Just like Plato's Meno and Socrate's allegory of the cave, Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Conformist" was a story about moral and educational failure. The film followed the story of Marcello Clerici, a member of the Italian Fascist secret police who betrayed both himself and his former professor in his pursuit of alleged normalcy. Like Meno, of Meno, Clerici would fail, a victim of his own desire to learn only "correct opinions" to guide his actions and unwillingness to exercise his "prudence," practical reason to help him understand the "correct opinions" more dynamically. However, perhaps Clerici was not entirely to blame for this, as he was virtually a prisoner in a cave, similar to the one in Socrates' allegory, the shadows on the wall or veils of normalcy being perpetuated by an untruthful master, not unlike the Fascist regime. Clerici's failure, though, ultimately was due to his impressionability and vulnerability, desire to fulfill societal standards of normalcy, and susceptibility to the mob mentality, the combination of which ultimately rendered him susceptible to a lifetime of dismay.
Clerici's first cause of failure laid in his impressionability and vulnerability, spawned by the traumatizing experiences of his childhood. In a flashback to his childhood, Clerici was shown being rescued by a grown chauffeur by the name of Lino from playground bullies. Lino's rescue, however, entailed driving Clerici to his home, attempting to sodomize the child, and ultimately being shot by a panicked Clerici. Throughout "The Conformist," Clerici repeatedly tried to repress this obscure incident by denouncing homosexuality, including when he saw Lino at the film's conclusion and called him out publically for both attempted molestation and the murders of Clerici's anti-Fascist target, Professor Luca Quadri, and Quadri's wife, Anna. The bullies from whom Lino rescued Clerici, though, were further proof of the innormalcy to which Clerici was prone as a child.