Many literary works of the past have been very accurate to our view of society today. None of these works, however describes our view of today’s society as closely as Plato’s “Simile of the Cave”. In this work, Plato describes how he believes humans of his time behaved using a simple analogy of men in a cave. Through this analogy, Plato is able to fully show his beliefs and concept of life itself. Although very old, this literary work can still be used to associate problems of today’s society to those of the past. Plato describes men as being chained in a dark subterranean chamber with their eyes permanently turned to a screen before them, upon which pass the shadows of men living and working in the world of light. Since the prisoners in the underground cave have never known reality other than those shadows, they take them for all that actually is “the whole truth”, and if voices from the world above do reach them, they believe it is the shadows speaking. In comparison of this to our government today, many similarities can be seen.
Citizens of our nation today are often “blinded” from the truths that are presented before them. They live their lives from day to day just knowing and accepting what is being presented to them blindly and have no concept of the reality that lies behind what they are presented. Unless these people are freed and allowed to find the truth for themselves, this is the way that they will always live their life. Plato symbolizes this by suggesting that one of these men is freed and ventures out of the cave into the light, or the world above, and sees the sun, symbolizing “the form of the good”. Plato’s object in this work was not of personal enlightenment; he had the sense to understand that where communication was lacking, such as those prisoners still locked in the cave.
The wise, represented by the freed prisoner, should distribute their knowledge to others who were lacking that information. In today’s society, however, this idea is usually not practised. In terms of our government, people with this “knowledge” tend to separate themselves from others wanting this same information. In the world of politics, it seems that politicians try to show the people of their country just what they want the people to see, making them the ones that are withholding the information. Upon closer analyzation of this analogy, instead of being the freed prisoners that journey to the light to find knowledge, politicians tend to be more like the men behind the curtains showing the prisoners these objects, representing “truth”, but they only show the prisoners shadows that stand for “mystery” and “doubt”.
There is in deep-seated contradiction here, because the journey of each freed prisoner seems to be an individual venture, and it appears that the good cannot be realized by collective enlightenment. This holds true to today’s society also. Man’s journey into enlightenment is still a personal adventure; success or failure in today’s society with our government depends on our individual drive to succeed and our own individual effort to do our best. In conclusion, Plato’s “Simile of the Cave” represents abstract qualities such as truth, enlightenment, mystery, deception, and many other ideas. Upon one’s analysis of this simile, many qualities can be found that are comparable to today’s society. Through a better understanding of this literary work, a person is able to fully compare and contrast the similarities between society today and society of Plato’s time. These astounding similarities make this one of the most intriguing and interesting literary works of all time.
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