Plato’s classic The Allegory of the Cave and seminal science-fiction film The Matrix at first glance seem to have nothing in common. The first is written and set in the ancient times, revolving around Socrates telling his follower Glaucon about chained prisoners in a primitive cave watching shadow puppets lighted by a fire burning at the cave’s opening. The latter is a futuristic story set in a world controlled by artificial-intelligent computers that created the Matrix, a virtual world programmed for the humans to live in, as an attempt to keep the human race contained and under control.
Although Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave and The Matrix were created in two very different centuries, they are related in many ways. Within the similarities between the two stories, themes that relate to both of the stories are presented. Both stories have characters that are built around the same roles. For example, Neo represents the prisoner in the cave who discovers the true light of the real world. Neo had been living in a “cave,” which in this case is the Matrix. With the help of Morpheus and his team Neo is able to escape from his perception of reality and see the truth.
Similarly, in Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave, the prisoner was able to come out of the cave with the help of the man whose name was not mentioned. Both the prisoner and Neo are ignorant of the truth until their mentors enlighten them. But accepting the truth is not easy for both as well; regarding the prisoners, Socrates explains that “At first, when any of them is liberated… he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen shadows. Neo similarly suffers when he sees the “true light,” which is to him the real and cruel world outside of the Matrix that he cannot seem to grasp because it seems too bad to be true. Another strikingly similar set of characters is Morpheus and the unnamed man. They both serve as mentors to the oblivious characters. Morpheus allows Neo to break out of his pod and see the seemingly unbelievable harsh reality. Morpheus calls Neo the chosen one, whose purpose is to destroy the Matrix. The themes of The Allegory of the Cave and The Matrix are very similar. In The Allegory of the Cave, Socrates explains that what we see is not the real hing, but it is only what we see in our mind, thus we are not experiencing reality directly. In The Matrix, we experience life in a virtual world that we think is real, which also means that we are not experiencing reality directly. This idea can be seen with the following quote from the The Matrix: Spoon girl: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth. Neo: What truth? Spoon girl: There is no spoon. Neo: There is no spoon? Spoon girl: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
The girl explains in this quote that the spoon is not physically able to bend but it is just our minds playing tricks on us. Another similarity is that the people controlling the Matrix are able to manipulate what goes on and what the people in the Matrix see. Likewise, the prisoners in the cave can only see what is shown by the shadows cast of the objects that others control. Both the prisoners in the cave and the people in the Matrix are confined to their respective areas and cannot escape until someone from the outside real world rescues them.
In the film, the truth is used to save the human race, while in The Allegory of the Cave the truth is used to enlighten the prisoners. In The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo about the Matrix and how he’s the “chosen one. ” Morpheus believes that Neo is capable of saving humanity and is willing to risk his life for Neo. Another difference is that the Matrix that Neo was living in was actually better than the real world, while in The Allegory of the Cave the world outside the cave is much better.
Finally, the Matrix is created by people, programmed to deceive, while the cave exists naturally and the only thing that’s manipulated is the shadows. Both plots are based upon the theme of reality versus perception of reality. In both The Matrix and The Allegory of the Cave Neo and the prisoner meet their respective mentors and are exposed to the real world as unbelievable as it may seem. Both characters have one purpose which is to help the rest of humanity come out of their “cave” and see the truth. Although there may be minor differences, the overall theme is the same: what is really true?