Welcome to my review of Attack on Titan chapter 4, but in order for me to explain what I believe to be the main purpose of this chapter, I would like to talk about something else first:
This is a depiction of Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave. The story is about a group of people who are trapped inside of a cave and are chained next to a brick wall. The only source of light comes from a fire from the other side of the wall. Another group of people hold up objects so that they cast a shadow on the cave wall where the chained people can see them. These two-dimensional shadows are literally only projections of the three-dimensional objects they are cast from, however these shadows are everything these people know about the objects.
The presentation of this allegory is given in the form of a dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon. After Socrates presents the setting of the allegory, Glaucon says, “This is an unusual picture you are presenting here, and these are unusual prisoners.”
Then Socrates responds, “They are very much like us humans.”
And to that, I will add, the people in the cave are very much like the people of Attack on Titan.
In Attack on Titan, the people live inside a place surrounded by 50-meter walls. This is the dominant feature of the Attack on Titan world, whereas the dominant feature of The Allegory of the Cave is the cave itself, but the people there also live behind a wall. Because of the Attack on Titan wall, the people living within it are convinced that they will always be safe and protected, but Eren Yeager believes their safety is an illusion, a mere projection of reality. Eren believes that the only way to be truly safe is to learn how to fight the titans and explore the outside world. Eren’s friends and family think he is crazy and insist that staying inside the walls is the best thing to do.
But one day, a huge Colossus Titan appears and looms its massive head over the 50-meter wall. (In the anime, its head even casts a shadow over the town of Shiganshina.)
It was at this moment, that the people remembered the reality of the world in which they lived, “That day, the human race remembered the terror of being dominated by them, and the shame of being held captive in a birdcage.“
Five years later, the Colossus Titan made its way to the town of Trost and kicked a hole in the second wall, Wall Rose. Eren attempted to kill it once and for all, but before he could deal the finishing blow, it vanished. A soldier climbs on top of the wall and says, “What are you trainees doing?! The strategy for dealing with a Colossus Titan appearance is already in motion! Report to your posts on the double.”
At the supply room, Armin’s nerves start acting up, but his brain starts running. “We’ve got an eight-meter high hole in the wall and no way to fix it quickly,” he thinks out loud, “They put that rock there to plug a hole, but we can’t move it!”
“Why did it have to be today,” complains Jean, “I’m supposed to go to the interior tomorrow!”
Before the soldiers go out to fight, Mikasa turns to Eren and says, “If the battle gets hairy, fine me.”
“What are you talking about?” says Eren, “We’re on different squads!”
“Things don’t go by the book in chaotic circumstances,” responds Mikasa, “I’ll protect you!”
Then someone comes to tell Mikasa she’s been specially assigned to rear-guard. Mikasa is upset because she won’t be able to protect Eren and insists that she stay in the middle-guard.
“That’s enough, Mikasa,” shouts Eren, “Humanity is on the brink of extinction and you’re trying to dictate your own rules?”
“Sorry, I wasn’t thinking,” says Mikasa, “But I do have a favor to ask…just one…please…
“I won’t die…I can’t die here,” says Eren, “I still don’t know anything about the world outside our wall.“
Eren moves out with his squad into the city of Trost to help fight the titans while the people escape.
“This is a good opportunity, don’t you think?” Eren says to Armin, “I mean, before applying for the survey corps, if we prove ourselves in this first battle, they’ll make us fresh recruits…and watch how fast we get promoted up the ladder!” (Has he gone insane? He was originally worried about killing all the titans, not climbing the ranks of the survey corps.)
“Sorry to burst your bubble, but a lot of people from our class, are applying for the survey corps!” says someone on Eren’s squad.
“Let’s see who can slay more titans!” says Thomas.
“You’re on,” cries Eren, “Squad 32, advance!”
Eren and his squad take off through the city of Trost, eager to finally prove themselves capable of slaying titans. Suddenly, an abnormal titan leaps at the squad, causing them to scatter. They all manage to escape, except…
Eren becomes enraged that a titan ate one of his friends, so he charges off to slay it.
“No! Don’t go off on your own!” cries a squad member.
Eren was too focused on killing the titan that ate Thomas, that he didn’t notice the one coming at him from below.
It bites off Eren’s right leg, and he crashes into the roof of a building.
Armin freezes at seeing his dear friend almost get killed. The other three members of the squad start fighting, but their efforts prove in vain as they all end up getting devoured.
Armin can do nothing but stay frozen. Why do I have to watch my comrades being eaten, he thinks. Armin even stays frozen as a titan comes up to him, picks him up, and dangles him over its mouth. Why won’t my body move? he thinks. Armin only unfreezes when he lands on the titan’s tongue and starts sliding down its mouth.
“WAAAAGH!” scrams Armin.
From outside the titan and on the roof, Eren hears Armin’s scream. The scream triggers one of Eren’s memories. He remembers a time when he and Armin were kids, and Armin brought him a book about the outside world.
“That’s illegal!” says Eren, “You’re gonna get caught by the MP brigade!”
“This is much more important than that!!” says Armin. He tells Eren that the book talks about something called the sea – a body of salt water that covers the majority of the world.
“Liar!” accuses Eren, “I mean, salt?! That would be a treasure trove! Merchants would’ve already exhausted the supply!”
“No, that’s the thing,” replies Armin, “The sea is so huge, it can’t be depleted!”
The book also talks about other things such as lava, glaciers, and deserts. It was then, that Eren realized what exactly he didn’t have while living inside the walls, and what could be his if he were to go outside.
This part is what I believe to be the main purpose of this chapter, it explains why Eren and Armin want to go outside the walls. Also, I believe that this book correlates to the shadows that the prisoners see in The Allegory of the Cave. The book is a mere projection of what exists outside the walls, and it is all that Eren and Armin know about what lies beyond. And the only way to know what lies beyond is to escape from the cave…or walls.
The memory concludes with Armin saying that someday he hopes he and Eren can explore the outside world. After Eren remembers this, he rises up and swings over to the titan that is devouring Armin. Eren lands inside the titan’s mouth and catches Armin’s hand before he can fall down further into the throat. Then Eren tosses Armin outside the mouth, leaving himself still inside.
“Think I’m gonna die here?” cries Eren, “Hey Armin, you told me about it, so I’m going to the outside world.”
“Eren! Quickly!” cries Armin as he reaches his arm out for Eren to grab on to.
Armin balls at seeing his friend get swallowed by the titan. Meanwhile, off in the distance, Mikasa has turned her head towards Eren’s location, hoping he is safe.
**Images were obtained from the Kindle edition of Attack on Titan.
The Allegory the Cave text: https://web.stanford.edu/class/ihum40/cave.pdf
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