2. In what ways does Truman s relationship with his perceived world differ from that of a normal human being?

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1 WSHS TOK THE TRUMAN SHOW DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: 1. The movie opens with the following statement from Christof: "We ve become bored with watching actors give us phony emotions. We re tired of pyrotechnics and special effects. While the world he (Truman) inhabits is, in some respects, counterfeit, there is nothing fake about Truman himself. No scripts, no cue cards. It isn t always Shakespeare, but it s genuine. It s a life." What is that Christof means when he states that there is nothing fake about Truman himself.? 2. In what ways does Truman s relationship with his perceived world differ from that of a normal human being? 3. In Walden, Thoreau states that men lead lives of quiet desperation. Is this the case with Truman throughout the portions of the film we ve watched so far? 4. When referring to the Fiji Islands, Truman says You can t get any further away before you start coming back. You know that there are still islands there where no human being has ever set foot. This shows a desire in Truman for something more that his ordinary day-to-day life. In the world Truman lives in, the influx of perceivable stimuli that reach him are heavily controlled and restricted. This adventurous side of Truman is potentially very dangerous to the interests of the television network, which is in complete control of Truman s environment. -Where did these ideas that Truman has come from? -Do you think that Truman was allowed to read literary works, etc. that might potentially invoke these ideas? If not, are these feelings innate? 5. In George Orwell s novel 1984, the Inner Party (tyrannical government) attempts to control the populace through use of subtle propaganda and by inventing a new language. Throughout the Truman Show, there are numerous examples of the television network attempting to control Truman (i.e. dangers of flying posters, school teacher saying that there is nothing left to explore, his father s death at sea, the rock climbing scene in Truman s youth, etc). To what extent are human beings controlled by their environments? 6. Throughout the film, there are shameless advertisements and product placements presented as part of Truman s life. Is it moral to use Truman s life as a means to monetary gain? 7. During an interview, Christof states the following: "I have given Truman the chance to lead a normal life. The world, the place you live in, is the sick place. Seahaven is the way the world should be." Is Christof correct? What, if any, would be the benefits of living in Seahaven as opposed to the real world? 8. In Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson states that Whoever so be a man must be a nonconformist. Would Emerson consider Truman to be a man according to the above statement? 9. In what ways are Christof and the television network similar to a God-like figure in Truman s life? In what respects do they differ?

2 10. During an interview, Christof says We accept the reality with which we are presented. It is as simple as that. In Plato s Allegory of the Cave, according to Plato, the chained subjects come to accept the shadows as ultimate reality. Plato saw the physical universe in this way, merely as a lacking representation of the Forms, the ultimate reality to be found in a higher realm. In what ways might Plato s Allegory of the Cave relate to Christof s above statement? 11. What kinds of freedom does Truman have in his home town of Seahaven? In what ways is he limited? Do you have more freedomin your life than Truman has in his? In what ways? How can you be sure? 12. When speaking of Truman, Christof states: "He could leave at any time. If this were anything more than a vague ambition, if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there is no way we could prevent him." Truman eventually does discover the true nature of his reality despite the strong efforts of Christof and the network. What does Truman s triumph have to say about the free-will/determinism debate? 13. As Truman begins to piece together the falsity of the world that surrounds him, his view of Seahaven is radically altered. He starts to question and analyze all that he encounters. Can you think of a parallel in your own life that has changed the way you process the world? 14. The final scene of the film contains the following dialogue: Christof: Truman, you can speak. I can hear you. Truman: Who are you? Christof: I am the creator of a television show that gives hope, joy, and inspiration to millions. Truman: Then who am I? Christof: You re the star. Truman: Was nothing real? Christof: You were real. That s what made you so good to watch. Listen to me Truman. There is no more truth out there than there is in the world I created for you. Same lies. Same deceit. But in my world, you have nothing to fear. Is Christof on target when he says that there is no more truth in the real world than there is in Seahaven? 15. Consider yourself in Truman s position. If presented with the choice to remain in Seahaven, a place where you have been promised that you have nothing to fear, or to enter into another world that you know little or nothing about, which would you choose? 16. When Truman finally exits Seahaven, what do you think it is that he expects to find on the other side of the door?

3 From Great Dialogues of Plato (Warmington and Rouse, eds.) New York, Signet Classics: p. 316.

4 The Allegory of the Cave 1. Plato realizes that the general run of humankind can think, and speak, etc., without (so far as they acknowledge) any awareness of his realm of Forms. 2. The allegory of the cave is supposed to explain this. 3. In the allegory, Plato likens people untutored in the Theory of Forms to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see. Here is an illustration of Plato s Cave: 4. Such prisoners would mistake appearance for reality. They would think the things they see on the wall (the shadows) were real; they would know nothing of the real causes of the shadows. 5. So when the prisoners talk, what are they talking about? If an object (a book, let us say) is carried past behind them, and it casts a shadow on the wall, and a prisoner says I see a book, what is he talking about? He thinks he is talking about a book, but he is really talking about a shadow. But he uses the word book. What does that refer to? 6. Plato gives his answer at line (515b2). The text here has puzzled many editors, and it has been frequently emended. The translation in Grube/Reeve gets the point correctly: And if they could talk to one another, don t you think they d suppose that the names they used applied to the things they see passing before them? 7. Plato s point is that the prisoners would be mistaken. For they would be taking the terms in their language to refer to the shadows that pass before their eyes, rather than (as is correct, in Plato s view) to the real things that cast the shadows. If a prisoner says That s a book he thinks that the word book refers to the very thing he is looking at. But he would be wrong. He s only looking at a shadow. The real referent of the word book he cannot see. To see it, he would have to turn his head around. 8. Plato s point: the general terms of our language are not names of the physical objects that we can see. They are actually names of things that we cannot see, things that we can only grasp with the mind. 9. When the prisoners are released, they can turn their heads and see the real objects. Then they realize their error. What can we do that is analogous to turning our heads and seeing the causes of the shadows? We can come to grasp the Forms with our minds. 10. Plato s aim in the Republic is to describe what is necessary for us to achieve this reflective understanding. But even without it, it remains true that our very ability to think and to speak depends on the Forms. For the terms of the language we use get their meaning by naming the Forms that the objects we perceive participate in. 11. The prisoners may learn what a book is by their experience with shadows of books. But they would be mistaken if they thought that the word book refers to something that any of them has ever seen. Likewise, we may acquire concepts by our perceptual experience of physical objects. But we would be mistaken if we thought that the concepts that we grasp were on the same level as the things we perceive.

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