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Charlie: A Prisoner Of The Cave

1205 words - 5 pages

Plato, one of the most well-known philosophers in the ancient Greece, wrote an ultimate allegory known as “The Allegory of the Cave”. It is about a man coming out of a cave after being chained as a prisoner for his entire life and what he goes through upon reaching surface. The ideas presented in “The Allegory of the Cave” are very similar to the ideas presented in Daniel Keyes’s novel, Flowers for Algernon. He used an excerpt from the metaphor to start his novel. In Keyes’s novel, a 32 year old intellectually delayed man name Charlie Gordon undergoes an operation that makes him a genius. Charlie learns many life lessons such as a person’s right to live and the development of social skills. The three main time periods Charlie experiences throughout the novel: before intelligence, during intelligence, and after intelligence connects to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”
At the beginning of Flowers for Algernon, Charlie could only see one side of things that he is exposed to; similarly, the prisoners of the cave could only see shadows. In “The Allegory of the Cave”, Socrates says to Glaucon , “The truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images” (Plato 1). Being chained limits the prisoners to see and hear anything but the shadows on the wall and the echoes bouncing off of it. However, shadows are never the truths; they are an exaggerated version of the actual person or self. What they see is a false image, but they believe it is true because it is what they have always seen. Likewise, Charlie can only see a false, untrue image; thus, he cannot comprehend their deeper meaning. Charlie writes in his journal before the surgery, “He really pulled a Charlie Gordon that time. I don’t know why they say it but they always laff and I laff too” (Keyes 23). Because of Charlie’s limited knowledge about the world, he could not understand that the people at the bakery are making fun of him when they say “pulled a Charlie Gordon”. He assumes that “pulled a Charlie Gordon” has a positive meaning because the people at the bakery laugh when they say it so he laughs with them. People at the bakery do not treat him like a human because he is intellectually delayed. Just like the shadow the prisoners see, the phrase and the treatment of him from others represent a false image, but Charlie cannot interpret its true meaning. Therefore, Charlie fails to understand the actual meaning and keeps on thinking that they are his friends. Thus, Charlie is like the prisoners in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, for he can only see and hear things what they appear to be, but not what it really means.
When a prisoner is released from the cave, they have to adjust to life outside the cave; likewise, Charlie has to learn the ways of life when he became intelligent. In “Allegory of the Cave” Socrates says, “He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world” (Plato 2). The prisoner, like Charlie, has to “grow accustomed” or slowly learn the ways in...

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