What does Rasselas by Samuel Johnson say that happiness is?

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lprono eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rasselas's quest for happiness beyond the boundaries of his Happy Valley eventually proves elusive. The Prince and his companions return to their homeland without having found the true happiness that set them off on their pilgrimage. The novella, originally titled "The Prince of Abissinia" and written just after the death of Johnson's mother to raise the money necessary for her funeral, has been considered the most comprehensive expression of the author's pessimistic view of life. According to Johnson, life is something to be endured rather than enjoyed and happiness is illusory. Returning home, Rasselas and his companions are sadder but wiser because they have understood that no human being can experience ideal happiness. Through Rasselas's quest, Johnson also targets the human tendency to live in hope of a better future rather than concentrating on living in the present.

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