Apuleius holds that certain factors in a personality collectively form humanity. He also holds that “genuine humanity” is a good thing. It follows that in the characters whom he wishes to represent as not good, there will be lacking one or more of the factors. If we take these instances and determine which particular trait makes a character bad, and this trait may be expressed as a deficiency, we may collect and identify those factors which contribute to “genuine humanity.”
While in the form of an ass, Lucius is treated cruelly by evil people; thus benevolence is part of humanity. Lucius himself, before his metamorphosis, is a very worldly character, often acting before considering consequences; therefore, reasoning and consideration are factors in humanity. Adulteresses show us that fidelity and faithfulness are involved in humanity, as is honesty, which is manifested by the many instances of misrepresentation in the story. Robbers and witches show us that it is important to uphold the laws, both the written and the simply customary, of society as well as natural law and divine law.
As an ass, Lucius can observe more clearly the differences between true humanity and counterfeit humanity, between humanity and simply being human. He can observe this more clearly for two reasons: first, people are less inhibited in his presence; second, he can observe from a different point of view, because his own self-interest as a human has been removed, and replaced with the self-interest of one who is outside the human species. Because of his state, his relationships with people are on a basic level at which human nature stands out clearly (e.g., as it relates to one's willingness to show concern for another's physical well-being). It is evident that humanity is not connected with physically being a human - because those who are physically human often lack humanity, and the one who is, in the story, not physically human begins to develop the insights of humanity. Lucius needs to become an ass so that he might make these observations.
This literary device is not unique in history: Kafka's character became a cockroach, and from that vantage point could make observations about humanity (e.g., the absurd expectations placed upon him without regard for his personal peculiarities). Other authors have allowed their main characters to assume the position of an “outsider” in order to gain insights into human nature from a fresh vantage point, but have found ways other than metamorphosis to render the protagonists as “outsiders” (e.g., Grimmelshausen).
Apuleius seeks to show that true humanity is composed of these factors. Through the plot action in the book, he explains why humanity is important.
The essence of Creon's system of ethics is self-subjection to authority. His offense at Antigone is chiefly statutory, not moral (line 480).
Obedience being the heart of Creon's moral order, disobedience is the greatest wrong (672). To him, the state is the highest ruler, “and he who counts another greater friend than his own fatherland, I put him nowhere.” The polis reaches deification when Creon says “she it is who saves us,” and that his estimation of the honorable man is one “who is well-minded to the state.”
In whatever he does to “respect my office” as king, Creon considers himself justified (744). The man placed in a position of leadership, and who does not do that which is absolutely the best action for the state, is the worst kind (178). The idea of currency is even suspect, as it “destroys the state,” and Creon's devotion to his office is one of the major reasons he desires to keep his house in order, as a sign that he can justly govern Thebes (661).
Antigone's act was a crime (515) because it honored an enemy, who can never be a friend (522). She should be ashamed to think alone, i.e., against the state (510), and should not try “to make it seem a lovely thing.”
Creon's patriot morality is with him to the end (even if he found it necessary to change his mind in Antigone's particular case), for it would seem that his reversal was caused as much by motives of self- preservation as by his desire to avoid bringing ruin to the state.
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