Socrates and Glaucon engage in a dialogue about the nature of reality. Socrates draws a comparison between reality and the cave which he puts forth as an example to Glaucon. The cave has people who can only observe the shadows that fall upon the wall directly in front of them. They are immobile to observe the true nature of the shadows that fall on the wall. What causes them and which objects those shadows belong to in reality? The prisoners, as Socrates call them, cannot discern the truth behind the character of the shadows. The shadows are caused by the light behind the prisoners, and the shadows are of the inanimate objects held by people behind the screen that separates the prisoners from these people. Socrates, through the example of the cave and the prisoners talks about the misconceptions that people in real life have about reality.
Carrying the example further, Socrates puts forth a situation to Glaucon, where he asks him to assume that one of the prisoners is set free from the fetters that have immobilized him to discern the true nature of the reality. On being free and having been bound to the gloom of misconception for long, he is unable to stare into the glare and of the truth. He is blinded by the light and is hazy in vision when he sees that the shadows he saw were of dead objects and the voices that he heard were of people carrying such objects. Socrates believes that people who have been mired in the dark alleys of ignorance and hindered from the truth find it difficult to grasp the truth when exposed to such eventuality. Such is the nature of reality.
Socrates says that once a man knows and accepts the truth, he has luckily reached the upper state of being from where he fears to descend back into the gloom of the cave where misconceptions deteriorate the brains of the prisoners. Glaucon finds it unjust for people who have ascertained the truth to descend into the gloom of the world. He feels that they deserve to be held in that state of utopia. However, Socrates argues that the just society can only be just when all the people who are aware of the truth and those who are still in gloom strive to reach common ground. It is only through strife that aware people can bring that kind of potential for the common platform of standing for the entire society. So, says Socrates, the man who becomes accustomed with the truth must come back to the cave where his fellow inmates are still living in a state of misguidance. The free man alone among them would know that truth behind the shadows. In no time he would be subjected to mockery from his prisoner friends. However, for him, holding on to the truth would be more worthy than the falsehood being practiced in the cave. He must strive to educate the prisoners about the truth, for that is the purpose of education. Education, says Socrates, is to shed the light of knowledge from the dungeons of ignorance that lie like thick dust upon the senses. Thus, reality may be hard to be exposed but the reality is what must be preached. Such should be the projection of the nature of the reality.
Socrates further says that people can become perplexed under two conditions. One would be when they would come into the light of knowledge from the black of ignorance. The other would be when they would have to descend back into the gloom of darkness for the balance of justice to society, once having reached the zenith of the reality. Both the conditions would blind a person. However, being blinded by the truth is a state of achievement and must be cheered, for since a man is gaining enlightenment in such a scenario. However, knowing reality and reaching the state of awareness confers a robe of responsibility upon its subject who musts descend into the dark caves to preach the truth to his fellow mates from the past gloom days. The nature of reality is to free a soul from ignorant bondage and make a person responsible for spreading the action to others still ignorant.
The analogy of the cave brings out the nature of reality. The immobility of the prisoners to gain insight into the truth behind those shadows clearly depicts the complexity behind the discerning of the truth. Innumerable reasons and countless factors hinder the capacity to find out what is the truth. The analogy also shows that people believe what their senses show them. The prisoners believed that the shadows on the walls were the actual objects, while the voices of the external objects were but their voices.
The unwillingness or the incapacity to seek the truth behind what is felt by the senses is what the cause of the gloom is. People have misconceptions and live with them. However, some people are lucky to come face to face with the truth. They might find it difficult to accept it since they have lived in ignorance for long which makes it difficult for them to accept change. However, once people do get accustomed to the truth, they reach the point of reality where they are in a state of being rather than a state of becoming.
Further, the analogy also harps on the fact that once a person is accustomed to the fact of the matter, he has to return to the cave where the prisoners are still bound by the illogic and a false perception of the reality. However difficult the proposition to descend from the proximities of the upper state of being, a person must descend from this state to spread the light of enlightenment to those prisoners who are unaware of the reality of the shadows projected on the walls in front. Mockery might greet him but the nature of reality must be spread for greater good of the wanted just society.