Essay on Literary Utopian Societies

This essay has a total of 1773 words and 10 pages.

Literary Utopian Societies


Literary Utopian Societies

"The vision of one century is often the reality of the next…" (Nelson 108). Throughout
time, great minds have constructed their own visions of utopia. Through the study of
utopias, one finds that these "perfect" societies have many flaws. For example, most
utopias tend to have an authoritarian nature (Manuel 3). Also, another obvious
imperfection found in the majority of utopias is that of a faulty social class system
(Thomas 94). But one must realized that the flaws found in utopian societies serve a
specific purpose. These faults are used to indicate problems in contemporary society
(Eurich 5, Targowski 1). Over the years, utopian societies have been beneficial in setting
improved standards for society. By pointing out the faults of society, improvement is the
most likely next step. Citizens should take advantage of utopian literature in order to
better future societal conditions (Nelson 104). Because it is impossible to create a
perfect society in which everyone's needs can be met, society must analyze utopias in
order to improve their existing environment.


Plato's Republic was the first "true" work considered to be utopian literature. In fact,
the Republic influenced almost all later text written on the subject of utopia (Manuel 7).
Although the Republic was one of the most influential works in utopian literature, the
society that it represented also had many obvious flaws. First, Plato's utopia had a
distinct class system (Morely iii, Bloom xiii). The privileged class that ruled the
society also enforced censorship in order to keep control over the Republic (Manuel 5). To
perform all of the lowly tasks of the society, a system of slavery was enforced (Manuel
9). In addition, different forms of propaganda were used to keep the citizens in check
(Manuel 5, Bloom xiv). The political and economic systems, in which the wealthy class
controlled all the funds, were extremely restrictive (Mumford 4, Bloom xiii). With the
society being in opposition to change, it would have obviously failed. A static society,
in which propaganda is used to promote the State, disrupts the creative thinking process.
And, without the creative thinking process, intellectual growth as a whole also slows
(Mumford 4, Benz 3).


Yet another famous Utopian society that appears to thrive on the surface is that of Sir
Thomas More's Utopia. More's society was similar to Plato's Republic in many ways (Will
1). The State, in More's Utopia, controlled the masses through the use of propaganda just
as in Plato's Republic (Adams 154). Speaking out against the State was made an unthinkable
action (Adams 253). The government of More's Utopia was so centralized, that it was unable
to adapt to changes and face problems (Mumford 4). This Utopia turned out to have a number
of underlying problems.


Aldous Huxley's a Brave New World was another utopia with many imperfections. In the
novel, the characters living in utopia were under complete control of the government. They
were exposed to propaganda beginning at birth and continued to be exposed to it throughout
their lives. The course a person's life would take was already determined before he was
born. Basically, the citizens of this utopia were robots. They did as they were told, and
they had no accurate knowledge of what was going on around them (26). Only the elite class
of Controllers had an unobstructed view of the world (235). Another theme that was put
forth throughout the novel was that of the class system. In Huxley's utopia, the quality
of one's genes determined his social class. No person had a chance of leaving his caste,
and his conditioning had programmed his mind into believing that this was all acceptable
(66).


When looking at utopian literature as a whole, one realizes that utopias are merely a way
that man uses to improve himself and the environment in which he lives (Eurich 7). The
purpose of texts written about utopian societies is to inform the public of current social
problems and to inform them how to fix these problems (Targowski 1). "Almost every utopia
is an implicit criticism of the civilization that served as its background." (Mumford 2).
And with this criticism, positive change arises and sets us in another direction. Utopias
give people examples on how to improve our society (Eurich 7). While utopias point out
problems in contemporary society, they also point out ways to fix these problems (Mumford
2). In fact, "Utopias are rational efforts to make the world a better place…" (Mumford
1). So, when looking at the classic utopias once again, one realizes why the authors of
these texts created the problems that appeared in their utopias.


In the Republic, Plato's showed how a small group of corrupt politicians could control a
whole society (Bloom xvi). By making the ruling class in his Republic corrupt, he showed
his dissatisfaction with the current role politicians played within the government.
Plato's answer to this problem was what is now known as communism (Bloom 1). Not only did
Plato disapprove of politicians and their power, but he also despised the authoritarian
nature of the government (Manuel 3). The controllers of Plato's society had absolute
control and managed the masses through the use of propaganda (Mumford 4). Yet a further
disgust that Plato had was the role that women played in society. He believed that women
should have more equal duties when being compared to men (Kateb 3). Through the Republic,
Plato showed his feelings towards the society that surrounded him.


Throughout More's Utopia, one can find that More's goal was to satirize various
contemporary European mistreatments (Adams 150-1). At the time of Utopia's conception,
Europe had various economic problems. The agricultural class was losing its property to
rich landowners who had no real use for the land (Nelson 100). More also discussed the
role women played in society. He agreed with Plato in the fact that women should have more
responsibilities when being compared to men. More's answer to this problem was communism
as well (Nelson 102). By creating a Utopian society with the same problems that his
current society had, More offered his input on how to adapt to these troubles.


The similarities between Plato's Republic and More's Utopia seem to be endless (Benz 3).
This is due to the fact that most utopian authors follow a certain chain of thought
(Nelson 120). Because utopian authors write about contemporary societal problems, certain
themes reoccur throughout the history of utopian literature. More's Utopia and Plato's
Republic share many of the same troubles. This is because both authors detested the fact
that government had excessive amounts of money and control. The two authors wrote their
works in order to improve their societal conditions, not to envision a perfect
civilization that could never be accomplished in reality.


Although Aldous Huxley did not use a Brave New World to protest societal conditions, he
did have a primary reason in writing his novel. Huxley used a Brave New World to show that
technological advances and scientific advances are not the answer to creating a perfect
society. By perfecting the use of genetic engineering, propaganda, hypnoaedia, and drugs,
Huxley's Brave New World was supposed to be the ideal utopia. But in reality, all of the
pleasures resulting from theses advances were empty. Genetic engineering was the basis for
social structure and an unjust class system. By using propaganda and hypnoaedia to program
its own citizens, the utopia maintained complete control of everything that went on within
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