Melek Memi Utopia: Dream of Literature Utopia is the name of a fictional island which has a perfect social, political

and legal system. The name was taken from the book of Sir Thomas More which was written in 1516. The term is both used for depicting different kinds of fictional communities in literature and communities trying to compose ideal and perfect cities or places. Throughout history, creating a perfect society in all aspects has been the dream of human beings. Since Plato¶s Republic to the day we live, people have tried to find ideal systems for society. Some of their ideal systems were politics based and some were technology based. No matter what they focused on, they all wanted to create ideal communities. Mostly, they started their ideas in literature and tried to improve or realize them in real world. Hence, utopias have an important place in literature and there are many books written about them. However, only by analysing the origins of utopia, some of the books written about utopias, types of utopia we can understand if it is possible or not. The idea of utopia first appeared in Plato¶s book The Republic. The book was written in approximately 380 BC. It is a dialogue between Socrates, Cephalus, Lysis, Polemarchus, Niceratus, Thrasymachus, Euthydemus, Cleitophon and Charmantides. In the book, Plato expresses his ideas through the mouth of Socrates. In Plato¶s dialogues, which are fictional, the characters try to understand justice and if just people live happier than unjust people. They choose imagining a society ruled by philosophers and guardians to understand it. During the meeting many different ideas are put forward. However, they are all lacking and Socrates himself tries to explain justice. He also discusses the role of philosophers and the place of poetry in society. General summary of his ideas is:
1

Since the modern ³fevered´ state necessitates soldiers, Socrates asserts that a method must be found to ensure that they do their job well. He then lays out a system of education that will make them the best possible soldiers. Out of this well-disciplined group, the rulers of society²the Guardians²will be chosen. The goal of society will be the happiness of the community, a goal that will be achieved because of the beliefs held by the various classes (Wiswell).

The book which inspired other writers about utopias and created the term utopia was Sir Thomas More¶s Utopia. It was written in 1516. More was also inspired by Plato¶s The Republic. However, he just took the general idea of The Republic for himself. Hence, Utopia and The Republic are different in many aspects. In the book, Thomas More has a talk with a man named Raphael who is a traveller. Raphael speaks of an island in Atlantic Ocean (see Fig. 1). The name of the island is Utopia and Raphael tells more about its social, political, legal systems, etc.

In Utopia, there are some general points. First of all, in the island all people are equal and there is no difference between people living in cities and villages. All people living in Utopia wear the same clothes which are not expensive and artsy. Also, the only desires of Utopians are peace and happiness. Equality is everywhere in the country. In all cities and villages the language, laws and institutions are the same. Furthermore, money is not important for the people living in the island as they are not allowed to have personal properties. A good example for explaining this situation may be the sentences below:

Their buildings are good, and so uniform that a whole side of a street looks like one house. The streets are twenty feet broad; there lie gardens behind all their houses; these are large but enclosed with buildings that on all hands face the streets; so that every house has both a door to the street, and a back door to the
2

garden. Their doors have all two leaves, which, as they are easily opened, so they shut of their own accord; and there being no property among them, every man may freely enter into any house whatsoever. At every ten years¶ end they shift their houses by lots (More 36).

Fig.1. Illustration for the 1516 first edition of Utopia, Wikipedia 20 June 2009.

Another book written on a dream society is philosopher Tommaso Campanella¶s The City of the Sun. Campanella was inspired form Plato¶s The Republic. The City of the Sun is a book which is composed of a dialogue between a Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitallers and a Genoese Sea-Captain. The book is one of the most important utopias. In the book, Campanella describes a theocratic society. In the society, goods, women and children are held in common. When viewed from this respect, the book resembles The Republic. Campanella exposes his vision of a unified, peaceful world governed by a theocratic monarchy. The book is a good example of political utopias.

The other book written about a utopian system is Sir Francis Bacon¶s The New Atlantis. The book was written in 1623 and released in 1627. The novel describes a fictional
3

island in Pacific Ocean and a crew of a European ship discovering the island. From this respect, the beginnings of Thomas More¶s Utopia and Francis Bacon¶s The New Atlantis are almost the same. It may be understood that Bacon was inspired from Utopia. However, The New Atlantis is an example of scientific and technological utopia as Francis Bacon tells an ideal island where generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendour, piety and public spirit were the qualities of inhabitants of Bensalem. In his book, Bacon portrays a vision of the future of human discovery and knowledge. The best and brightest of Bensalem¶s citizens attend a college called Solomon¶s House, in which scientific experiments are conducted in Bocanion method in order to understand and conquer nature, and apply the collected knowledge to the betterment of society (Wikipedia).

