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The Allegory of the Cave

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Plato's The Allegory of The Cave is one of Plato's best known allegories. Book 7 of The Republic is where the allegory is told and interpreted. The Allegory of The Cave is interpreted by Plato himself and is presented in the way of a story. The allegory also uses symbolism in many strong ways.

In The Allegory of The Cave, there are humans that are being held as prisoners, chained deep inside a cave in a way that not only they cannot escape but, that they are forced to look at a wall during their time as well. Behind the prisoners is a large fire, between the prisoners and the fire is a walkway, and on that walkway there are animals, plants and other things being carried. The shapes from these objects being carried cast shadows on the wall that the prisoners faced. When the carriers speak to each other, the prisoners believe speech is coming from the shadows on the wall.

The prisoners pass there time by trying to keep track of the shapes of the shadows, the names they give these shadows, and the order or pattern of which these shadows move. This is what the prisoners occupy their attention with, and this being the only reality they know, they learned to judge one another on the quality of their game play.

When one of the prisoners were released, he turned around and began on his way in the other direction, up the cave. The prisoner's eyes would not have been use to these new sights therefore, the prisoner's vision was not very good. At first the prisoner was able to see the darkest shapes, and then being able to see brighter and brighter objects. The prisoner then seen the fire, which initially made him come up with his own beliefs regarding what this burning object does. This spectacle made him think of what he was looking at. The sun was the last thing the prisoner was able to see, which then the prisoner learned that this object, the sun, provided the seasons for the course of the year and eventually he figured out that this was responsible for all the things he has seen. The realization of this made the prisoner want to share this knowledge with his fellow prisoners back home.

Once the enlightened prisoner returned to the area which he lived his life, his eyes once again adjusted to the new light surroundings. With his vision not as good as the other prisoners now, they believe where he has gone made him weaker than they are therefore, they didn't wish to go with the freed prisoner.

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