The Knife Thrower and Other Stories

The Allegory of the Cave Man

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds" (Albert Einstein). When encountering the inexplicable, people's visceral reactions often oscillate between fear and awe-nevertheless establishing the subject in terms of "otherness." Steven Millhauser's collection of short fiction, The Knife Thrower and Other Stories, explores this realm of otherness in terms of familiar human emotions. The title character of "Kaspar Hauser Speaks" illustrates the struggle of taming great spirits (and normalization of otherness) by mediocre minds in a plot that harkens to a distorted reflection of Socrates' Allegory of the Cave. Various descriptions of Kaspar's life stages echo scenes of the cave dweller, though they are often tainted by societal involvement. From existence within the cave, to painful exploration in transition, to the awe-inspired desire to learn in the world of light, Kaspar is a reflection of the allegorical cave man in many ways. While Socrates illustrates the challenge of first cave dweller's progress into the light and the opposition encountered on his return to the cave, Millhauser highlights the plight of the last cave dweller entering the...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 921 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7294 literature essays, 2060 sample college application essays, 302 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in