Love in the Ruins

by Walker Percy
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Do you see any direct and explicit links between Love in the Ruins and the literary traditions of utopian writing in the past?

Through the central character of Tom More, Love in the Ruins has a direct link to a sixteenth-century foundational work of utopian writing, Utopia by Thomas More. Walker Percy’s character is supposedly a descendant of the English theologian. The character of Ellen Oglethorpe and her Georgia origins also connect with the egalitarian ideals of James Oglethorpe, founder of the British colony of Georgia.

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The protagonist of Love in the Ruins, Dr. Tom More, provides the most direct, explicit connection with utopian literary traditions. He is explicitly connected to the author of the sixteenth-century work that later lent its name to utopian writing: Thomas More and Utopia. Walker Percy makes this connection explicit by identifying this character as a descendant of the real-life Englishman. Another character, Ellen Oglethorpe, also suggests a connection with utopian ideals, which is strengthened by the information that she hails from Georgia. An English reformer, James Oglethorpe, was instrumental in founding the Georgia colony in the eighteenth century; his goal was to establish a society based on equality.

The original More’s Utopia began to appear in 1515, first in Latin and then in English in 1551. More presents it with a frame story in which a Dutch traveler named Hythloday narrates a supposedly true story of his adventures in an ideal New World society. The word utopia is from the Greek for “no place,” however, which emphasizes that this society does not exist.

James Oglethorpe is mainly known for his political career and role as a trustee and defacto governor of the Georgia colony. He also wrote drafts of the foundational documents for the colony’s Trust. After returning from America, he later served in the English Parliament.

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