Rasselas Essay Questions

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(2) It is worth noting that Stiker chose the article “a,” not “the,” in titling his book which supports his own argument that intelligence cannot find all the answers, and no report or investigation can presume total mastery of its subject, no matter how thorough.

Furthermore, in examining the realm of human intellect and its perceived importance to society, progress, and human value, we must to consider the words commonly used in connection with intellect.

(103) This passage represents the perceived glories that increased knowledge about the world could bring.

However, as the astronomer explains, the truth renders knowledge impotent, for the act of manipulating the seasons promises only to shift destruction and prosperity from their natural, cyclical courses to alternating ones.

They [all] deliberated a while what was to be done, and resolved, when the inundation [of the Nile] should cease, to return to Abissinia.

(123) Thus, the urge to learn more about the world fails to bring the kind of lasting satisfaction Rasselas and his friends desire. Does returning to Abissinia represent a failure of the quest? What seems more decidable, however, is how the novel questions the powers of intellect.

I have sometimes varied the ecliptick of the sun: but I have found it impossible to make a disposition by which the world may be advantaged; what one region gains, another loses by any imaginable alteration, even without considering the distant parts of the solar system with which we are unacquainted.

Do not, therefore, in thy administration of the year, indulge thy pride by innovation; do not please thyself with thinking that thou canst make thyself renowned to all future ages, by disordering the seasons.

debunks the Enlightenment thinking that intellect could not only answer our questions, but also solve our discontents.

Before delving into the text itself, one should briefly acknowledge its author, Samuel Johnson (1709—1784), and address the question of why his biography might matter in any discussion of disability.


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