Samuel Johnson'sThe History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia is the story of a young prince's search for happiness. Interestingly, he seeks to find happiness away from the valley he is forced to live in - a valley where every care has been provided for, where every need has been met and where no struggle is necessary, and is aptly named the "happy valley". In short, Rasselas no longer is contented with a life of leisure and luxury. He yearns to experience life beyond the happy valley and seeks ways in which to escape. He believes the key to happiness lies out in the world he has, thus far, been denied access to and in his escape companions who have reasons of their own for wanting to leave join him.
One such companion is Imlac, a poet who has traveled the world. What first captured the prince's attention about Imlac was that he "knew the world so well, and could so skillfully paint the scenes of life" (54).
To him he looked for news of the world and questioned him unceasingly for information about things which would be common to most people but for him was not since being sheltered left him naive about such things. Before long he wanted to know Imlac's history and asked that he give an account of his life. Ultimately, Imlac's recount of his life would help Rasselas resolve his own internal conflicts and have an enormous impact on his life.
There is no question as Imlac talks that he is wise, especially in the ways of the world. Early in his narrative he explained that his father, a wealthy merchant, hid much of his riches "lest he should be spoiled by the governors of the province." The prince replies that surely his father is...