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Plato’s Allegory of the Cave Essay

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Updated: Sep 2nd, 2021

The “Allegory of the Cave” is among Plato’s philosophical writings that are presented in the form of allegory. The definition of an allegory writing is given as “the type of writing having two levels of meanings: literary and allegorical meaning…where a literary meaning is the content or the subject matter and allegorical meaning is the symbolic or metaphorical suggestion “(BachelorandMaster.com, n.d, para 1).

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, there is much darkness in the cave and only very little light can be found in this place and it is so hard for a person who is in the cave to see the objects around. In the cave, we have people, around which chains have been tied on their feet as well as their necks, making them unable to move freely. They are prisoners (Cohen, 2006).

This cave forms one world and there is another world outside the cave and between the two, a tall wall has been erected. A large number of people move on the wall carrying various things and their shadows are cast in the cave. Those living in the cave are unable to fully raise up their heads to see clearly but are only able to see the shadows about which they hold a believe that they are real. However, as much as they believe that the shadows are real, this is just their own illusion (Cohen, 2006).

On the other hand, in the outside world, there is adequate light and everything can be clearly seen by people who live their. In case one of the cave prisoners is let out of the cave and allowed to join the outer world, this person is unable to see even a single thing initially because his eyes are not used to the bright light.

However, as time goes by, the person gradually gets used to the light and starts to identify all things in the outer world. Following this, the person comes to a realization that the cave world is not a real world and it is the outer world that is real. He gets to appreciate himself and the memories of those who live in the cave come to him.

He becomes sympathetic and pitiful to those who live in the cave because he realizes that they are living in darkness. What comes to his mind is that is far much better to be under bondage while living in the outer world than being someone honored or a leader while living in the cave.

Although this person does not have the willingness to return to the cave, in case this person is returned to the cave, he can not be able to count anything in the cave because the dazzling of his eyes increases even more. In case he makes some efforts to convince those living in the cave that the cave world is not real and the outer world is what is a real one; these people will have to take away his life because they are ignorant (Meyer, Scheibel, Munte-Goussar, Meisel and Schawe, 2007).

The allegorical meaning is also attached to the “allegory of the cave” since a large number of symbolic ideas are employed in the writing. In symbolic terms, the cave full of darkness and chained prisoners stands for the contemporary world which is filled with ignorance. The tall wall that has been erected between the cave world and the outer world is symbolic of the limited thinking that people in the contemporary world have.

In addition, “the shadow symbolically suggests the world of sensory perception which Plato considers an illusion” (BachelorandMaster.com, n.d, Para 3). Basing on Plato’s opinion, “the appearance is false and reality is somewhere, which we can not see” (BachelorandMaster.com, n.d, Para 3).

Plato being a perfect philosopher suggests that the world that can be seen is a photocopy of the “real world” (BachelorandMaster.com, n.d,). A photocopy like this is represented by the shadows and there is only a possibility to know the reality when the spiritual knowledge can be employed. The chains is a symbol of “our limitation in this material world so that we can not know the reality to know the reality; we have to break the material wolrd” (BachelorandMaster.com, n.d, Para 4).

Spiritual reality is symbolized by the outer world which is filled with light and achieving spiritual realized can only be realized by “breaking the chains that are used to tie us” (BachelorandMaster.com, n.d, Para 4). In addition, lack of being able to see initially when one comes to the outer world is symbolic of the hardships of denying the material wolrd.

The dazzling of the yes when one is returned to the cave is symbolic of a person’s hardship to agree to ignorance after one coming to know the reality. Therefore, it can be said that in “the allegory of the cave”, there has been criticizing by Plato of “our limited existence in the material wolrd” (BachelorandMaster.com, n.d, Para 4).

Overview of the Truman Show Film

The “Truman Show” film is a TV show that focuses on the life of a man known as Truman Burbank. Truman was lawfully adopted immediately after birth by a major TV network “to be the unknowing star of television series, in which his entire life is watched by an audience of millions through an intricate series of hidden cameras” (Philosophical films, 1998, para 1). The main person behind the whole of this idea of the “Truman Show” is someone by the name Christof.

This person sets up an “artificial world”, given the name as Seahaven, in which Truman starts to live. In the actual sense, this artificial world is only a quite big TV set. The dwellers of this artificial world are all actors and it is only Truman who is not aware of this fact (Philosophy and Truman Show, 2010). Truman is the only genuine person in the artificial world; the people he believes to be his mother and father as well as his spouse are people those who are being paid to engage in acting.

All through Truman’s life, the TV network is determined to accomplish the mission of keeping Truman in the dark about the reality by controlling the environment in which he dwells (Clark and Cook, 1998). Even after Truman eventually comes to a realization of the reality and runs away from the “constructed world”, the film as well follows these events (Brearley and Sabbadini, 2008; Castle, 2011).

