As I consider the nature of the Allegory of the Cave, I find that I am constantly comparing it to the idea of a dream. The way that Plato describes it, it seems as though the person who is released from the cave is identical to someone who is just waking from a dream. They are suddenly shown that everything that they thought constituted reality is false. You could even go so far to say that the process of getting further outside the cave and gaining knowledge is the same as the process that each person goes through when they are waking up after a dream. You are very confused initially, sometimes even upset, but gradually you realize that the world that you now exist in actually makes much more sense than the one in your dream.
A person reflecting on a dream that they just had after they have woken up can also interpret their dream and think about how certain things are actually related to reality. I find this similar to how those who are stuck in the cave see the shadows, which are imitations of real objects, but of course not actual items. A person can think “I obviously have never met George Washington, but I talked to him in my dream because I know who he is and that he existed at one time”.
I believe that many cultural references of dreams relating to the Allegory of the cave exist (whether intentional or not). For instance, “The Wizard of Oz” is a very clear example of how someone can believe wholeheartedly in something that may actually be a complete fantasy. For Dorothy, The Land of Oz is merely a dream containing some references to her real life. You could argue that she achieves enlightenment or knowledge at the end of the movie when she wakes up. Similarly, the film “The Matrix” plays with the same idea, except that the main character’s dream happens to be what we consider “the real world”. As Neo spends time in the actual real world however, he fully understands all of the false aspects of the old world, just like the man who is released from the cave can understand how the shadows are not real.