The Allegory of the Cave
The themes of conformity, rebellion, and knowledge are presented throughout
Fahrenheit 415 and The Allegory of the Cave. The theme of this drawing combines these elements, which demonstrate that even though one can estrange himself from society, (Like the characters Harrison and Montag in Harrison Bergeron and Fahrenheit 451) one can never completely break from its constraints. One may find that even though his mind is free, old habits imposed as conformity are hard to control. How ever these actions occur, whether consciously or unconsciously, show that culture is a lasting impression and continuous force upon the human soul.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave shows that even encountering the ultimate truth, “returning to the cave they would see much worse than those who never left it” (Plato 1). Although the cave prisoner came into the light and seeing the ultimate knowledge of his surroundings, he still could not comprehend his past life which was left behind. In the drawing, although the “real” world is right outside of the cave; it cannot outshine the darkness of it. The cave also symbolizes the ignorance pored forth into the utopia of an honest and truthful world, and the fact that no matter how right or courageous or true something has became, its past always has a way of coming back and altering that truth.
Other characters that defy cultural challenges and conformity include Harrison Bergeron and his “empress” ballerina (Vonnegut 1). She takes the initial step to fly with Harrison; to “neutralize gravity with love and pure will” (Vonnegut 1). Harrison and the ballerina break free from the suppression for only moments; to be shot down in their highest moment of bliss and knowledge of love. Harrison’s culture drags him back down to earth, so that his attempt at complete rebellion is not possible. In the drawing, the ballerina is sitting by the fire in the wilderness; away from civilization. Tied to her wrist are the weights imposed because of her strength. The weights are symbolic of her flight to freedom and never reaching that goal.
Montag, the central protagonist in Fahrenheit 451, is an example of successful rebellion against ignorance. He efficaciously escapes intellectual suppression, and is not affected emotionally by the event which occurred antecedent to his departure. Before the great bomb which destroys the city; what impact did he truly make upon his fellow colleagues? Granger once said that there is “Something funny there” in that although Montag liberates his mind, he has no immediate impact upon society or positive attribute to the common good (Bradbury, 149). This relates to the central theme of the artwork in that Montag was able to break away from society, but he was unable to break others free as well. The visual demonstrated this by the depiction of the very large, “200 foot billboards” in the countryside. The billboard overlooks the entire scene, which shows the omniscient control of society on all characters, including Montag, Harrison, the ballerina, and prisoners of the cave (Bradbury 29).
Lastly, the bottom right corner of the artwork is torn, revealing a part of Clarisse’s dark eyes and pallid face. In Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse is intellectually free, while her classmates consider her strange. Clarisse says herself that “I’m antisocial…I don’t mix… its strange” (Bradbury 29). Clarisse understands that although her liberation of thought can change others around her, she is incapable of penetrating the thick wall of modern culture and bias. The drawing of Clarisse (which looks like the corner of the drawing is folded to reveal her face) represents the turning of the page into knowledge and light. It also infers that a clean slate is needed to begin anew.
In conclusion, darkness and light exist coherently. Heroes of knowledge cannot shake off ignorance from all people, and rebels cannot up heave an entire culture with an angry shout. Breaking away from society is liberating, but not completely fulfilling. It follows like a ghost, until they can believe “in all the things that never made the screen” (Jack Johnson).