News from Nowhere is another classic book about a utopia. The book was written in 1890 by the artist William Morris who is a socialist. The book is an example of science fiction. In it, William Guest, the narrator of the book, wakes and finds himself in a future society. The society is based on common ownership of the products. From this respect, the society imagined in the book is very similar to the society in Thomas More¶s Utopia. The two books have other similarities. For example, in both fictional societies there is no monetary system, private property, and no class systems. The systems of these societies are for people¶s happiness and peace in the places they live. Also, there is no divorce in the society subjected in News from Nowhere. However, in Utopia, divorces are not also approved, but people are allowed to divorce only in really important and difficult situations.

Another classic book about utopias is novelist, sociologist, journalist and historian Herbert George Wells¶ A Modern Utopia. The book was published in 1905. The story takes place on a planet which is similar to Earth. However, it is different from Earth as the people living this utopian planet have created an ideal society. In the planet, people live happily in

4

cities and they are secured by science and technology. The system of the planet is neither democratic nor equal. Wells advocate a scientific kind of socialism (British Library Board). A Modern Utopia gives expression to a common conviction that technology can transform the world in the century ahead (Encyclopædia Britannica). According to review published in C.H.M. The Journal of Political Economy, µ¶ The book is written with an intimate knowledge of former ideal commonwealths and is a conscious attempt to describe a utopia that is not utopianµ¶ (Wikipedia). There are many books about utopias. In each of them, the utopia is focused on different things. Some of the books are feminism or gender based utopias, some of them are science and technology based and some are economy based. Furthermore, these are not the whole kinds; there are many more kinds of utopias. However, feminist, scientific and economics based utopias are the most common ones. Hence, analysing these most common and important types and their examples is more helpful to understand the general idea of utopias and idealized societies. Since the beginning of 1900s, female feminist writers have been writing about fictional single-gendered -a society where no man lives- societies. They also write books about matriarchy. Well-known examples of this kind of utopia are Woman on the Edge of Time, The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five, Moving the Mountain, Herland, With Her in Ourland: Sequel to Herland, The Holdfast Chronicles. Woman on the Edge of Time was written by Marge Piercy in 1976. The book is a classic of utopian science fiction besides being a feminist classic. The Marriages between Zones Three, Four and Five was written in 1980 by Dorris Lessing. It focuses on the struggles between women and men and dimensions of love and sex. Another book is Moving the Mountain which was published in 1911. The book was written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

5

Moving the Mountain was followed by Herland and With Her in Ourland. Herland describes a society which is entirely composed of women reproducing via parthenogenesis. The Holdfast Chronicles is a series of books written by feminist writer Suzy McKee Charnas. Another kind of utopia is scientific and technological utopia. In this kind of utopia, generally a fictional society in the future is the subject. A society which is advanced with science and technology is mostly the main theme. The most notable example of this kind of utopia is The Culture. It was written by Iain M. Banks who is a Scottish writer.

Utopian flying machines, France, 1890-1900 Another kind of utopias is economic utopias. The books written in this kind are mostly appeared as a reaction to capitalism and its harshness. News from Nowhere, The Human Drift, Zion (Latter Day Saints), The Great Explosion, Looking Backward and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress are some of the books written in this kind. All in all, throughout the history human beings have always tried to find their ideal societies in their dreams. Some dreamed a society without class systems while others were dreaming a society with different classes. Some believed a perfect society would only be possible with an advanced technology while others were dreaming of a perfect society where
6

people live simple. In some books we read societies where women are held common, in others, women are as equal as men and free. Every person has her/his own utopia in her/his dream. As a result, composing a society where everyone is happy seems almost impossible. Maybe by empathising with each other and trying to understand each other¶s feelings, we may create a world where most people are happy. It may not be a perfect world, but it is certain that it would be a good place to live.

7

8

9

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful