The allegory shows a contrast of the people who see only appearances but mistake them for the truth because it is all that they know; and the people who see nothing but the truth. Plato shows this contrast through some people being in a dark cave and chained up with no source of natural light, only the light from the fire. Whereas behind the wall and out of the cave people could see the sun. With the world’s life being dependant on the sun, it suggests that because the people in the cave can’t see the sun, they can’t see the truth and they can’t feel real life. The people in the cave only hear echo’s and see poorly formed shadows which has no truth to it, this state of mind Plato called eikasia in the republic.
The people in the cave do not seem to want to question the society they live in neither do they want to challenge society, they simply go along with what they know and this is symbolised by the cave being dark and by them being chained. Being chained symbolises being trapped, and Plato believed that the body is a prison which traps the soul. The chains also could be suggesting the ignorance of the world. The high/raised wall infers limitation to the thinking of the people inside the cave, and then the shadows they see suggest the world of sensory perception which Plato believes to be an illusion. After all, the shadows the people see are from a flickering fire light, so they are not reliable.
As the people in the prison can only see images of images, Plato sees them to be just like people who have no knowledge of philosophy. However, in the cage one of the prisoners is set free and this could suggest the potential that people without a philosophical mind do have if they open up to it. When the prisoner is first released he/she begins to realise that what they perceived to be reality is not, this shows that not challenging society and its morals could also be wrong. Once the prisoner is released and forced into the outside world and into daylight he/she begins to draw true conclusions about the world after seeing such numinous sights such as the moon and stars. This to me shows Plato proving his point that without question there will be no answer and without actions there will be no truth.
Plato believed that there was a difference between the intellectual knowledge gained through reason and knowledge gained through senses due to the fact that he believed knowledge gained through senses was no more than opinion as it could be mistaken. This is why Plato thought so lowly of the prisoners, and why the allegory is trying to enlighten the prisoners because the prisoners are plain boring and do not want to know the wonders of the world. This is shown at the end of the allegory where the prisoners threaten to kill anyone who attempts to set them free from the prison they live in. This reflects ignorance of some people’s attitudes towards society and its morals and also to the world.