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Joana Barbara Fonseca


Failure and progress in Apuleius’ Golden Ass: the subject that prevails through all the books of Apuleius’ work is the one that includes a failure that leads to a progress in the end, like an initiation rite that Lucius must follow. It is a big first failure, then a whole chain of them that condemns Lucius. Some business affairs take him to the city of Hypata, but his uncontrollable curiosity takes him further. The structure of the story shows us how Lucius seemed predestinated to fail, not only ignoring the constant warnings, but also feeling them as a trigger for his curiosity. So, the unlimited curiosity blinds him even after his big failure. In his asinine form, Lucius passes through a handful of dangerous and frightful adventures, suffers more than he would have ever imagined and, unable to speak, he assists the most terrible situations – at this point, complete failure and annulation seemed unavoidable. Like an initiation rite, where the initiated must surpass an amount of probations that usually involve sweat, tears, and blood, Lucius passes all this and, in the end, he learned nothing, failing by himself, taken by curious blindness. The final despairing situation leads him to meet the goddess Isis, the one and only route to salvation and, more than that, to a personal improvement, to an intellectual progress of self-knowledge and intimate familiarity with the goddess. Learning through his mistake: it is failure that leads Lucius to progress and final salvation. Both the failure and the progress paths are well marked by comprehension steps. At first, Lucius is blind and not able to learn; only after his big attitude change, on book twelve, through Isis, he’s ready for progress. 

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