The story is a journey spiced with mix of erotic, comedy, and romantic encounters. However, the story can be observed as a religious fable. It is one of the early European literature pieces with Eastern influence and a very modern feel. Written almost 2000 years ago, the book retains its energy and excitement that entertains the readers and the message or lesson that it employs.
The Lucius transformation of man turning into ass provides a situation that enables the character to experience hardships and make dramatic scenes for the story. This determines the struggle to play upon. This instance of transformation of a man into an ass implies a magical experience which can be seen throughout the story.
Some instances are the mysteries of Isis and having himself performed miracles necessitating the mastery of magic and sorcery. However, the story emphasizes the reality through twists of events like tragic and drama. The novel portrays about the man and the struggle of life in a world of limited resources. Magic as described in the story does not eliminate the reality or incapacity to o certain things. The author limits the use of magic, in order to focus on a more human experience such as struggle.
One struggle that Lucius had arises from his own inner desires for pleasure. The journey to escape from the bonds of desire is a challenge endured by Lucius. In the story, sensual aspects of life through descriptions of erotic scenes illustrate pleasurable and the painful way of living life. The author put the character into a situation where he can show that maturation and the right wisdom needed to survive ones desires.
Another conflict that arises is from outside the character. This occurs between individuals or even a larger group of persons. It gives description of the society during that time, illustrating the heroes, senators and other magnates of Roman power, also simple shepherds and farmers, cooks and scullions, artesans, slaves and beggars, and thieves of the underworld. When Lucius, as an ass, is forced to work in a flour-mill, the author describes the hideous conditions of the slaves working there. The author implied unacceptable conditions in the Empire and is a demand for reform.
The construction of the story has alternation between comic and tragic experiences and between romantic and dramatic instances. One comic encounter is when Lucius and his host Milo which is offset by the tragic of Socratess death. The characters romantic sexual encounters with the maidservant contrast with the horrifying story of Thelyphrons disfigurement.
There are also tragic and dramatic experiences like Luciuss own capture by the dacoits and his miserable experiences at the farms. Luciuss transformation from man to ass is comic-tragic. The Lucius and Fotis episodes could also be termed comic-romantic and his funny adventures with the priests. All throughout, the story alternates between naughty and humorous happenings and dramatic or tragic events. These elements are meant to provide excitement to the readers through unpredictable events.
The novel, The Transformations of Lucius, is a portrayal of mans struggle and eventually finding a true interpretation of his experience. It is important in every struggle to discover the meaning behind the things that one experience. That makes one person worthy of the success he earned.
The Transformations of Lucius, otherwise known as The Golden Ass. translation, notes by Robert
Graves. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000 (1950).