Humans depend on their five senses to confirm the authenticity of the reality that surrounds them, but how would they react when their comfort zone they call “the truth” is wrong? In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Plato answers that question with a series of symbols. The same symbolic meanings can be found in the 1999 film of The Matrix (directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski) where the protagonist — Thomas A. Anderson — is a man living two lives. Thomas is an average computer programmer by day but hacker Neo by night.
Thomas is an obedient citizen; on the other hand, Neo has never been satisfied with the reality that has been spoon fed to him since he was born and has been searching for the truth through computers. When Neo is targeted by the police, Morpheus (a legendary computer hacker) contacts Neo and awakens him to the real world. Because of the obvious similarities, the dimensions present in The Matrix could be compared with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.
In The Matrix, Morpheus makes a perplexing point of “If real is what you feel, smell, taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain” (The Matrix) and continues to question “what is real? ” (The Matrix). This argument then leads to Morpheus revealing the real post-apocalyptic world where machines– who call themselves the “Sentinels”– rule over humans. Morpheus explains that the Sentinels created a reality stimulator (the “Matrix”) to control humans. The Matrix is built to feed humans a false world and is manipulated by artificial knowledge.
This make-belief world befits Plato’s representation of the ignorant world — “the cave”. In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, the cave is to symbolize the warped world that the everyday people would perceive as the one and only “reality”. Not forgetting the ultimate truth, Plato symbolizes it with the “world above the cave”. In The Matrix, the dark, machine-ruled world is The Matrix[’s] rendition of the “world above the cave”. Wanting to share the truth, Morpheus opens the door of the ultimate truth to Neo by giving him the choice between the blue and the red pill.
If Neo was to choose the blue pill, it was a choice to continue living in the Matrix’s blissful ignorant illusion whereas if he chose the red pill, he will be able to embrace the hidden truth. Morpheus’ red pill is a portrayal of “the tunnel” in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The red pill and “the tunnel” are to symbolize the path to more information and to become more open-minded. After choosing the red pill, this path awakens Neo to the new world and Morpheus trains and teaches Neo’s mind to be strong enough to comprehend and differentiate the truth from the Matrix.
Neo’s training of the truth is a depiction of Socrates –the freed prisoner– being pulled to the light because both dimensions are to symbolize the education the one has to go through to further understand the world and its surroundings. In Plato’s allegory, Socrates journey suggests that without the assistance of education and with the little knowledge one has, one is incapable of comprehending new information which makes the “tunnel” essential for enlightenment.
After learning the ultimate truth through Morpheus’ education process, Neo realizes that the spoon that fed him information his whole life was a lie and that “there is no spoon” (The Matrix). Eventually Neo reacts to the world’s reality with acceptance and he believes that he lives in “a world where anything is possible” (The Matrix). Neo acknowledges and stomachs the actuality of the Matrix; however, Cypher (another “disciple of the truth” Morpheus had trained) loathes the truth and would much rather revert back to an ignorant Matrix citizen.
As a portrayal of Plato’s allegory’s “rejection of the truth”, Cypher teams up with Agent Smith (the antagonist of the film) to catch Morpheus and prevent the spread of knowledge. The reasoning behind Agent Smith rejection of the truth and role to silence Morpheus is because the Sentinels (the robots that rule earth) believe that if the humans realize the false world that surrounds them, the humans might revolt which will inevitably lead to the dethroning of the Sentinels.
Agent Smith’s role is The Matrix[’s] representation of Plato’s “guards”, because “the guards” are responsible for keeping the ignorant prisoners (which, in The Matrix[’s] terms, are the humans) from learning about the real world. Agent Smith’s hatred towards the real world is evident when he says “I hate this place, this zoo, this prison, this reality…” (The Matrix). Both Agent Smith’s and Cypher’s “rejection of the truth” leads to Cypher’s betrayal to Morpheus’ trust and consequently leads to several valued “disciples of the truth” deaths.
Cypher’s double-crossing unfaithfulness progresses the plot and the flow of The Matrix[’s] and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave[’s] story leads to the “execution of Socrates” (ie. Neo’s death). The “execution of Socrates” is Plato’s metaphor of the information censorship when the ultimate truth is not accepted by the general public. Although Neo is revived in The Matrix, his death is essential because it is the a representation of the general public’s rejection to the one and only hope to understanding the ultimate truth and it also shows the consequences of the general public’s lack of better judgment.
Neo was not revived until Trinity and the other “disciples of the truth” portrayed their hope and acceptance for Neo. When Neo was revived, Neo was able to defeat Agent Smith (“the guard”) and is now able to spread the legitimacy of the Matrix. Even though Plato ended his allegory with the “execution of Socrates” to better convince his audience that any information censorship will lead to no progression, The Matrix revived Neo to depict what could of happened to Socrates if the truth was accepted (which eventually be the general public’s acceptance of the truth).
After analyzing and comparing The Matrix and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, one can see that the two are very similar and are trying to get the same messages across. Through character development, themes, and symbolism both allegories were able to demonstrate the path to knowledge is often concealed by the faulty ideology the complacent majority desperately cling unto. Without the willingness to evolve and buildup of what we, as humans, know to further understand the misinterpreted world (ie. The reality), no positive progression will occur.