Running Head: COMPARATIVE ARGUMENT 2
COMPARATIVE ARGUMENT 2
CWL 200 SEC 03
Feb / 23 / 2020
Comparative Argumentative Critical analysis
Plato’s allegory of the cave is a notion about human perception. Plato argued that knowledge acquired through the senses is just an opinion but for one to acquire knowledge then it must be through philosophical cognitive. Plato gives an analogy of the prisoners tied to some rocks in a cave since they were born. They cannot see anything except shadows of objects carried by people walking in the walkway. Since the prisoners had not seen the real objects ever since they were born, they believe that these shadows are real. Fortunately, one prison escapes from the cave and meets the real world and recognizes that his perception of reality was mistaken. He goes back to the cave and informs the other prisoners what he found. Unfortunately, they don’t believe him (Alam 5).
Overview of Gogol’s Overcoat and Lahiri’s Namesake
The overcoat is a story written by Nikolai Gogol about Akaky Akakievich, an underprivileged government clerk in Russia. Though he is devoted to his work, his hard work goes unrecognized by his colleagues who joke about his overcoat. When his overcoat is worn out he decides to get it fixed but his tailor advises him to get a new one because the old one was beyond repair. His tailor finally makes a new coat for Akaky which makes his colleagues celebrate him by throwing a party for him. His coat does not last long because it is stolen and Akaky’s efforts to get it back do not bear fruit. He dies of fever (Yilmaz 195).
Namesake is a story about Indian immigrants who settle in the US. Soon after, they get a baby boy who is given a temporal pet name by his father: Gogol. When he starts kindergarten Gogol is given his good name, Nikhil, which he rejects and clings to his pet name. But when he grows up Gogol knows the meaning of his name and starts to despise it. At the age of eighteen, he changes his legal name to Nikhil. He becomes acculturated and adopts the American way of life. That way he feels comfortable around his friends and especially the girlfriend. It was after his father’s death that he knew the true meaning of his name and changed it again to Gogol (Jaya 158).
The relevance of Plato’s Allegory of the cave on Gogol’s ‘Overcoat’ and Lahiri’s ‘Namesake’
The most significant insinuation of these stories is how the two main characters change their identity. Both of them were not named after they were born. Coincidentally, their fathers picked their names for them. As the writers of these two stories put it, these two characters could not be given any other names. These two characters are comfortable with their identities just like the prisoners in the cave (Ledbetter 130).
Akaky is afraid of changing his old ways of doing things. He was seen in the same position and place with the same uniform, his overcoat, and this made his supervisors believe that he was born as a ready-made. Gogol was also comfortable with his identity. He clung to his pet name when he was beginning his kindergarten the same way Akaky clung to his coat when the tailor told him it could not be repaired. These two characters had lived in shadows and they had believed that the shadows were the real thing. They had the wrong perception of reality that everything they were used to was the ultimate truth for them. That means they believed that this shadow was the final reality.
What seems to be happening here is that just like the prisoners in the cave who were forced to stand after they were released from their chains; these two characters need to be forced to see the reality of the light. Plato argues that this is because the reality may not be a satisfying thing for the unconstrained prisoners. They were going to slowly adapt to a new way of life outside the cave. They would, therefore, realize that they were living in shadows and then would start feeling uncomfortable about those shadows (Ledbetter 135).
Gogol felt alienated and this was another reason he was comfortable living in the shadows. He realized that there was no one else in America or India that shared his name. He was trapped in a cave of misunderstanding. He considered himself American but the people around him saw him as an Indian. He started to think that his name was the source of his misery and started to dislike the fact that it reminded him of his past. But it was not easy for him to forget his name and past because he was appropriated to his true identity and when he visited his home everything about his old identity returned to him (Kumar 2359).
After some time of resisting change, these two characters started to embrace change. Gogol who could not date girls in high school but instead chose to suffer in silence started to look at the world from a different perspective. One night he told a girl a different name and that changed everything. He reacted to this change the same way Akaky did when he thought about getting the new overcoat. His character changed, he becomes firm and livelier like a person who had just made a new set of goals for his life. All those hesitant behaviors vanished from his actions.
These two characters embraced a different personality at the thought of the actions they had taken. These preliminary changes underscore one of the significant and parallel subject matter to each story, that an individual can change behavior without necessarily changing their costumes. For example, Akaky’s new coat a person enabled him to change to a different person. Even when he attends the party his colleges threw for him, he went home at a different time. And when his overcoat was stolen he exhibits a new way of dealing with his challenges. He went to the authorities for help, unlike the old Akaky who was teased by his colleagues without uttering a word except for those few words when he told them to stop hurting him (Yilmaz 195).
The same way their changes caused their new identities to appear, this new change also caused their old personalities to disappear completely but in different ways. Change and its dependency to stability is a theme discussed in the Namesake. Gogol’s new identity changed his life completely. The new overcoat cost Akaky his life. He was not accustomed to getting home late at night but his new overcoat led him to get home late. That night, he was attacked and robbed of his coat. In an effort to recover the overcoat he reported the robbery to the authorities but he did not get any assistance. One officer actually turned him down and treated him in an inhumane manner which brings out the central theme of human condition which is explored in the Overcoat. Due to the loss of his overcoat, Akaky fell ill and eventually died. He, however, returned in the form of a ghost to haunt the officials who denied him help and stole their overcoats. He stopped tormenting the officers after he had stolen the overcoat of the official who turned him down. Probably if Akaky had not tried to change his personality he wouldn’t have died (El Sheikh 20).
Similarly, Gogol’s life changed as a result of this change. Only a few people continued to call him Gogol. He probably figured that when these people would be gone no one would recall him as Gogol and just like Akaky, his history would be forgotten forever.
Both Gogol and Akaky are like the prisoners in the cave talked about by Plato in his allegory. Their way of looking at the world was empirical. Gogol, for example, thought that the world judge based on his background that is why he came to hate his name after realizing that it was not an American name. He was running away from his true self to the extent of dating American girls and leading an American kind of life. He even visited his home less frequently. Akaky was afraid of change too. He did not want to change his new overcoat.
Alam, IshtiaqIbne. “Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.” 2019. 2-6.
El sheikh Elbadry, Nusiba Elzain. The Social Commitment and Realistic Features as Depicted in Gogol’s Novel” The Overcoat. Diss. Sudan University of Science and Technology, 2019. 11-23.
Jaya, K. “A Study of Immigration and Diasporic Sensibilities in the Novel of JumphaLahiri‟ s „The Namesake‟.” Asian Journal of Applied Science and Technology (AJAST) 1.1 (2017): 158-159.
Kumar, Ranbeer. “The Namesake: Tracing Identity Trapped Between Orient and Occident Culture.” (2017): 2348-3083.
Ledbetter, Grace. “The Power of Plato’s Cave.” Plato and the Power of Images. Brill, 2017. 121-137.