In his novel Being There, Jerzy Kosinski shows how present day culture has strayed away from the ideal society that Plato describes in his allegory of the cave. In his metaphor, Plato describes the different stages of life and education through the use of a cave. In the first level of the cave, Plato describes prisoners who are shackled and facing a blank wall. Behind them is a wall of fire with a partition that various objects are placed and manipulated by another group of people. These shadows are the only action that they ever see. They can only talk to the surrounding prisoners, and watch the puppet show on the wall in front of them. Naturally, the prisoners come to believe that the shadows on the wall in front of them are reality. The second level of the cave is where a prisoner is released of the chains and is forced to look at the light of the fire behind him. The light hurts his eyes, and after a moment of pain and confusion he sees the statues on the partial wall in front of him. These were what caused the shadows that he took to be reality. This enlightenment is the start of education for the prisoner. He then is taken from the cave into the light of the sun. At first the prisoner can see only shadows, then reflections, then real people and things. He understands that the statues were only copies of the things he now sees outside of the cave. Once he is adjusted to the light, he will look up to heavens to gain a true understanding of what reality is. This is what Plato refers to this understanding as the Form of Goodness. In Being There, Chance is in the deepest part of the cave, yet the world around him is too ignorant to realize this (Johnson 51-54)
The main character of Kosinski's novel is Chance, a simple man that Plato would consider to be imprisoned in the first level of the cave. He has been shut off from society from his early childhood, and except for a few encounters with the maid, or other employees of "the Old Man", he...
Bibliography: Johnson, and Reath. Ethics. Belmont: Thomson, 2004.
Kosinski, Jerzy. Being There. New York: Grove P, 1970.
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