Imagine realizing that all of what we know, knew or experienced was an artificially created belief. This is the idea that the movie Matrix, with its main character Neo, and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, with the slaves, try to present as they question our perception of reality. In both publications, human beings live their lives experiencing what for them is reality until some of them are able to see reality and realize that all their lives were based on illusions.
The Matrix and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave are very similar for both involve men who live unreal lives that are controlled by other beings and who, upon perceiving this, initially reject the truth yet finally manage to accept it and try to present it to other persons. At first, Neo and the slaves lived ordinary lives. For them, what they saw was the reality and anything that contradicted this reality was false. In the case of Neo, he lived a normal life in Capital City, USA; he had a job as a programmer, a car and an apartment.
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Likewise, the slave in Plato’s Allegory lived an ordinary life that did not differ in any way from that which he had lived all his life; he was always chained, lived in a gloomy cave and could only stare at a wall. In their perspective, that was their reality for it was the only one they knew and the one that they had experienced throughout their whole lives. Initially, Neo lives within the Matrix; a machine produced world that creates every aspect of Neo’s life and causes him to believe that he is actually living it.
Similarly, the slave lives in a cave where all that occurs is artificially created and controlled by a passerby who projects figures on the cave wall in the form of shadows and makes incomprehensible sounds. In both cases, the men believe that what they perceive is true for their senses and their interactions which other beings allow them to make such a hypothesis. Suddenly, both men are presented with the truth that they are living an illusion. One day, Neo meets Morpheus and when asked if he wants to know the truth about his life, decides to accompany him and hence leave the Matrix.
Neo wakes up in a place full of mechanical pods where human beings are connected to cables. He is then released from the pod and transferred through pipes until he is rescued by Morpheus’ vessel. This senses are disrupted when he leaves the Matrix and this is why Neo has trouble seeing at first. In the same manner, the slave is released from the chains by his captor and exposed to the real world. While being taken away from his chains and towards the exit of the cave, the slave sees that apparatus that had formed his reality for such a long time; he sees the chains that had held him, he sees the origins of the shadows and the sounds.
He has trouble accepting this, for it is much easier for him to continue believing what he has always believed. Regardless of this he is taken outside and sees the sunlight. At first he is dazzled; the light blinds him and distorts his senses. The slave has trouble adapting to a world so different to the one that he had become accustomed to. In essence, both men are removed from their fake realities and forced to digest the truth about their lives and to experience the real world. Now that Neo and the slave have realized the truth regarding their lives, they decide in trying to save those who are still living in an illusion.
This is the task that Neo and the rest of Morpheus’ crew are set to do as they venture across the dangerous real world in an attempt to defeat the Matrix. They even go to the extent of returning to the Matrix in order to defeat the machines and hence save the people. Regardless of this, some persons do not want to accept the truth and want to return to their illusion; where they did not have to endure the pain of knowing the truth regarding humanity. Such is the case with Cypher; in order to return to the Matrix and live an unreal yet comfortable life, he betrays his peers and even kills other persons.
In the case of Plato’s Allegory, the slave who has seen the real world decides to go back in and help the other slaves see it. Upon hearing what they friend has to say, they reject the truth and even fight to stay. The slaves do not want their illusion to change; for them it is their reality and they fear that it might be disrupted by what their peer wants to show them. As you may see, in both cases, the freed men try to save those who have not been freed, yet the fear of leaving their “comfort zone” within their fake lives causes them to fight in order to not see the truth.