Sir Thomas More and the Case of the Careful Critic
In Sir Thomas More's "Utopia," one may find a fascinating adventure story about the sailor named Raphael Hythloday. However, below the surface of this adventure story lies a deep sea of social criticism. In a time period where speaking against the government was very dangerous, More found a way to express his opinions via the fictional character of Raphael. More is quite loyal to his convictions, while also being very careful not to earn punishment for his would-be seditious societal commentaries.
When writing "Utopia," Sir Thomas More must have been thinking about the problems of society and how to combat and correct them. At the same time, he wanted to write his suggestions in a way that would not put him in dire straights with the law. More's first attempt to absolve himself from direct criticism was to write a piece of fiction, not a speech or essay. More creates a narrator in Raphael Hythloday to speak any criticisms or controversial ideas. Sir Thomas even puts himself into the story with Hythloday, participating in dialogues with him, and even asking Raphael the questions that he knew would be asked of him if he spoke such outlandish ideas in public. The first concrete proof of "an escape...
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