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The Seven Deadly Sins in Utopia Essay


Utopia was create by More as a way to identify, and discuss, the social problems that were taking place in England during his life. Through much thought, More, through his humanistic viewpoint, attempts to create the illusion of a perfect society in which civil laws are upheld through moderation and respect; two principles which he holds to be extremely important. Through this writing, and his Catholic religious believes, the criticism that More has about England at this time can all be related back to the seven deadly sins.

Starting with greed, possibly the most recognizable of the deadly sins, this was one of More's largest problem with the current state of human nature. Therefore, it was addressed very extensively in Utopia. More writes, "For why would anyone be suspected of asking for more than is needed, when he knows there will never be any shortage? Fear of want, no doubt, makes every living creature greedy and rapacious, and man,besides, develops these qualities out of sheer pride, which glories in getting ahead of others by a superfluous display of possessions" (55). This is the root of the problem of greed in human nature that More finds problematic. Most of the problems within society can be related back to Greed, according to More. For example, the problem with sheep as outlined in Utopia, is a perfect example of greed.

Envy goes hand-in-hand with greed. Furthermore, gluttony is closely related. In Utopia, everyone shares everything, including meals. Therefore, envy and gluttony, much as in real life, are closely related to greed. "After the halls have been served with their quotas of food, nothing prevents an individual from taking home food from the marketplace.For while it is not forbidden to eat at hone, no one does it willingly, because it is not thought proper (56). Along with More's dissatisfaction with the Greed of England, envy goes closely along with this. Therefore, in Utopia, things are rationed so everyone has similar possessions, including food. This eliminates the human and social problem of envy, which thus furthermore assists with eliminating the previous problem of greed.

Lust is a simple problem to combat within society. This is an emotion that can lead to such charges as adultery, premarital sex and possibly prostitution. These issues are all addressed in Eutopia, as these are legitimate concerns that More clearly has within modern day England. "violators of the marriage bond are punished by the strictest of slaverya relapse into the same crime is punished by death" (80) To go one step further on the issue of lust, "attempted seduction is subject to the same penalty as seduction itself" (81). More elaborates after these quotes on Utopia's negative thoughts of artificial beauty, as this quality can relate closely to the previously mentioned crimes, or behaviors. These crimes have such strict punishment, as this, again, is a quality that More, through his Catholic beliefs disgusts greatly. To this day, divorce and adultery are both viewed as a big disgrace towards specific individuals and families within the Catholic Church; therefore More has decided to punish adulterers with the veer serious punishments of slavery followed by death.

Sloth, or laziness in more simple terms, is something that More does not know much about, personally. "My own time is only what I steal from sleeping and eating," (4) More explains. This shows how incredibly busy, hard working and motivated of a person he is. Obviosly, More feels that people are lazy in terms of working for the general good of others. Furthermore, because of this, people in Utopia perform work that not only benefits themselves, but benefits the rest of the great society. "Farming is the one job at which everyone works, men and women aline, with no exception. They are trained in it from childhoodBesides farm work (which, as I said, everybody performs), each person is taught a particular trade of his own" (48-49). This allows for each person within society to work not only for the benefit of themselves and their family, but for the general good of society. This helps promote a lack of cohesiveness amongst all Utopians, therefore, no one is lazy in their efforts to better it, by only attempting to better themselves. This also can closely relate back to the issue of greed, which is a strong passion of More's.

One thing that Raphael and More's character agree on in Utopia is a lack of personal possessions. This quality represents the sin of pride within Utopia. "Fear of want, no doubt, makes every living creature greedy and rapacious, and man, besides, develops these qualities out of sheer pride, which glories in getting ahead of others by a superfluous display of possessions" (55). In the beginning of Book 1, Raphael also speaks of his lack of possessions as he chose to give many of them away to his family members before his travels. Raphael states, "'While still young and healthy, I distributed among my relatives and friends the possessions that most men do not part with till they're old and sick )and then only reluctantly, when they can no longer keep them)'" (13). This shows that even though Raphael is prideful in his actions, he is not prideful in terms of possessions, which is where More is going with this idea of pride and greed not being present within those living in Utopia.

Anger is the last of the deadly sins to be addressed. In Utopia, there are strictly described punishments for chimes that are committed. For example, the previously described punishments of slavery and death for adultery. Anger is an emotion that does not allow us to think rationally, therefore More's Utopia has specific punishments for crimes, thus punishments cannot be provided unfairly due to the emotion of anger, which is a problem that many, including More, has with modern society.

These major themes presented in More's Utopia greatly describe is devotion to the Catholic Church, as these social and human problems addressed by More can all be related back to the seven deadly sins. Although More's Utopia is admittedly not a perfect society, it is much more human and socially just than the modern British society that More was living in.


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