Themes in lost horizon Essay

This essay has a total of 789 words and 4 pages.

themes in lost horizon

What is Paradise? Throughout history man has sought to create, find, or at least image a
paradise on earth, a place where there is peace, harmony, and a surcease from the pain
that plagues our lives. On the eve of World War II, James Hilton imagined such a place in
his best-selling novel, Lost Horizon.


The story itself begins when an evacuation of Westerners is ordered in the midst of
revolution in Baksul, India. A plane containing four passengers is hi-jacked and flown far
away into the Keun-Lun Mountains of Tibet. The plane crashes and the passengers are
welcomed to the valley of the Blue Moon, and the lamasery of Shangri-la. Here they see an
isolated monastery shrouded in mystery, which combines Christianity and Buddhism with a
focus on the progression of knowledge.


The four passengers who land in Shangri-la are Barnard, a boisterous American, Miss
Brinklow, a Christian missionary, Mallinson, a headstrong and passionate English youth,
and Conway, the main character and WWI veteran who is unattached and somewhat passionless.
All of the characters except Mallinson enjoy life in Shangri-la. Conway especially finds
himself at home there and eventually the High Lama of the lamasery unveils all its
mysteries of to him. Conway learns that the inhabitants, thanks to the climate and a
special drug, live to an extreme old age. They devote the length of their lives to the
pursuits of knowledge and do everything in moderation. They believe that their hidden
society will escape the destruction toward which the outside world is heading. He also
learns that the lamas of Shangri-la intend to keep him and his companions there forever.


Almost immediately Conway feels he is ideally suited to their way of life. He meets other
lamas who have been at Shangri-la for a long time, including Lo-Tsen, with whom he quietly
falls in love with. All the newcomers desire to stay, except for Mallinson. He and Lo-Tsen
fall in love with one another and makes plans to leave. Conway warns Mallinson not to take
Lo-Tsen back with him, knowing her extreme old age will cause her to die immediately.
Mallinson doubts Conway's knowledge of Shangri-la, which in turn leads Conway himself to
doubt and eventually consent to leave. After their departure from Shangri-la, the story is
unresolved. We are lead to believe that there was truth to the story and that Lo-Tsen
rapidly ages then dies, we are never definitively told the fates of the her, Conway and
Mallinson following their departure from Shangri-la.


A theme found in Lost Horizon is the desire to leave and apparent utopia in favor of a
former home, however flawed. This is comparable to Odysseus who wanted to leave the
utopian island of Kalypso to return home to Ithaca and his wife. The British youth
Mallinson is similar to Odysseus in this respect. While Conway, Barnard and Miss Brinklow
find Shangri-la a satisfying place to live, Mallinson intensely desires to leave and
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