Comparison Essay ExampleComparison of Frederick Douglass” An American Slave” and Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave”
The Allegory of the Cave is Socrates’ famous dialogue with Glaucon, which was written by Plato. The choice of characters is not accidental. Plato, a son of noble parents, wanted to become a politician, but Socrates had changed his life. Plato started his philosophical career and later even opened the first university, the Academy. In The Allegory of the Cave Plato uses the image of the cave to describe how people are limited by the predicament. People see only in front of their nose and just can not look around. Plato proposes his possible solution from this situation.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself is Frederick Douglass’ famous autobiographical work written in 1845. Douglass was born in the century of slavery but aimed all his efforts to escape it and so became an active participant of the abolitionist movement. His work is an active protest against slavery. His story is based on real events from his biography and it gives him a possibility to describe the relations between slaves and slave-owners in a real manner.
At first sight, Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave and Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself are two absolutely different works that even can not be compared: they are written in absolutely different time, by different authors and deal with different themes. Plato is a philosopher, while Douglass is the fighter against slavery. Nevertheless, it is only first opinion. In fact, these works are united by one global theme: human nature and its limitations.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself is a lesson that learns to be a human. Douglass in his book does not accuse slave-owners in that pass of events. Douglass shows his readers that these are slaves who are not able to open their eyes and minds and change the world around them. The author says that “slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs” (Douglass, 47) and this comparison with animals is not accidental. In the society slaves are not humans: they have not right but, what is more frightening, they do accept themselves as humans. The ideology of slavery in slaves’ minds does not allow them to overcome the slavery itself. Douglass insists that slaves, as well as their owners, are rather made than born. Taking this fact into account, the opposite transformation is possible: “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man” (Douglasss, 107). The change should occur in slaves’ minds and only then it is possible to change the reality and literacy should become the turning point in this process.
Plato, actually, also deals with the theme of human nature in his work. He states that people being born in a definite surrounding accept its laws without a question and follow them not even thinking about other ways to exist: “Here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads” (Plato). People are not able to turn their heads and can see only shadows of the world, while real world is just behind their heads. This work presents Plato’s philosophical vision of this world: it is impossible to transfer the knowledge, the world can be perceived only intellectually but the person himself must reveal it being only directed by his teacher. The world is good in its nature but its goodness depends on the perspective of perception. The person should try to get rid of all chains and open his mind and then he will see real things, not their shadows: “Last of he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is” (Plato).
Both authors, Plato and Douglass use numerous rhetorical and literal devices which make their works interesting for readers and easy for comprehension. Passionate style adopted by Douglass and logical reasoning used by Plato attract people’s attention to the eternal questions about human nature.
To draw a conclusion, Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave and Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself are works about a human who is limited by his social surrounding and norms and laws that exist in this society. Only being able to break all the “chains” and open his mind the human could see the real world.