October 29, 2017
Escaping the Cave
Have you ever thought you knew everything about something but only to be told it was a lie? That is exactly what happens in the “Allegory of the Cave” by Plato. There are three men that have been prisoner in the cave since as long as they can remember having no idea of what it is to learn and receive knowledge and only getting glimpses of the outside world, a world which is so distant from them. Until one of the prisoners breaks free and gets to journey out in the outside world.
In “The Allegory of the Cave” there is a quote in which Plato explains the nature of humans related to learning. “Behold, Human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads”. Plato is trying to say that humans are held in captivity from learning all the way back to childhood and we imprison ourselves in a cave or den of our own beliefs not really knowing of what the outside world, only getting shadows. Plato later goes on to say “Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.” Plato is using the fire as the sun and the sun casts a shadow for the prisoners to see. They constantly see the shadows but never see the light because they are chained and bonded.
Eventually one of the men is able to break free.” At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and looks towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state had seen the shadows”. The reader can see that the moment the prisoner is free he turns his neck to the light and the light gives him a great amount of pain because it is the truth, the truth that he had been imprisoned from since the he was a child. Now that he has been shown the truth he is unable to accept how he viewed things when he didn’t know the light. The prisoner realizes that what he saw before wasn’t real and he begins to walk towards the light, he even tries to look straight at the light but cannot from the pain and tries to focus on things that he can see. We tend to associate light as goodness and dark as evil and I think this part in “The Allegory of the Cave” Alludes to The Bible in a way. In the Bible in John 8:12, God is referred to as the light of the world. The prisoner goes about and marvels at the stars, the light of the moon, the sun, the water, and the objects in the water.
In all this he remembers the other two prisoners that were with him in the cave and pity them. So, he goes back to the cave to let his fellow prisoners know. “While his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable, would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came with his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if anyone tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death. This quote shows that the people in the cave think that the man is crazy and that everything he says is fiction. Also, it’s important to note that this part has a lot to do with Plato himself as being a philosopher. Plato was very knowledgeable and smart and attempted to share his knowledge with those around him but was often met with a negative response. Plato is saying that these people that are responding negatively are like the prisoners in the cave they are weak minded and unable to accept the truth.
To this day this allegory still has a lot of meaning, its why people fight over things like religion. It’s going back to the theme where not everything is as it seems and a good example is another text called “The Stolen Party” By Liliana Heker. In “The Stolen Party” there is a girl named Rosaura that is excited about going to a party but her mother tells her not to get her hopes up. They go to the party and Rosaura believes she is going to have a good time but instead she gets treated poorly and ends of working for those at the party, even being called a pet. She learns the harsh truth and it gives her a great pain. That is what happens the prisoner that is set free the truth hurts. Truth is something that you cannot hide from, it has a way of finding you.