Skylar Andrews
Hyacinth Young
English 2F
9-20-15
A Whole New World
Every single person in the world is born and raised in a different reality. For example, families who live in third world or poor countries have harsher experiences throughout their lives than a prosperous family who lives in America. “The Allegory of the Cave” by Plato and “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” , a poem by Walt Whitman, have many similarities in which one reality is better than another. In “The Allegory of the Cave”, Plato depicts people who are chained on their legs and head so that they could only see what is in front of them and one gets released to discover the sunlit world. In “ When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”, Whitman describes a student in an astronomy lecture who becomes overwhelmed with boredom and heads outside to look at the stars. The difference between the texts are that the student knew about the better world and the prisoner from the cave did not. The similarities are that both works had a negative and positive reality.
Although the similarities between the two texts are prominent, there is a difference. The student in Whitman’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” , the author describes the student leaving the lecture to enter the better reality of the outdoors. He knew of the better world whereas in “ The Allegory of the Cave” the prisoner who was released knew nothing about his surroundings in the new world. Plato says “...the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows…” (pg. 2). The prisoners thought that the world that they were living in was the only one, but in reality there was another world that was far better than theirs that they never knew about until one was realised. In Whitman’s poem, the student voluntarily leaf the classroom in order to reach his better reality. The text states, “… I wander’d off by myself/ In the mystical moist night-air” (Whitman 6-7). The student knew what better things laid outside, so that his where he went when the place he was in was getting tedious and dull.
The similarities are what are most eminent between the two works. The negative reality shows brightly in both texts. The world that is wicked and treacherous. In “The Allegory of the Cave”, the awful world is the dark, damp cave. The author states “...they only see their shadows” (Plato pg.1). What the prisoners see is their perception of the world and the “shadows” represents the gloomy and depressing world of the cave. The student’s negative world lies in the classroom during the repetitive lecture. Whitman says “... I became tired and sick.” (line 5). Whenever the words “tired and “sick” comes to mind, they are associated with negativity. The student’s sickness is a representative of his horrible and unhappy truth.
Another similarity connecting the two text is the presence of a much world. The authors tell of a place that is better than the pain and suffering from the negative reality. In “The Allegory of the Cave” Plato says “ .. he will be able to see the sun...and he will contemplate him as he is”(page 3). The sun is the positive alternative to the darkness of the cave. Because the prisoner is contemplating himself, he is realising how much better the world actually is and this makes him think about how the rest of his life could possibly be more fitting. A comparable positive world is expressed in Whitman’s poem. He says, “ Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars” (Whitman 8). The student’s silence is him standing and staring in awe at a whole new world around him. The surroundings of the sky is much more pleasureable than the dull classroom lectures. These true worlds are what make the pieces of literature connect.
Realities come in all sizes and some are better than others. In “The Allegory of the Cave” by Plato and “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” by Walt Whitman, the student and the prisoner both came from a harsh and cruel world and were both released into a better reality. Even though the student knew of the better reality and cave members did not, one reality was better than the other. Whether one comes from