Sample Essay On Comparison Of The Allegory Of The Cave And The Namesake
The central lesson from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is that some experiences change us past a point of no return. Just like a person cannot be expected to forget his or her name, the lesson of the cave is that knowledge is power, but it also shapes us and makes us unable to go back to a time of innocence when we did not have the power. Because of this, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave lends itself as an apt comparison to the 2004 novel The Namesake, which focuses on the clash between a traditional Bengali cultures. Though something is gained from learning new and different things, there are also thing that are lost due to knowledge, which can’t be unknown. This essay compares the plight of the character Gogol with that of the shackled man in Plato’s allegory.
Gogol is born to Bengali parents after a Russian novelist. From the beginning, his birth represents a change in breaking from the tradition, since in Bengali parents do not name their children right after they are born. But in Gogol’s case, they need to in order to have a name for the birth certificate. Along with his sister, Gogol is raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When he gets old enough to be aware, he decides that he does not like his name. As he tells his friend, “So I’m two inches away from her [a girl he was going to kiss]. Her luscious lips part. Just as I’m about to kiss her, she looks at me and she says, “What’s your name?’End of seduction 101”. (Lahiri, 2004).
Gogol undergoes a real and a symbolic change when he changes his name officially to Nikhil. He is successful in life and after going to Yale and Colombia he gets a job in New York in his chosen profession of architecture. He gets a white girlfriend and takes more to her culture than the culture of his own family.
In some ways, like the in the allegory of the cave, Gogol can never go back to being not an American. Since he was given the light of his life and was born, he has been immersed in that culture. Plato writes, “Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light” (Plato). The purpose of the allegory of the cave is to show us that once something is seen it cannot be unseen. His goal is to show what education can do to the “soul.” In the cave there are people who have always lived in the cave, so they do not know any other reality outside of it. They are tied up, so they can only see what is directly ahead of them. Behind them there is a fire and there is a pathway where people pass, so they only see shadows from the fire and not even the fire itself. Since they have always been in this situation, they take this to be reality. When they stalk about things, what they are actually talking about are only those things shadows.
In Plato’s story, there is a prisoner who is finally freed from his imprisonment in the cave. Instead of looking at shadows, he now can see the fire and the forms that create them. He realizes that what he thought was reality was not really reality, but only a shadow of it. Now he things the fire and the people are the “ultimate” reality. But they are not. It is not until he goes outside and beholds the sun that he finally understands the true nature of reality. It takes him time to adjust to the brightness, but when he does, he cannot deny that his entire life he has been deceived and that it is the sun which is the highest reality and source of all light.
Throughout the book Gogol is irritated that his parents continue to uphold Bengali traditional values and traditions since he fully embraces The American culture that he was born into. But when his father dies he if forced to see his own family in a new light. He is guilty that he has spent so much time trying to deny his origin. This causes him to see his family in a new light. He connects with a friend from his childhood, Mooshumi. Mooshumi is an American, but she is not one who is avoiding his identity, instead he embraces both his Indian and American identity. They are married, but this is not the “highest” reality of Gogol’s life, because after an affair they are divorced. In comparing the Allegory of the Cave with The Namesake, Mooshumi can be seen as the point at which the prisoner saw the fire and the forms that produced the shadows. While this was a much higher reality than the shadows on the walls, it was still not the ultimate reality of the sun.
After his divorce Gogol reads the book authored by the person who carries his namesake. But there is still further understandings for Gogol to realize, the light of the sun—the ultimate illuminating force—shines in his consciousness when he is able to understand his self by understanding his place in both his family and his place in American society: “’Try to remember it always,’ he said once Gogol had reached him, leading him slowly back across the breakwater, to where his mother and Sonia stood waiting. ‘Remember that you and I made this journey together to a place where there was nowhere left to go’” (Lahiri, 2006).
The novel is called Namesake because when Gogol read the book by Nikhil Gogol that he was name after, he begins to realize his place in his family, the world, and sees parts of his self that he tried to deny. Just like in the allegory of the cave, when the freed prisoner comes back to tell others about what he has seen, they do not believe him. People believe about themselves what they choose to believe. They believe about the world what they often want to believe. But in the end, reality can only be faced or denied, it cannot be changed. Throughout the book Gogol struggles to come to terms with this and for this he is often in conflict. But when he accepts reality, he is able to find his place in his family, his country, and his self. This is the lasted peace of truth accepted as it is and not truth that one runs away from.
Lahiri, J. (2003). The namesake. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Plato. (2008). The republic. Champaign, Ill.: Project Gutenberg.