Rhetorical Analysis of Plato's the Allegory of the Cave

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Eden Scharer
Darrin Broadway
English III-4
5th December, 2010

From Darkness to Sunlight: An Analysis of the Allegory of the Cave

Imagine yourself sitting inside a dark, damp, cave where the only thing you can see are moving shadows on the cave wall in front of you. You can’t move anywhere or see anything besides the shadows, and these are the only things you’ve seen for your entire life, so these moving dark images are the most real things you’ve ever known. At some point in our childhood we were mentally in this state of darkness, we didn’t know anything about the world or have any complex thoughts. How then, were we brought out of our caves of darkness and misunderstanding? The Allegory of the Cave is a well known section of Plato’s The Republic. Plato tells a story of prisoners in a cave with no mobility and the only thing they can see are shadows cast by figures behind them. One day one of the prisoners is shown around the cave and has the shadows explained to him, he is then taken out in to the world above to be shown real figures and objects in the world. These three stages were written to represent three different stages in our mental development. Plato believed that the highest level of education is when you have fully experienced good, beauty, and truth. There are some people in the world have never experienced it because they have only seem it acted out by other people, or had it defined but never gone far enough out of their caves to feel it for themselves, and Plato wrote this story to try and tell people that they are living in a cave and could be experiencing a whole different world they don’t even know about yet. This story was written to criticize the education system because many people who have problems analogous with the problems of the prisoners do not think in that simplistic way on their own, but have their views of the world because of their education. Plato shows how the obligation of educators is to bring people out of their caves and help them to truly experience good, beauty, and truth for themselves, not just tell them about it. Plato was expressing what he was trying to accomplish in his own academy which he started after much studying and traveling of his own. Plato writes to have the reader realize he is in darkness and give the reader a hope and a reason to go out and find his light which Plato does through creating vivid imagery to draw in the reader to interest them, his language creates an analogy between the prisoners and the education system, and he creates an intriguing dialogue through syntactical structure.

In the first 14 paragraphs, Plato only describes the prisoner’s as they are when the prisoners are chained to the wall. The important words used in this section of the story are the words that portray power and help to tell the story in a way that’s believable. Enlightened in the first sentence lays the foundation for the rest of the story, because it becomes all about enlightenment and understanding the unseen things of this world. Other powerful words used to create the story include childhood because it shows that they have never known anything else, chained because it shows the level to which they are trapped, and fire to represent desire. These words also help to develop the analogy created in the entire passage. The chains which hold the prisoners in their places represent all the things that hold people back from furthering their understanding. The fire represents the first flicker of realization which people feel to go out into the world and learn about the things which they don’t currently understand. The shadows that are created by the fire are moving on the wall in front of the prisoners creating a false idea that are real objects and they represent lies and things that people are told when being educated that aren’t true but because they are still in their darkness, they believe the lies they were told because they don’t know any better. Imagery is used...
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