How fears experienced by prisoners in Plato’s Allegory of the cave and by Truman in Truman Show similar

It can be clearly seen that the “Truman Show” film bears significant similarities with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The film is full of ideas that are borrowed from “ancient philosophy”. The main themes that can be identified in the film and Plato’s allegory are such themes as total control, deceptive appearances, and looking for truth.

The fear experienced by the prisoners in the cave was similar to the fear that Truman went through in some ways. For instance, in the case where Plato talks of a Freed Man from the cave; this man gets to know the reality when he gets accustomed to the outer world. Though he has no willingness to go back to the cave, the desire and willingness to deliver the others who still stay in the cave out of darkness eventually drives him back (The Hidden Lighthouse, 2011).

On getting back to the cave, the freed man would join the prisoners and narrates to them his experience while in the outer world. The Freed man may encounter much hardships of making the prisoners to actually understand what he is talking about, in regard to the real world.

He would be dismissed by the prisoners and they would proclaim him as having gone mad. As a matter of fact, if this freed man goes on insisting on holding on to his new belief or went on persuading them to leave the cave to go to the outer world, the prisoners would turn out to be hostile to the man (The Hidden Lighthouse, 2011).

The possibility that the idea they have in mind about reality might be a mistaken one makes these prisoners to experience fear. More so, much fear is experienced by the prisoners following the idea that if they left the cave to go to the outer wolrd, they would turn out to be blind and will not be able to see the “reality” they have always known. Plato points out that,

men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that is better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death (Plato, 2008, pg 140).

This explanation clearly illustrates that the people in the cave would prefer killing over accepting to be taken out of the cave to the outer wolrd. They would have to do anything possible to ensure they won’t go out of the cave and this is for the reason that, to them this is the real world and it is a place they feel comfortable and at peace to stay (Linstead and Linstead, 2005).

Considering the case in the film “Truman show”, Truman is absolutely unaware of realities around him. He is not aware that his entire life is under someone’s control. Relating Truman’s situation to Plato’s Allegory, in symbolic terms, chains have been tied around Truman and he is living in a cave and there is the appearance of shadows that he believes are real.

Everyone around him are mere actors that are being paid to act and these people represents the shadows that appear on the wall, seen by Truman which are manipulated by Christof. These actors are being used by Christof to manipulate Truman’s life and to bar him from knowing the truth (Papathanassopouloulos, 2011).

An element of fear comes in when Christof uses one of the actors, which Truman believes he is his father, to instill fear in Truman to prevent him from going away from the “island”. Through his manipulation, Christof assigns the role to Truman’s “father” in which this father pretends to drown.

This event makes Truman to become fearful of water and fears coming closer to water, and thus remaining on the “island city”. By engaging in the manipulation of the world around Truman, the ability to have control over the belief held by Truman of what the reality is, is attained by Christof and he is now able to control him fully (Papathanassopouloulos, 2011).

How humanity relate to the message

As it has been considered above, both Truman and the prisoners in the cave experience some fear. This fear comes about as a result of some manipulation that is carried out by unseen forces by the victims (Truman and the prisoners). The prisoners have been put in darkness and are not able to see the light. Truman is under the manipulation of Christof and is made to believe that there is no any other wolrd. They are under control and made to be fearful to discover any other world other than the one they know as a real one.

Humanity relates to this message very closely. In the real world in which we live, people are used to the world they have been used to and brought up in.

It has to be believed that there can be a better world where there is light since one may be currently living in darkness. Basing on the religious standpoint, we have a group of people who believe very much in material things and do not consider changing their lifestyles to follow spiritual knowledge.

They are in darkness and may stay holding on to the belief that there is no any other world, which can be a world full of light and happiness. They are under the bondage of sin and are not ready to seek out for deliverance because they lives are controlled by some evil powers that they can not see.

Is fear dangerous?

As it has been established above, fear can be very dangerous. This is because, by fearing, one can remain in darkness and fail to see the light or fail to discover the “real world” because he has mistaken the unreal one for the real world. It is good to understand that, it is out of courage and taking a bold move to exploit the outside world that an individual is lifted to a higher new level. The fear experienced by cave prisoners makes them to remain prisoners and to stay in darkness.

The fear experienced by Truman makes him to remain in island “city” without realizing that all people around him are mere actors and outside, there is a whole big world full of opportunities. Therefore, it is important to realize this fact and make the necessary effort to overcome fear and go out to explore. By doing this, one can realize that the current world in which he is living in not a real world and the real world is out there and it is full of light.


. Plato (Allegory of the Cave). Web.

Brearley, M. and Sabbadini, A. (2008). The Truman Show : How’s it going to end”. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 89 (2): 433–40.

Castle, R. (2011). . Web.

Clark, L. and Cook, L. (1998). The Truman Show: Curriculum guide. Web.

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Linstead, S. and Linstead, A. (2005). Thinking organization. London: Routledge.

Meyer, T., Scheibel, M., Munte-Goussar, S., Meisel, T. and Schawe, J. (2007). Education within a new medium: Knowledge formation and digital infrastructure. New York: Waxman Verlag.

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