Monday, February 1, 2010
Plato's Cave in Wizard of Oz
What does little Toto have in common with the Platonic prisoner from “The Allegory of the Cave?” Everything. Toto’s reveal of the wizard’s true identity and the resulting aftermath is clearly comparable to the prisoner’s startling revelation of reality. In three specific ways, The Wizard of Oz serves as a metaphor for “The Allegory of the Cave”: The wizard acts as the puppeteer creating an alternate reality, Toto gets privy to the true reality, and Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man choose to accept this true reality. It may not have been Victor Fleming’s envisioning when he directed The Wizard of Oz, but this 1939 film serves as a modern allegorical cave.
Upon entering the vast wizard’s residence, the Flamboyant Four (Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Tin Man) feel prey to the wizard’s illusion of reality. Like the prisoners chained in the “underground den”, the flamboyant four are limited “and can only see before them” (Plato 1). The blinders that cover the group’s eyes make them oblivious to the fluttering curtain on the left; just as the chained prisoners cannot see the “low wall” which hides the “marionette players” (Plato 1, Fleming). Based on the pre-set location and trapped responses, the wizard’s hall mirrors Plato’s Allegorical Cave.
The Flamboyant Four would have continued to operate under their illusion of their reality if it were not for the insight of Toto. Unlike Plato’s unwilling prisoner, Toto chose to reveal the true reality. Toto’s reveal of the wizard did not, as Plato claimed, make Toto “suffer sharp pains” nor become “perplexed” (Plato 2, Fleming). This separation from Plato’s prediction could be explained if Toto never fully accepted the false reality the wizard tried desperately to make real. Indeed, this explanation would explain the Flamboyant Four’s response to the stunning truth. It is worth noting that the perplexity and pains were endured by the wizard, the creator of the false reality.
After the great reveal of reality, only the wizard seemed to have issue with the change. This flips Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” on its metaphorical mind as it is the “puppeteer” who could not face the truth, not the “prisoners”. In fact, instead of confusion, Dorothy simply, strongly condemns the wizard, “Shame on you” (Fleming)! In an alternate reality, where Victor Fleming could collaborate with Plato, it is very possible “The Allegory of the Cave” would have an alternate ending. Instead of a prisoner who is mocked by his new knowledge of truth, the prisoners would rise up against the oppressive puppeteers (Plato 3).
All in all, the reveal of the wizard on The Wizard of Oz serves as a modern-day “Allegory of the Cave”; that is, with a new take on the classic metaphor. The Wizard of Oz allows viewers to feel acceptance with facing and discovering truth, not fear or perplexity.
"The Allegory of the Cave". The Republic. Plato. Accessed 30 January 2010. http://websapce.ship.edu/cgboer/platoscave.html
The Wizard of Oz. Dir. Victor Fleming. Perf. Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bogler, Bert Lahr, and Jack Haley. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 1939.
Posted by Brian F. at 9:22 PM