Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, The Republic, explores the tension between the imagined reality that we think is real, and the reality that is the truth. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, “An allegory is a work of written, oral, or visual expression that uses symbolic figures, objects, and actions to convey truths or generalizations about human conduct or experience” (Merriam-Webster). Plato’s uses a visual image of a cave to explain the theory of reality of the physical world through Socrates and Glaucon. The imagined reality is symbolized by the shadows on the wall constructed by the puppeteers for the prisoners.
The true reality is symbolized by the world outside the cave. In a literal sense there is not actually a cave that is holding people hostage. Yet in a metaphorical sense everyone is trapped in their own cave at some point in their lives. The cave could be a lot of different things that trap people in their own minds such as being tricked by the media, staying in unhealthy situations because it is comfortable, or following others moral beliefs rather than having your own personal thoughts on a subject. The puppeteers represent the authority of today’s world that help influence the opinions of people and determine the beliefs and attitudes of society. The puppeteers could also be compared main stream media such as CNN or Fox news. They have their own agenda just like the puppeteers in order to keep the people fooled.
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Everyday, the people in the caves watched shadows projected on a blank wall. For them, these shadows are real and they shape their entire reality. Once an individual leaves the cave and ventures into the sunlight, for the first time in their life then can finally see the “true forms”, shapes and reality of the shadows from the cave that they thought were real. In regard to my own life, the ideas and social norms that I’ve been told to stick to from childhood could be compared to the shadows the prisoners saw in the caves. For example, When I was younger, I did everything possible to fit in with other people my age. If some girls in my class started to wear a certain style of clothes, I wanted to wear those clothes too.
Also, many kids were made fun of because of their size, so I make sure I stayed tiny so I wouldn’t get made fun of too. Obviously, as a child, it is hard to leave the “cave” because we want to be accepted by others. Media also plays a big role in making people, especially young children’s minds who are easily influenced, feel uncomfortable in their own bodies. The “shadows”, in this case, are represented by the societal pressure to have the perfect life and body. No individual wants to admit they are insecure in their own skin and seeing fit, pretty people everywhere does not help the situation. As we get older, we realize the media’s ideas of body image is bologna and that is us “leaving the cave”
I’ve been freed from the cave, I would not return to it unless someone else was having trouble freeing themselves from the ideas of the shadows. The problem with returning to the cave is that people are comfortable with living in their own ignorance. Once you are comfortable in your own skin, ideas, and beliefs, it is hard to go back to what you were taught before. A benefit to returning to the cave could be making sure once and for all that you want to keep taking the path you’re on. On the other hand, if one returns to the cave and explains the possibilities of a whole other world outside the cave, they might be rejected by the ‘prisoners’ still chained up in their lack of knowledge about the outside world.
- “Allegory.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, 2019, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/allegory#note-1.
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