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Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” and “You, Screws” Essay

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Updated: Jun 5th, 2019

The ‘Allegory of the cave’ and ‘You, Screws’ are two metaphors that different authors have used to show some similarity in the way people think and limit themselves to view the world and reality as though they are shattered from the rest of the world or landed in a prison. Plato succeeded to create a wonderful piece of art that denotes how people are ignorant to the extent of not being aware of their own surroundings.

It portrays a humanity that has failed to be wise, so nobody can achieve anything, and as a result, people are stuck in the darkness of their ignorance. This is so because they have time, and there are a lot of chances for them to change the things for better, and it is a matter of realizing what is at their disposal to make the best way out of the difficult situation.

Irrespective of the status that one may have, Plato brings out a fact that it is possible to succeed and join the elite of the society. The same sentiments are echoed in “You, Screws” , the author of which understands that everything is exposed, and everyone can get it. The story features a man who has been imprisoned for seven years for charges of terrorism.

The thing that two articles have in common is a theme of prison. However, the authors depict different types of prisons. Plato portrays a prison as a mental state, i.e. the inability of human beings to perceive light or rather the real situations with different circumstances that occur in the world and gain some experience to become more wise.

In “You, Screws”, the author talks about a real (physical) prison where some of the prisoners are taught to act as leaders to the rest. These poses a question for a reader whether it is a physical or a mental prison that hinders a person from achieving something in his/her life.

As far as Breyten is concerned, people will always drag you to the pit the moment they realize that you has finally been enlightened. Breyten was a prisoner on his own, and he will never let imprisonment deter him from advancing in knowledge. Thus, he addresses his article to all screws who decide to listen to him as a way of gaining knowledge.

He says that he does not regret much of having been shattered from the world but “I normally resent all attempts at dragging me back particularly when they come from the sentimentally deprived or the vicarious heart-eaters and self shitters who wallow in victimization and heroism by proxy” (Breytenbach 15).

This is what is echoed in Plato’s allegory of the cave. The thing is that ordinary folks that are not enlightened will always misunderstand those who have an intellectual insight. The character in Plato’s story at last understands his environment and tenaciously overcomes the challenges experienced in the cave, which are his mental incapacitations in his long and tortuous intellectual journey.

Plato’s Cave represents human knowledge “showing the intellectual journey to truth as a gradual and arduous process” (Plato 134). He compares people to prisoners in a cave whose only perception of reality is a play of shadows on a wall that they face them. Everyone has a role to play in bringing change to his/her life.

One should do his/her best trying to avoid the thoughts that prevent him/her from perceiving the world from a broad perspective. Only being able to face challenges and difficulties, people can get an understanding of the real world. Plato classifies this process in four stages.

The first stage includes forming an attitude that is based on the reality’s outward appearance constituted by sights and sounds of experience though it takes a while before the human mind distinguishes reality. Breyten understands that in order for one to stay in darkness having no power over his/her own destiny, he/she needs to continue closing the eyes and avoid noticing some crucial facts.

He is aware that purpose is an intention, and everybody has the ability to achieve his/her goal using the circumstances that the life may present to him or her. The prisoner goes through these stages, and that is why it is possible for him/her to address people though an ex-convict.

The second stage requires the ability to recognize the difference between a deceptive entity and knowledge and the real ones. In this case, the scary shadows on the walls are the true carvings. The puppeteers and the things inside and outside the cave described by Plato indicate that empirical discoveries never penetrate the ideal realm of truth, thus calling for the need to leave the cave.

The third stage starts when people get outside the cave and see the sun that seems to tend to blind them. This sun is the light of truth, thus the reality turns out to be dangerous and as much fearsome for the prisoners as the shadows on the walls. This makes it difficult to understand the nature of entity that happens to be an idea, a concept, and something nonmaterial as Plato later realizes.

Accordingly, practice and learning are the key ingredients for realization of the true form of reality. The fourth stage begins when one acknowledges the source of the intellectual light. Plato realizes that the Good elucidates the concepts that help us understand the truth.

The prisoner knows that holding his head high and standing on his dignity will signify victory as far as address the masses concerned. Plato maintains this concept by saying that only those who can achieve enlightenment should be leaders of the rest. The released prisoner is a leader because he overcomes his fears and difficulties and gains the necessary knowledge, thus he is able to lead the rest.

He does not resist the enlightenment as the others do but rather embraces it with open arms. The prisoner described in “You, Screws” takes a leadership position in the United States after being released from the ‘dark’ world or rather a prison. This comes in line with Plato’s allegory of the cave since it is only after setting free, the prisoners are able to get a real picture of their world outside the cave.

Plato’s belief that only the enlightened grasp the invisible truths lying under the apparent surface is reflected in “You, Screws” when the prisoner achieves a leadership position in the United States that happens to be a foreign, unknown, outside world for him. He understands that all are equal living in the same place and excluded from the outside world with the same walls.

This indicates that it is upon everybody to act with bravery to achieve whatever a person needs without immersing in apathy considering that one is doomed or cursed. Actually, everything is exposed to everybody to get it.

Breyten knows pretty well that there are always warders and prisons to govern and control the society by those who are above the law. In this case, the aspect of not progressing is nullified. This is what Plato calls the escape from the limitation of the cave. He maintains that everyone should be lifted up to look at the Mountain meaning that everybody ought to be enlightened even if it calls for the rest to give hand.

Additionally, Breyten is aware that there is no chance to escape the fears of existence, except by maintaining dignity and being responsible for each person’s actions. From Plato’s acknowledgement that the truth is in a way embedded in people’s minds, Breyten calls for the prisoners to become useful to their societies through employment. Thus, everyone needs to change their thoughts and attitudes to be able to live a worthy life.

There is nothing for the free or the slaves since all have opportunities even if they are bloated. Mental imprisonment is definitely the worst situation in life as far as enlightenment is concerned, so one should fight to the last breath to set free from that cave.

Works Cited

Breytenbach, Breyten. “You, Screws.” Harper’s Magazine Feb. 2007: 15-20. Print.

Plato, Allan. ‘The Allegory of the Cave’, The Republic of Plato. 2nd ed. New York: Basic Books, 1968. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" and "You, Screws"." June 5, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/platos-allegory-of-the-cave-and-you-screws/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" and "You, Screws"'. 5 June.

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