“No Exit” and “The Allegory of the Cave” Analysis and Comparison
Character is not defined by what happens to us but how we respond to events in our lives. This statement has been a common theme in literature and cinema for generations and in reigns true in our own personal lives. To face a crisis is only half the battle, the most important part is how we respond to this crisis. A major problem in this country that is creating personal crises for millions of individuals is the lackluster economy putting Americans out of jobs. Thousands of people have to deal with this new reality every day and each of them respond differently. The fact is that everyone deals with a tragedy of this magnitude in distinctly unique ways. Socrates, as Plato portrays him in “The Allegory of the Cave”, would think rationally and react to this situation with clear thoughts and rational actions which are eerily similar to the way Garcin from “No Exit” by Jean Paul Sartre would react.
Socrates was a philosopher and great thinker; he is considered one of the most influential thinkers in history. He never published his own work, or if he did it is lost among the world’s greatest memories, but one of his followers Plato described and accredited him in many of his works including “The Allegory of the Cave”. In this particular piece Socrates is having a conversation with Plato’s brother Glaucon about reality and how the prisoners inside of this hypothetical cave view reality. In a very well elaborate and tangible way Socrates contemplates a very intricate and intangible idea of reality through a dialectic text. We can analyze his personality and personal philosophy through this text and therefore can predict how Socrates would react to certain situations.
If Socrates was living in modern day America and he lost his job due to extensive layoffs at wherever he was working he would be taken aback, and definitely disappointed as any employee would be. His next course of action would be contrary to how most people act after they receive this terrible new, he would be happy. Socrates would find joy and contentment out of the fact that he has been relieved of his mundane obligations and would have more time to now ponder life and its unique features. Not only would he be excited about his newfound free time, but he would delight in the fact that there was now opportunity for another person to take his old position. Socrates would hope that this new person could find meaning and happiness out of the now vacant job, he would realize that he could not find the intense satisfaction that one would hope for out of an occupation and intensely hope that someone would be able to find contentment where he could not. If Socrates lost his job in this day and age he would embrace it with unusual grace and optimism.
The character that was created by Jean Paul Sartre named Garcin would respond to this same tragedy with a similar optimism but for an entirely different reason. Instead of reasoning and thinking through this situation reasonably and rationally, Garcin would dully be indecisive and unaffected by this problem. He would quickly turn from his initial disappointment to almost immediate contentment with his situation. His rational would be that everything happens for a reason, but he would just accept his fate and become content with this terrible thing that would affect not only him but his family as well. But since he never treated his wife very well, he would selfishly sulk internally, but he would relay a sense of optimism with the rest of the world.
All in all, these are two very different characters, one is an actual human being who walked this earth and established himself as a man of reason and rational though, the other is a fictional character who cannot be counted on to stand his ground or be a compassionate human being but they would both react to losing their job in current day America in almost parallel ways. Although they would not get to this same place in identical manners, the ends always justify the means. These two would have similar characters although their personalities could not be more different because when it is all said and done, character is not defined by what happens to us but how we respond to events in our lives.