The Allegory of the Cave and The Matrix

Essay by notredamehsJunior High, 9th gradeA+, February 2005

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The Matrix and The Allegory of the Cave

Both "The Allegory of the Cave" and "The Matrix" are stories in which there are two realities, one perceived and one real. Although "The Matrix" is not based exactly on Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave," there are several parallels between the two works. The similarities in "The Matrix," relate to Plato's concept. They project his thoughts of natural logic from "The Allegory of the Cave" into a perspective that makes it easier for people to understand when it is put into a science-fiction movie.

In "The Allegory of the Cave," the people creating the shadows represent the powerful people in society. In "The Matrix," the puppet-handlers are the machines controlled by Artificial Intelligence. The puppet-handlers use fake surroundings as a way to manipulate the information that the prisoners receive. While the prisoners are being fooled and influenced by the fake reality, the puppet-handlers are too because they are also living inside the artificial world they have created as well.

In "The Allegory of The Cave," Plato thinks that one of the prisoners would eventually be released or escaped from his chains and flee the cave. After turning around in his chair, this person would then be able to see the real objects that are only shadows on the cave wall, as well as the puppet-handlers who are holding these objects. In the movie, "The Matrix," this scene directly parallels with Neo's scene in the matrix pod. Looking around in shock, Neo sees, for the first time, his true surroundings. He is actually living in a human factory.

At first, Plato says that the freed prisoner would be confused at what he saw. When Neo is finally confronted with the surrounding, the real world, he is in a state of uncertainty. The realization of the truth is so overwhelming that he throws up and passes out. In "The Allegory of the Cave," the Freed Man might even feel that what he was seeing now was the illusion and the shadows on the wall were actually more real. Like Cypher tells Trinity, "I think the matrix can be more real than this world." The freed prisoner's first reaction would be to turn around and return to the false reality because it is less painful and more familiar to him.

According to Plato, the freed man must have started to question what he saw in front of him and wondered about where the shadows came from. He must have sensed that something was wrong and he wanted to know the truth. This theme is also found in the movie, "The Matrix." Neo is very much like the freed prisoner. As Morpheus tells Neo, "You're here because you know something." Morpheus realizes that Neo has a place in society and is there because of what he knows.

People who live in the false reality do not know any other way of existence other than that which they experienced. The person who is freed would want to share his discovery of the real world with those still trapped in the cave, but he would not want to go back to live there. In the end, his desire to help those trapped in a lie would lead him back to the cave in order to educate the prisoners. This describes the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar as well since they return to the matrix in order to accomplish their long-term goal of freeing mankind from Artificial Intelligence. The prisoners in the cave, however, can in no way comprehend what the person who has returned is telling them about the world outside the cave. This would prevent others from leaving the cave, and the person who returned failed in his attempt to educate them about the real world. The prisoners would rather kill a man than allow someone to take them out of the cave. They would fight to remain in the cave because it is the only world they have ever known and would not want to become "crazy" like the first person who escaped and then returned with ideas that seemed ridiculous to them. The idea of murdering to remain in the false reality is also present in "The Matrix" when Cypher kills several members of the crew in order to return to the matrix. His mind was not able to entirely let go of the world that existed only in The Matrix. Also, Morpheus tells Neo, "You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it."

"The Matrix" has similarities between the artificial reality and religion, Christianity in particular. One of the clues is the name of the ship: Nebuchadnezzar. In the Bible, Nebuchadnezzar was a Babylonian king who ended King David's line of great kings. Also, Morpheus is perceived to be God the father, Neo is thought of as God the Son, and Trinity is the Holy Spirit. The characters in "The Matrix" fight against the Artificial Intelligence that would control them. Most Christians would be wise enough to wake up, throw down their mind shackles, and have the disbelief that will, eventually, set them free.

The many parallels that exist between the two works of art show that the creators of "The Matrix" at least had knowledge of Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave," which they used to develop several segments of the film. The false reality became real to those who experienced it in both works and there were similar reactions by those who were removed from that reality. Also, the people who continued to live in the false reality shared similar behaviors when exposed to the idea that their world was not real. Many of the resemblances between the two works are too strong to believe that there was no intentional correlation between the two, meaning that the creators were trying to tell a story similar to Plato's allegory.

In conclusion, Plato's story of the cave brings up many philosophical points; and, most importantly, it addresses the issue of society's role in our lives. We are all, to some degree, influenced by the thoughts and actions of others, but, at the same time, we have the ability to question, draw our own conclusions, and make our own choices. Trinity tells Neo, "The Matrix" can not tell you who you are." It seems that the differences between "The Allegory of the Cave" and "The Matrix" do not prevent them from telling a similar story about the unreliability of the senses. We find Neo, at the end of the film, doing more than simply bending the laws of physics with the Matrix. It seems like he has stepped almost entirely out of that very world. He does not, however, appear in two places at once, but his destruction of one of the agents, and his ability to fly, says that the laws of physics are bent. By being courageous enough we, just like Neo and the freed man, are making the first step towards personal independence.