The Allegory of the Cave

Essay by hehateme22College, UndergraduateA+, May 2004

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The Allegory of the Cave

When I first read Plato's Allegory of the Cave I felt as if I were just reading an ordinary story, an old legend. After much thought and discussion I was able to better understand the depth of the meaning of this writing. I also noticed the similarity between Plato's story and the recent movie, The Truman Show, where actor/comedian Jim Carrey is forced to live a lie.

Book VII begins with the Allegory of the Cave. Here Socrates attempts to explain his theory of the good and its place in human understanding. In his explanation he describes a situation in which people are born and raised in a dark cave where they are chained in a certain way so that they only face the back of the cave. Socrates moves to say that there is also a fire behind them along with a puppet theater that is unseen.

These puppets cast shadows on the dark cave wall throughout the entire lifetime of the inhabitants causing them to believe that the shadows were in fact real people. They actually believe that this is their reality. "Here they have been from childhood, chained by the leg and also by the neck, so that they cannot move and can see only what is in front of them, because the chains will not let them turn their heads" (Allen 224).

Each shadow had its own voice that echoed off the wall to the ears of the prisoners. "When one of the people crossing behind them spoke, they could only suppose that the sound came from the shadow passing before their eyes. In every way, then, such prisoners would recognize as reality nothing but the shadows of those artificial objects" (Allen 224). Once again this seemed real enough to them.