Being There by Jerzy Kosinski Essay

Being There by Jerzy Kosinski Essay

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In his novel Being There, Jerzy Kosinski shows how present day culture has strayed away from the ideal society that Plato describes in his allegory of the cave. In his metaphor, Plato describes the different stages of life and education through the use of a cave. In the first level of the cave, Plato describes prisoners who are shackled and facing a blank wall. Behind them is a wall of fire with a partition that various objects are placed and manipulated by another group of people. These shadows are the only action that they ever see. They can only talk to the surrounding prisoners, and watch the puppet show on the wall in front of them. Naturally, the prisoners come to believe that the shadows on the wall in front of them are reality. The second level of the cave is where a prisoner is released of the chains and is forced to look at the light of the fire behind him. The light hurts his eyes, and after a moment of pain and confusion he sees the statues on the partial wall in front of him. These were what caused the shadows that he took to be reality. This enlightenment is the start of education for the prisoner. He then is taken from the cave into the light of the sun. At first the prisoner can see only shadows, then reflections, then real people and things. He understands that the statues were only copies of the things he now sees outside of the cave. Once he is adjusted to the light, he will look up to heavens to gain a true understanding of what reality is. This is what Plato refers to this understanding as the Form of Goodness. In Being There, Chance is in the deepest part of the cave, yet the world around him is too ignorant to realize this (Johnson 51-54)
The main character of Kosinski's novel is Chance, a...

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... has become engrossed in television to a point where television no longer is fictional. The programs now are predominantly about reality. Society has accepted a reality based on what they see on television. Education is no longer about going out and experiencing the world for yourself, rather about shoving information down a students throat, in hopes that the student can then regurgitate is back out onto a piece of paper for a grade. Kosinski sheds light on this problem and shows that is it is not fixed, the many ignoramuses in the world could control the way we live our lives. Some may even say that many of the leaders in society today are much like Chance, appearing to the public that they are much more intelligent than they actually are.

Johnson, and Reath. Ethics. Belmont: Thomson, 2004.
Kosinski, Jerzy. Being There. New York: Grove P, 1970.

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