Exposition (Initial Situation)
What's in a Word?
If you want to hang out with Socrates, you need to be prepared for what that really means. When he and Glaucon arrive at his friend's house, your average "hey, how's it going?" small talk quickly turns way serious, as Socrates has some doubts about the concept of justice. As the discussion becomes more and more complex, it's amazing to think how just one little idea started the whole thing off.
Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)
Can't We All Just Get Along?
It turns out that Socrates isn't the only one with some strong opinions about justice. One of the guests, Thrasymachus, even gets kind of aggressive and accuses Socrates of being an unfair debater. Although Thrasymachus' challenge if never directly answered, we're left wondering as the conversation goes on whether Thrasymachus was just rude or maybe on to something.
Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)
They Build a City (in Their Minds...)
For a book entitled the Republic, it sure takes everyone a long time to actually invent one. But they finally do, and as they all work through the moral and practical challenges of this mental exercise, a whole lot of radical ideas come to the surface. Our gang reaches some pretty surprising conclusions about human nature and the best forms of government.
Philosophy, The Hero
After a lot of debating and imaginary-city-building, the book ends when it seems to confirm that Socrates is right about justice. But maybe more importantly, it seems to confirm that philosophy as a discipline is a crucial and fundamental necessity of human life. So, while no one has actually founded a city, Socrates (or Plato?) definitely founded a school of thought.
Mysterious to the end, Socrates concludes this exhausting and complex dialogue by telling everyone a myth about a hero named Er, who goes to the underworld and comes back to tell people about it. Although it clearly carries through the themes of morality of justice and philosophy that Socrates has been talking about throughout the Republic, it's still an unexpected way to end a book about rational thinking and the dangers of poetry.