Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 191

Rasselas, or The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, was originally called The Prince of Abissinia: A Tale, although the title while Samuel Johnson wrote it was The Choice of Life. It is this working title which gives us a clue to the theme of the book: happiness.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Rasselas Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Throughout the story, Rasselas, the son of the King of Abyssinia, tries to find happiness. First he does this by attempting to escape the Happy Valley which, as the name suggests, is a “happy” place. However, Rasselas wants to find what he believes to be true happiness, and so he leaves with his sister and begins searching the world. After visiting many places, they eventually realize that they haven’t found it, and they won’t. This reflects Johnson’s belief that happiness is not attainable, at least in the sense that most people are looking for it. Johnson was a religious man, and believed that earthly life could never provide the everlasting peace we are all searching for. Human nature will always prevent us from being content, and therefore we will always be searching for the next thing that makes us happy.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial



Critical Essays