How Old Should You Be To Watch Boy Meets World The Fantasticks: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

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The Fantasticks: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

2008, six years after the off-Broadway production by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt closed Fantasticks, the beloved musical is back in New York. Forty-two years, it seems, were not long enough for this record holder, and besides, no one was unhappy with the decision.

When the musical first came to fruition in the early 1960s, the beat generation saw themselves in the tension of the play’s opposites—the ideologies of the young versus the over-30s—and the dissonance caused by the current political unrest of the time. The show reached generational needs in the 60s and has continued ever since. But today in 2012 we are going through a different kind of turbulence and a lot has changed since then Fantasticks is written. So why has this musical survived? Why can’t we get enough of his lyrics and lyrics? What is our relationship? Why are we so in love with this show?

Familiar Plot

The answer may lie in the basic archetypal plot of the screenplay. Act I opens in the sweet innocence of moonlight; The second act begins in the harsh reality of the day. Boy Matt and girl Luisa thrive on their illusions in the first act, but encounter a painful awakening in the second. El Gallo, the “rooster” and professional kidnapper hired by Huckleby, brings the light of day, literally as well as symbolically. He has come to take Matt and Luis on separate journeys where they will leave their innocence behind and become initiates into the world of experience.

In Moonlight

Matt and Luisa’s fathers fake a fight and build a wall between their houses to encourage their children to fall in love, relying on the old temptation of being forbidden to do work. It works, and when the two lovers meet in secret, in the moonlight, of course, they vow their love for each other. To create the illusion of resolving the feud, Matt’s father Hucklebee enlists El Gallo to stage the kidnapping of Luisa, allowing his son Matt to heroically rescue her and end the scam. Luisa’s father Bellomy agrees, but a moonlight happy ending can’t be real.

In Daylight

“Their moon was cardboard,” El Gallo tells us. In the daylight, life takes on a less subtle tone, and reality casts a harsh glare. All four sing, “What at night seems oh so picturesque can be cynical too soon.” Suddenly dissatisfied, the boy and girl split up to find a solution to their unrest. Matt dares to drink and gamble and finds a bright world full of adventure, while Luisa longs to be kissed on the eyes by El Gallo who will take her on a journey to see the world, dancing forever and ever. To do this, she must put on a mask to prevent her from seeing the truth. When Luisa refuses to accept this world as just an illusion, a fraud of smoke and mirrors, El Gallo exacts the usual price for self-deception: she must give up what is most valuable to her, in this case the necklace that once belonged to her. mother. Sacrificed, Luisa eventually meets Matt, a sort of Prodigal Son, on the way home, and he admits that he was stupid. The girl and the boy were deeply hurt, but even through their losses they saw the light of wisdom. They sing: “All my wildest dreams multiplied by two… it was you.” A boy and a girl return home from their trip to find that their dreams have already been fulfilled from the start. With this new awareness, snow begins to fall, a symbol of new beginnings, new life.

Allegory of the cave

If the plot sounds familiar, it should. It is borrowed from the allegory of the cave from the fifth century BC, book VII of Plato’s book. Republic. Plato explains this to his student:

Human beings are chained from birth inside a cave lit only by the fire that burns near the entrance and casts shadows on the back wall, which the prisoners believe is the only reality they have ever known. Once released, they reluctantly leave the comfort of their illusions. They are led out by a figure who teaches them about the world outside the cave, dragging them up a steep hill so that, little by little, they will be able to adjust their eyes to ever-increasing sources of light, so that they can finally look directly at the sun. .

Life/Death/Rebirth… Again

The allegorical figure of El Gallo in the play is not a man at all, but a symbol of our price hamartia, the decisions we made, not knowing at the time due to ignorance or perhaps a lack of awareness that they were mistakes. As Plato so wisely teaches, making errors in judgment is often the only way to grow up and face the real world, on any level. This life/death/rebirth motif reminds us again and again of the hero’s journey, the cycle of seasons in which Persephone emerges from Hades in the spring to bring new life to the earth, and the healing of wounds in the five stages of romance. it gives hope to all our relationships. The plot isn’t new—some say it’s genetically encoded in us—but we’ll forever be intrigued and even surprised by its familiarity.

Maybe we love Fantasticks because, in our naively narcissistic way, we recognize ourselves in every joy of the characters, every mistake they make and finally their humble gratitude for a second chance. Every time we watch a play or even listen to its wonderful music, we are reminded of where we have been, but also where we are going. It is not surprising that Homer uttered these very thoughts centuries ago: “Even his sorrows are joys long afterward to him who remembers all he has done and suffered.” El Gallo also opens and closes the play with the lines “Deep in December it’s nice to remember…”

The movie

For those less fortunate who have never seen a stage performance Fantasticks, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt also wrote the screenplay, which was published in 1995. Only a slight departure from the play with a more detailed and varied setting, the film requires less imagination, but includes all but one of the same musical numbers and some additional lines, although the poetic quality is not retained . In the film, El Gallo is the master of the carnival, a darkened tent that quite parallels Plato’s cave. What the screenwriters achieve, to their credit, is a heightened version of the symbolism. For example, when Matt and Luisa sing “Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” they sit under a tree while El Gallo stands high in its branches above them, orchestrating everything from the sound effects and chorus to the magical fairy dust he sprinkles on the lover below. The tree is El Gallo’s life, so it’s fitting that when he has to lead Luisa out of the allegorical cave in Act II, the lessons he teaches her begin when she climbs and sits next to him in that same tree. Because he wants an exciting, slightly dangerous life to think he has, she asks him, there in the tree, to take her with him and dance forever.

For students

Symbolism abounds through the film in the tree, the kiss of the eyelid, the necklace, the two houses and the wall between them, the old film about Romeo and Juliet flickering on the wall of the dark carnival tent, the road that leads to the carnival and back home, the mask, the end of the smoke and the magic of the mirror, and the dances of life and illusion that are performed through it all. High school students watching this film have the opportunity to learn about the allegory of the cave and the myriad of archetypal symbols that permeate the script in a way that no other piece of literature can present so effectively. Indecent carnival humor in one short scene, however, should be omitted for its inappropriateness, as well as its pointless contribution to the play. However, students who watch this film will never watch another without noticing the secret language of symbolism, and once the symbolism communicates to students in the film, their understanding of archetypal literature is on the upswing.

For more information about Fantastickssee the following:

Hamilton, Edith. mythology. Boston: Back Bay, Little, Brown and Co., 1969.

Jones, Tom and Harvey Schmidt, Fantasticks. New York: Applause, 1964.

Plato. “Republic II.” Trans. Benjamin Jowett. The Portable Plato. Ed. Scott Buchanan. New York: Penguin, 1977, 327-28.

O’Connor, Susan. Dance of tongues. Bloomington, IN, 2008.

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