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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 182

The major characters in Rasselas are as follows:

Rasselas, the protagonist, is the fourth son of the ing of Abyssinia, who leaves his home in the utopia Happy Valley in a quest to find a greater meaning to life than simple pleasure.

Nekayah , Rasselas's sister, who accompanies Rasselas...

(The entire section contains 970 words.)

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The major characters in Rasselas are as follows:

Rasselas, the protagonist, is the fourth son of the ing of Abyssinia, who leaves his home in the utopia Happy Valley in a quest to find a greater meaning to life than simple pleasure.

Nekayah, Rasselas's sister, who accompanies Rasselas on his quest.

Imlac, the son of a merchant who has come to the Happy Valley only to find that life there is empty. He serves as Rasselas's guide.

The Astronomer, whom Rasselas meets in Egypt. The Astronomer is completely absorbed by his studies, but Rasselas helps him discover that there is more to life than astronomy.

The Mechanist, who tries to invent wings that will allow Rasselas to fly out of the Happy Valley.

Pekuah, an attendant to Nekayah, who after leaving the valley is kidnapped by Arabs

A Philosopher, who learns that his logic is no consolation on the death of his daughter

The Hermit, who admits to Rasselas that he is not happy in his solitude

The Old Man, who tells Rasselas that old age is not the key to happiness.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 788


Rasselas (RAS-eh-luhs), fourth son of the king of Abyssinia. Like his brothers and sisters, he is reared in the luxury of Happy Valley, a remote mountain-rimmed vale whose only entrance is closed by a guarded gate. The royal children live a life of pleasure and entertainment, which everyone but Rasselas finds sufficient. In his twenty-sixth year, he finds his mind unchallenged by this life of pleasure, in which every want is met or anticipated. Feeling that he is something more than a beast of the field, content with sensory pleasure, he lives with his uneasiness until at last he plans to escape into the outer world where, he hopes, he will be able to exercise his choice of life. With a few companions, he finally reaches the outer world and there questions many persons in the hope of learning how to live a contented life. Though he travels great distances and talks with many people, he can find no easy solution to his problems. Everyone seems unhappy. Rasselas begins to dream of establishing a little kingdom, a utopia, which he can rule with justice; but he finally realizes that such an ideal can never be reached, and he decides to return to Abyssinia.


Nekayah (nehk-AY-yah), one of Rasselas’ sisters, who is invited to join in her brother’s escape. Nekayah proves a happy choice as a companion for Rasselas, for she is an intelligent and observant young woman. She takes the lower classes for her special field of study in the hope of learning how human beings may be happy. Her observations, particularly of domestic life, provide her and Rasselas with much material for thought and discussion. Nekayah finally forms the opinion that knowledge is the key to human happiness. To this end, she makes plans to learn all the sciences and then to establish a college or community of learned women, over which she will preside.


Imlac (IHM-lak), the son of a merchant. Given a chance to travel by his father, Imlac has seen much of the world, both Europe and Asia. After fourteen years of travel, he returns home to find his family dispersed and his fortune gone. Becoming a poet, he seeks to enter Happy Valley and succeeds. He realizes, however, that life in the valley is not sufficient for him. When he finds a fellow rebellious spirit in Rasselas, he offers himself as guide and mentor to the young prince. After emerging from the valley to the outer world Imlac finds that the only answer to happy life is no answer, and so he becomes content to follow life wherever it may lead him.

An Astronomer

An Astronomer, a man Rasselas and his companions meet in Egypt, where he joins their party. His devotion to astronomy has convinced him that he controls all the elements except the winds. After he is introduced to Nekayah and the rest of the little band of searchers after wisdom and happiness, the astronomer discovers that life has more in it than the study of the heavens, and he loses his beliefs. Like Imlac, he becomes satisfied with whatever life may bring to him.

A Mechanist

A Mechanist, one of the inhabitants of Happy Valley. He tries to invent wings that will enable him to fly. Rasselas, anxious to escape his valley prison, is quite interested in the man’s experiments until the efforts prove entirely futile.


Pekuah (PEHK-oo-ah), one of the noble ladies attending Princess Nekayah; she is another of the escapees from Happy Valley. She has an extraordinary adventure in which she is kidnapped by Arabs and held for ransom. She bears this trying experience with fortitude and returns to her friends to report that Bedouin life is not a happy one for either men or women.

A Philosopher

A Philosopher, whom Rasselas seeks out in Egypt. He seems at first to be both wise and happy. His life proves empty, however, as does his logic, when his only child, a beautiful daughter, is taken suddenly by death.

A Hermit

A Hermit, another of the seemingly wise and happy souls sought out by Rasselas. The hermit, at one time a military officer of high rank, renounced his worldly career to seek happiness in a hermitage. He admits to Rasselas that his life is not a happy one, and he returns with Rasselas to the society of Cairo.

An Old Man

An Old Man, whom Rasselas and Nekayah consult. They visit him to learn if old age is the key to happiness. They are told that it is not; the old man finds neither solace nor pleasure in having outlived his friends and rivals, as well as his capacity to work or hold office.

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