Describe Rasselas's life in Happy Valley.

Rasselas's life in Happy Valley is filled with delight at first. As time passes, he becomes less content with the pleasures of the valley. He finds himself dissatisfied with the paradise around him. In the end, he immerses himself back into the joys of Happy Valley. This is because he makes peace with the fact that human life is equal parts pleasure and equal parts pain, and this new epiphany lifts his spirits.

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At first, Rasselas enjoys the pleasures and happiness that he finds in the Happy Valley. He engages in the endless songs and amusements that the other inhabitants of the valley enjoy.

However, as he grows older, his actions change, due to a growing confusion and discontent that emerges within him. He begins to distance himself from others and becomes lost in contemplation. The wise elders of the valley preach the unhappiness and misery of those that live outside the valley, but something in Rasselas still remains melancholy. He frequently refuses to eat the delicious food offered him and instead quietly slips away from others to meditate on the world around him. Those who try to help him regain a sense of satisfaction in the valley are unsuccessful.

One day, an elder hears Rassalas talking to himself as he looks upon the animals. Rasselas cannot understand the difference between the happiness of the creatures and his own gloominess. He is confused by the satisfaction that the animals feel and cannot understand why all his needs are met and yet he stills yearns for more. He begins to sense a longing for something indescribable and comes to the conclusion that this is what separates man from the animals. He reasons that even though humans have fears of the future and pain from memories of the past, human nature balances the human experience. There are cycles of pleasure and pain. There are cycles of worry and contentment.

In other words, he understands that human life is composed of opposing emotions that all somehow reconcile themselves in the process of existence. When he focuses on the reality of this truth, his woes are eased, and he begins to enjoy the pleasure of the valley once more.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 24, 2020
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