Type of Literature: Book
Old: The Republic by Plato (380 BC)
New: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (1998 US, 1997 UK)
The Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone reveals a viewer’s deepest heart’s desire. However, when a character gazes at his or her reflection, the looking glass ensnares the onlooker.
The Cave in The Republic hosts a collection of prisoners. They watch a shadow puppet display on the wall. The captives believe the silhouettes on the wall (i.e. tree branches, cats, etc.) are the real deal. For example, if I held up a shadow puppet of a bunny, the prisoners will believe the shadow is an actual rabbit.
1. They warn against mere appearances
In the mirror, Harry’s deceased parents flank his sides. However, when he whips around away from Erised, they disappear.
In the Cave, the prisoners believe the shadows on the wall comprise all of reality.
2. The appearances ensnare the viewer.
Harry slides out of bed late at night in order to gaze upon Erised. He avoids the advice of his best friend Ron to avoid encountering the enchanted object.
I hardly need to explain how ensnare applies to prisoners in Plato’s Cave. Even though these captives find themselves shackled to chairs, they don’t appear to notice their entangled position. Instead, they watch the shadows on the wall and even attempt to play guessing games such as, “Which shadow will appear next?”
3. Someone must rescue the viewer from the appearances.
A savior by the name of Dumbledore informs Harry he plans to move Erised to another location. Thus, he frees Harry from the spellbound reflection
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
–Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
A freed man outside of the cave ventures forth to rescue a prisoner. After much tribulation and push-back from the dazed captive, the prisoner escapes from the cave. Thanks to the freed man, appearances no longer enslave the escapee.
4. The viewer will try to prevent the rescue plan.
Harry grows irritated with Ron when his best friend tries to deter him from visiting the mirror.
When any freed man attempts to fish out a prisoner, the captive will likely resist. In fact, some hostages might jump to the extreme of murder in Plato’s Allegory.
The link above is a cute explanation of Plato’s allegory. It doesn’t have the full story, but it explains the illustration well.