Plato's Allegory of The Cave Summary by Clare

In Plato's Allegory of a Cave, Socrates is telling a story to one of his students. He describes a cave to the student.

This is the set up of the cave in the story.

In this story there are prisoners, which are meant to represent the general public. These prisoners spend their days watching shadows on the cave wall. Because they have lived in the cave their whole lives, they believe that what they see, the shadows, are reality. Eventually, one prisoner escapes.

These two photos show what the prisoner could see at first, and what he could see once his eyes adjusted to the light.

The prisoner's eyes are used to the dark inside the cave and so at first, the sunlight is blinding. Eventually, their eyes adjust to the light and they begin to see reality, as opposed to the shadows that they always thought were reality. This was meant to symbolize philosophy and the path to enlightenment. When you first begin questioning your perception and the world around you, the answers you come across can be confusing and even overwhelming. However, if you continue to search for the truth, eventually it will become easier and you will see things clearly.

The escaped prisoner, meant to represent a philosopher, returns to the cave to try and tell the other prisoners what he has seen. They refuse to believe him and tell him if he releases them from their chains they will try to kill him. This is meant to show how fiercely people cling to what is familiar to them, and how you cannot force someone to question things. They have to become ready to do so in their own time.

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