A Guide in 6 Literary Elements

It is quite efficient to present an important literary work using six Literary Elements as a Guide as a step-by-step method.

If you want further support, please consult the map that my students have found to be quite useful.

  • Title and sources
  • Genre
  • Structure and plot
  • Characters
  • Setting
  • Themes

Title and sources

Thomas More invented the term "utopia," which he derived from Greek.

U = eu/ou = no

topia = topos = place

Topos is a Greek word that means "a good place."

The term alludes to a location that does not exist and has become a synonym for "ideal society" through time.

Sir Thomas More's book is based on Plato's Laws, in which the philosopher portrays the ideal city of Magnesia's basic political structure and laws.


Utopia is a Latin literary composition created around 1516. The lingua franca of the Middle Ages and Renaissance was Latin. The publication of the book was a huge success. It was translated into English by Ralph Robinson, a London goldsmith, in 1551.

Structure and plot

The book is split into two sections. The second part was written in 1515, one year before the first part.

The reader is given a framework: Thomas More is sent on a mission for the King to Antwerp, which acts as the location for the three major characters' encounter and introduction (More, Giles, and Hythloday).

The first part of the book describes Hythloday's travels across England. During his visit to the country (during the reign of King Henry VII), Hythloday meets a number of influential people and has the opportunity to propose some reforms to Cardinal Morton, the king's Chancellor, including the abolition of the death penalty, the end of the enclosure of common land, the use of mercenary soldiers, and lower commodity prices. The author is preparing the readers for the portrayal of Utopia by informing them about Hythloday's travels and proposals.

The second part is devoted to Hythloday's description of the perfect land, which he had seen multiple times.

The kingdom of Utopia was founded by King Utopus. The kingdom is separated from its neighbors by a channel designed to protect it. King Utopus thought that if his experiment was successful, Utopia would be protected from its warlike enemies.

The population is organized into 30 family groups, each of which is headed by a man who is chosen every year. A member of the council is elected by each of the ten family groups. The prince is chosen by the council and is in control for the rest of his life.

The council meets every three days to discuss critical issues affecting the people, yet no decisions are taken the same day a problem is found.

In Utopia, everyone works for six hours a day, split evenly between morning and afternoon. 

[...] The chief, and almost the only, business of the Syphogrants is to take care that no man may live idle, but that every one may follow his trade diligently; yet they do not wear themselves out with perpetual toil from morning to night, as if they were beasts of burden, which as it is indeed a heavy slavery, so it is everywhere the common course of life amongst all mechanics except the Utopians: but they, dividing the day and night into twenty-four hours, appoint six of these for work, three of which are before dinner and three after; they then sup, and at eight o'clock, counting from noon, go to bed and sleep eight hours: the rest of their time, besides that taken up in work, eating, and sleeping, is left to every man's discretion; yet they are not to abuse that interval to luxury and idleness, but must employ it in some proper exercise, according to their various inclinations, which is, for the most part, reading. [...]



















for the most part

each year 30 families choose a magistrate

(not operating or working now, but able to)

(with great patience and care)

constant (forever)

hard work

wild animals

heavy load

in fact


perfect people

(assign to a position)

eat supper

(ability to make wise decisions)

(treat or use in a very mean, unfair way)

period of time (or space)

(state of doing nothing or having nothing to do)




All goods are in common. Everyone has enough for himself and does not desire to have more. Since childhood Utopians are educated to despise jewellery (used as toys by children), gold and silver (used for chamberpots and chains for slaves).

[...] Every city is divided into four equal parts, and in the middle of each there is a market-place. What is brought thither, and manufactured by the several families, is carried from thence to houses appointed for that purpose, in which all things of a sort are laid by themselves; and thither every father goes, and takes whatsoever he or his family stand in need of, without either paying for it or leaving anything in exchange. There is no reason for giving a denial to any person, since there is such plenty of everything among them; and there is no danger of a man's asking for more than he needs; they have no inducements to do this, since they are sure they shall always be supplied: it is the fear of want that makes any of the whole race of animals either greedy or ravenous; but, besides fear, there is in man a pride that makes him fancy it a particular glory to excel others in pomp and excess; but by the laws of the Utopians, there is no room for this." [...]



from thence








(more than two, but not a lot of)

(from that place or time)


at all



extremely hungry


In each quadrant of every city, there is a hospital.

Slaves prepare and serve meals in mess halls, which are opportunities for interactions.

Slaves are criminals or adulterers who are sentenced to slavery rather than being executed.

Marriage is encouraged: males must be at least 22 years old and females must be at least 18 years old.

The Utopians are pious but tolerant people.

Utopia by Hans Holbein (Public domain)
Utopia by Hans Holbein (Public domain)


More is a character as well as the author of the novel, and Peter Giles is a close friend. He is from Antwerp and introduces More to Raphael Hythloday. Hythloday means 'a talker of nonsense' in Greek, although he shows to be intelligent and experienced throughout the story.

As the readers will discover, Hythloday was one of Amerigo Vespucci's companions. Hythloday discovered Utopia during one of his journeys with Vespucci.


The narrative takes place over the course of More's life.

The island of Utopia, according to Hythloday's account, is located in the oceans near the Western hemisphere. It's a 500-mile-long crescent-shaped island with 55 shires, each with their own town. The main and largest city on the island is Amaurote.

The prince's home is in Amaurote.


Travel, exploration, bad/good government, property, labor, education, and a Utopian society are among the themes explored.

Here is a map and a presentation by a student (3LSA)

LnT suggests

LnT Thomas More's biography as well.

LnT reading the blogpost entitles 'Utopia Dystopia'

LnT A LibriVox recording of Utopia https://archive.org/details/utopia_rg_1401_librivox/utopia_01_more_128kb.mp