehends nothing after

death, will not scruple to break through all the laws of his country, either

by fraud or force, when by this means he may satisfy his appetites.” (Ch.8 p.105)

God has created man, our bodies and our souls. When man dies, his body remains of no use to him; but the soul is immortal. It never dies. It’s what lives forever.  In the afterlife, it’s what man has been doing all his life, which he is either rewarded or punished for. More says God has created the soul and designed it to be happy, and since man has been told of rewards for good deeds and equal punishments for wrong ones, he must try to choose what will give him eternal satisfaction and pleasure. It is typical of man’s nature to go for the smaller, easier path which apparently looks better in all ways, but he might be forgetting that the longer, darker and harder path might be the one to actually reward him for the hardships he endures to achieve his goal, and consequently will help him in his life after death, which after all, is eternal.

“…that the soul of man is immortal, and that God of His goodness has

designed that it should be happy; and that He has therefore appointed

rewards for good and virtuous actions, and punishments for vice, to be

distributed after this life.” (Ch.5 p.70)

It is typical human nature and also a very common sight to see, that people grieve, woe and behave extremely sorrowful at someone’s death.  We always label the death of an individual as a terrible loss for the loved ones of the deceased. That should not be the case. Life is only a treasure that has been bestowed upon us by God for a small span of time. We do not possess it. We do not own it. We are not the masters of our own creation, and we need to return what we owe to the owner some day. With this concept in mind, man will utilize his time effectively and put it to good use, which will then eventually guarantee him a peaceful happy afterlife.

“They are almost all of them very firmly persuaded that will be infinitely

happy in another state; so that they are compassionate to all that are sick,

yet they lament no man’s death…” (Ch.8 p.102)

More then talks about one of the factors that create divide in societies; money. Money is one thing that separates people on not just financial grounds, but to a very large extent, moral and psychological grounds as well. And of course accordingly, the approach of people will vary from person to person regarding the amount of wealth they possess.

It is typical of the richer people, that no matter how they have managed to accumulate all that they possess, that they will first do all they can to figure out ways, legal or not, to protect it, all the while pretending to have been working for the common man. Then, for the same purpose and more, they will engage in making the less fortunate or the poorer ones work for their own selfish pursuits at ridiculously low wages. This eventually ends up escalating the division in society, rather than filling up the void, by bridging the gaps. This is how More has put it.

“A conspiracy of the rich, who on pretence of managing the public only

pursue their private ends, and devise all the ways and arts they can find out;

first that they may, without danger, preserve all that they have so ill acquired,

and then that they may engage the poor to toil and labor for them at so low

rates as possible, and oppress them as they please.” (Ch.8 p.116)

No matter how clichéd this may sound, the fact still remains that you try and break a lone twig, it will snap into halves within a second. Try and break an entire stack of them, they just won’t budge. Exactly the same is with people. When people come together for a cause good enough to shake the world; an army with its inexorable manpower, highly destructive arms and ammunition, and their even lethal plans, or something even worse for that matter, cannot stop these individuals, how small in number they may be, from accomplishing their goal. Like More says,

“A small number of men can hinder the descent of a great army.” (Ch.1 p.43)

More goes on to say that it’s the basic roots of humanity that bonds men together. They must have the same values, morals end ethics and share common grounds in relative aspects, in order to fair well together. Superficial agreements can, and will, never have the same effects on human bonding and friendship, which sharing common moral and ethical grounds, does. That is what strengthens the bonds among good natured men, and not just words they speak but might not mean. The following excerpt from the novel depicts the idea very clearly.

“If the common ties of humanity do not knit men together, the faith of

promises will have no great effect.” (Ch.6 p.89)

“…Since thereby the engagements of men’s hearts become stronger than

the bond and obligation of words.” (Ch. 6 p.90,91)

References

More, Thomas (2007). Utopia. Arc Manor LLC

Available at: http://books.google.com.pk/books?id=ipyXYA8VjB4C&dq=thomas+more+utopia&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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