Truman struggles for his life in the "ocean" surrounding Seahaven Island as Christof increases the intensity of the storm bearing down on him. Christof calmly watches Truman cling desperately to the side of the boat and viewers all over the world cheer him on. Truman screams his challenge to Christof, "you'll have to kill me!" Christof tells his crew to capsize the boat, but Truman does not care if he drowns. A giant wave crashes over the boat, but Truman has tied himself to the boat with ropes. As he is finally submerged in water, eyes closed, Christof can't take it anymore. He orders his crew to stop the storm. The sun comes out and Truman, who is flung over the side of the boat, chokes and sputters - he is alive.
Weakened, he raises the sail, determined to keep going. Cut to a wide shot of Truman's lonely boat floating out to sea. Truman turns his battered face to the sun, appearing serene. Suddenly, the boat pierces the horizon - the end of the massive Seahaven Island set. Truman presses his hand against it and then flings his body at the wall with all his might - but it won't give. Truman, defeated, collapses in tears. He sees a camouflaged flight of stairs and walks up them. Finally Christof decides to speak to Truman directly from the sky.
Christof tells Truman that he is the "creator of a television show that gives hope and joy and inspiration to millions" and that Truman is the star. Truman asks if anything was real - and Christof tells him that he is real, which is what made him so good to watch. Christof tries to keep him from exiting the world, warning him of the horrors that await him on the other side of the wall.
Christof tells Truman that he is too afraid to leave, because he knows him, saying, "I have been watching you your whole life." Truman keeps his back to the camera, as the whole world awaits his response. He turns to face the invisible Christof, and says his famous line, "in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night." With his signature laugh, Truman takes a deep bow and leaves Seahaven Island for the first - and the last - time.
Lauren/Sylvia runs out her apartment, tears in her eyes. The patrons of Truman's bar scream with joy. Truman has inspired them all, and everyone cheers him on - except for Christof. They cease transmission of The Truman Show once again, this time for good. The security guards wonder what else is on and go searching for the TV Guide.
When Peter Weir describes his emotional connection to Andrew Niccol's screenplay, he recalls that he really became committed to the project when he realized that Truman was willing to risk his own life for his freedom. The character of Truman starts out as deceptively bumbling and compliant, but Christof and his millions of regular viewers have no idea how much courage lies dormant beneath his goofy smile (an apt comparison to Jim Carrey himself).
As Truman says to Christof at the end of the film, "you never had a camera in my head." Because of this, Truman's character development can be viewed twofold - the way "The Truman Show" viewers see it, and the way that Truman Burbank himself actually experiences his life. It is possible that his arc is not as severe as it seems. There is no confirmation that when Truman was sitting on the beach looking out at the water, he was actually thinking about his father's death. He may have been concocting ways to get out of Seahaven Island. Just as "The Truman Show" viewers are not privy to Truman's most private, intimate moments, neither is the audience of The Truman Show:
Christof cuts away from Truman and Meryl whenever they're about to make love. When Truman makes the decision to escape from Seahaven Island by boat, thus conquering his greatest fear, he does it away from both Christof's and Weir's cameras. When Christof rediscovers Truman, he looks happier than he has throughout the film, sailing his boat and looking off into the horizon. The last time Truman was faced with the prospect of crossing over water (in a car, no less), he had to close his eyes and force Meryl to drive.
Simone Knox differentiates between the "film" shots (shots that Weir composed for The Truman Show) and the "television" shots (the shots that mirror what "The Truman Show" audience is seeing) at the end of the film, when Truman finally hits the "horizon." She writes,
The smoothly composed shots of Truman himself here should all be 'film' shots, considering that the television show would be unlikely to position permanent cameras near the fake horizon-- after all, in the unlikely event that Truman gets to this place, the show would effectively be over... but there are some vignetted shots here, which hints that the 'television' camera in the end assumes the position of the invisible and potentially omnipresent 'film' camera, becoming less bound to notions of diegetic justifiability and logic.
There are no clear answers to Knox's query, and at the same time, Truman is sick of Christof's answers. The ending of the film is deliberately ambiguous. Throughout his life, someone has been able to offer Truman an explanation for every anxiety, every strange event - his dad's disappearance, the cinema light falling, the interference on the radio. However, as Truman steps out of the Seahaven Island set, at least he realizes that the world does not function so neatly. He embraces the idea of the unexpected, because at least he finally has control over the narrative. Truman's choice, then, is to recede from the public eye - both the viewers of his television show and of Weir's film. His importance has been an illusion, and he has chosen to abandon it for the truth.
John McGuire uses Plato's famous cave allegory to describe the viewers of "The Truman Show." Plato's story is about a group of prisoners who are chained in a dark cave and cannot see anything except the wall in front of them. The prisoners' knowledge of the outside world is dependent on whatever shadows appear on this wall. Therefore, their understanding of reality is limited in comparison to those who can turn around and look at the real thing, not the two-dimensional outline.
Plato's tale draws the distinction between reality and illusion. In this context, Truman becomes a "paradigmatic philosopher and teacher" who renounces the world of illusion (or television). However, the audience of "The Truman Show" is not inspired by Truman's courage. Instead, they look for a new illusion to lose themselves in. In essence, McGuire asserts, Truman breaks through the walls of the cave, while the viewers voluntarily keep staring at shadows.