A Gate At The Stairs: An Analysis

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Greek philosopher Plato once described a cave where prisoners aimlessly stare at a wall for the entirety of their existence, and anything they “witness” is merely a blind perception. Lorrie Moore’s coming-of-age novel A Gate at the Stairs provides a modern day reference to this allegory of the cave, as main character, Tassie Keltjin, attempts to find a place and purpose in her life as a quirky college student.

While it is a drastic shift from the initial setting described by Plato, the modern day cave can be referenced as the gate that is featured in the novel’s title. Tassie finds a variety of circumstances where she stands at a gate looking onward to a life decision.

In an attempt to find work in the child-care industry, Tassie is hired by Edward and Susan, a couple that are seeking a nanny to help assist in care for an adopted child. The peculiar couple seems like a good fit for Tassie’s quirkiness, and soon, she finds she is not the only person with problematic personal matters.
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The plotline has peaks and valleys of excitement, but generally, it offers a fairly standard glance into 21st century life and the social issues that still remain. Tassie experiences a variety of issues, some serious and some trivial, but they all can be related to most reader’s lives, as they read the novel in comparison to their own.

Moore constructs a further reference to Plato’s allegory of the cave, as the story progresses through the lives of Edward and Susan. Tassie remains fairly distant to her bosses thoughts and emotions, as this offers a reference to Plato’s prisoners contemplating the purpose of the shadows on the wall. They predict and estimate the purpose and cause of each shadow at it passes through the wall, and Tassie can only approximate the true circumstances of Edward and Susan’s
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