Transformational Narrative: Allegory of the Cave
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PLATO'S ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE

In the allegory, Socrates describes a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them and give names to these shadows. The shadows are the prisoners' reality, but are not accurate representations of the real world. Three higher levels exist: the natural sciences; mathematics, geometry, and deductive logic; and the theory of forms.

Socrates explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are actually not reality at all. A philosopher aims to understand and perceive the higher levels of reality. However, the other inmates of the cave do not even desire to leave their prison, for they know no better life.[1]

Socrates remarks that this allegory can be paired with previous writings, namely the analogy of the sun and the analogy of the divided line.
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In the allegory, Socrates describes a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them and give names to these shadows. The shadows are the prisoners' reality, but are not accurate representations of the real world. Three higher levels exist: the natural sciences; mathematics, geometry, and deductive logic; and the theory of forms.

Socrates explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are actually not reality at all. A philosopher aims to understand and perceive the higher levels of reality. However, the other inmates of the cave do not even desire to leave their prison, for they know no better life.[1]

Socrates remarks that this allegory can be paired with previous writings, namely the analogy of the sun and the analogy of the divided line.
Much like The Hero’s Journey, as defined by Joseph Campbell, drawing inspiration from the "Allegory of the Cave" is often intrinsically linked to storytelling. Whether you like it or not, you’ve likely written pieces at least partially inspired from the allegory because you’ve watched so many films utilize this template.

So for you screenwriters, consider this allegory of Plato's cave another tool in your belt you can call in when you need some help figuring out what your characters should do next.

Why do they want to escape their state of ignorance? What do they find on the outside? What would happen if they returned? How might others react to the knowledge the character now possesses? All of these questions can help you create stronger, more compelling scripts.
The ascent out of the cave is the journey of the soul into the region of the intelligible.

The path to enlightenment is painful and arduous, says Plato, and requires that we make four stages in our development.

Imprisonment in the cave (the imaginary world)

Release from chains (the real, sensual world)

Ascent out of the cave (the world of ideas)

The way back to help our fellows
In the allegory, Plato likens people untutored in the Theory of Forms to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire.  Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see.
When you get an audience in the seats of a theater, or on their couch, or even reading your screenplay, they are prisoners in your cave. Your writing, direction, and storytelling casts the shadows and allows you to change their reality. You can tell a story about a man who can fly or a woman who is half fish and uses a fork as a comb.

Give them the shadows. If they accept your reality they'll enjoy your work. But if you reject it, you're in a lot of trouble...Make the world undeniable. 

Think about movies like The Matrix or even The Lord of the Rings, oh, and throw in John Wick for good measure. The Matrix sells us the idea that we are the prisoners in the cave, and when Morpheus turns the shadows off we see machines rule our world. And John Wick also reveals a little more under the surface, not in the cave but in our understanding of how much punishment one man can take and still survive. 

The most important thing you can do is sell a world to the audience that they believe in. See, our audiences have been out in the real world. So we need to make them believe in something more. Something that lets them leave the life outside the cave and spend time with us.
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