No matter who you are, everyone longs for a better society, and a better life. This is why people push their children harder than they themselves were pushed. This is why schools push students harder, and why the bar to get into college is constantly rising. This is why people protest, and scream, and write about policies and programs that they feel threaten their chance at a better world. Out of this desire to make a better life comes the hope and longing that gave birth to the idea of a utopia.
Utopia means “not place” according to its etymological roots. Eutopia means “good place.” So, how do two words that sound the same yet have totally different meanings overlap and interconnect? When Thomas More came up with the word Utopia, a name for a society he had written about in his book Utopia , he made sure it meant the ‘not place.’ But through the use of the word eutopia, a permanent tension has been created over the meaning of utopia. So, is a utopia a perfect, good, praiseworthy place society should attempt to mirror? Or is it an imaginary goal that can never be achieved?
When combined with science-fiction, utopian literature often focuses on the ease of life created by technological advances. However, some argue that since life is so easy, there would be no room for further technological development. A great example of this is the spaceship featured in the movie WALL-E, where humans don’t have to lift a finger for anything.
If you were to combine a utopian work with the romance drama, you might get a utopia that focuses on how everyone is matched with the perfect partner and has virtually no issues in their love life. In a post-apocalyptic utopian literary work, the utopia presented might be the only truly safe place, so its citizens would be praising the security of the state they live in. When a utopian theme is mixed with fantasy, it often features humans and fantastical beasts, things that might otherwise make appearances in our worst nightmares, living harmoniously side-by-side.
The collection of all of these different dreams and hopes, along with the fact that people are willing to imagine new lands and new worlds, is what has brought the utopian genre into being. Since they are imaginary, therefore only real in their literary works, they are all a “not place.” However, since the utopia projects hopes, dreams, and goals, it is also a eutopia, the “good place.”
Claeys, Gregory. The Cambridge companion to utopian literature. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010.