Understanding Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’ through my rabbits

My Bunny- (Rabbit Y)

My Bunny- (Rabbit Y)

I am not entirely clear as to how does one relate the philosophy of ‘Allegory of the Cave’ to literature and I am going to ask KC sir about it tomorrow. But for a layman (or woman) or for a rabbit-keeper (or any pet-keeper for that matter), here is what I deduce of it:

I have two rabbits at my place and they stay cooped up inside my humble 2-BHK flat most of the time. Even if I push them out of the door and place them beside the staircase, they would run back inside the house instead of running away to freedom. This is contrary to what people usually think. They think that if you keep the door of the cage open, the animal is going to escape. But that’s rarely the case since for that animal, the cage becomes a reality and it does not realize that it is living a life of imprisonment. [The theory was also explained in Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” by the novel’s protagonist whose father ran a zoo].

So, getting my focus back on the rabbits, the point I am trying to make here is that my rabbits have spent so many months inside the house away from the open sky that it has become their reality. Now, if I drag one of them (say, Rabbit X) out into the light and under the open sky of the wild, it will undergo trepidation, confusion and an impulsive reluctance to accept the reality the way it is. Remember, for the rabbit, the enclosure of the house is reality and the openness of a wall-free and ceiling-free space will seem unreal to it. However, at length, it will acknowledge the openness of the wilderness to be the real thing and accept that the life it had been living inside the fenced house was the delusional life instead of it being the other way round.

Once this realization sets in, it will remember its old friend (the other rabbit, say Rabbit Y) and return to the house to enlighten him. But (and here comes the travesty of life), the other rabbit will see only absurdity in the enlightened rabbit’s statements. For the rabbit Y, the enclosure and gloom of the house is the real and comforting thing. So, it will continue to see the unreality of life as the reality which, to be fair to the poor rabbit, is his personal reality. Hence, no amount of convincing and pleading by Rabbit X is going to push Rabbit Y out of the house.

This philosophy is deep yet simple as each one of us can relate to it in some way or the other.

-Ritesh Agarwal

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