In Samuel JohnsonÕs Adventurer No. 84, Johnson departs from the didactic, argumentative norm of his essay and dips into elements of fiction. He creates characters, including the narrator himself, in order to illustrate the ease and commonality with which individuals glamorize themselves with falsehood. As the characters in the stage coach fabricate more attractive lives for themselves, so too does Johnson fabricate a persona to narrate the essay. These fabrications within the conversations of the characters lead to a sense of distrust between them; the fabricated narrator translates into a sense of irony between the essayist and the reader.

It might be expected, that upon these glimpses of latent dignity, we should all have begun to look round us with veneration; and have behaved like the princes of romance, when the enchantment that disguises them is dissolved, and they discover the dignity of each other; yet it happened, that none of these hints made much impression on the company; every one was apparently suspected of endeavouring to impose false appearances upon the rest; all continued their haughtiness in hopes to enforce their claims; and all grew every hour more sullen.

Questions

Why does Johnson create fictional characters to illustrate this particular point? Why is the essay in letter form?

How does Johnson establish credibility in a supposedly nonfiction essay with a fictional character? The characters become wary of each other, despite the irony, does the reader become wary of Johnson at all? Does the reader trust Johnson?

As an author who is aware of his audience, how does Johnson gain credibility while at the same time remain entertaining?

In this essay, what is his thesis and how does he view human nature?


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16 September 2003