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Free Study Guide for Lost Horizon by James Hilton

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FREE PLOT SYNOPSIS - LOST HORIZON BY JAMES HILTON

CHAPTER 4

Summary

Later that evening as they are all seated at dinner, Change observes that they are not as uncivilized as the four may have expected. Conway is unable to deny it as he had noticed at his bath that the tub is made of delicate green porcelain made in Akron, Ohio. He readily enjoys the meal, because he likes the Chinese and their ways. Chang eats only a salad and once again explains his behavior by commenting that he must take care of himself. Conway comments in return that the lamas seem a “very fortunate community, and hospitable to strangers.” He observes that they must not receive strangers very often, and that a separate culture might flourish there without contamination from the outside world.

Miss Brinklow speaks up and assertively asks Chang to tell them about the monastery. In his ensuing commentary, the reader discovers that there are fifty who are considered full lamas and a few others, including himself, who have not yet obtained full initiation, an amazing piece of information, given that he seems to be elderly although not yet old. He also explains that there are representatives among them from a great many nations, although Tibetans and Chinese make up the majority. When Miss Brinklow, in her missionary attitude, asks him to explain what the lamas believe, he explains that there are many religious beliefs among them, but what they most believe in is moderation. They avoid excesses of all kinds in the valley. Conway observes that Chang applies the idea of moderation to the people of the valley, but is careful not to apply it to the priesthood. When he asks Chang why, the elder man replies that it is a matter which he may not discuss, another mysterious comment about life at the lamasery.


Mallinson continues to question Chang about arranging for porters to lead them out as early as the next day. But Chang says that he is not the proper person to approach about the matter, and that he doesn’t believe the matter can be arranged immediately. Mallinson continues to press the point, trying to get Chang to help them, while Chang is readily amenable to anything Mallinson asks for, including maps, but is short of agreeing to make the arrangements. Chang eventually gets to the point where he just doesn’t answer Mallinson, and the young man, in his anger and anxiety, collapses. Chang blames his collapse on the thin air and insists he will better the next day.

Conway then steps forward to patiently encourage Chang to answer Mallinson’s questions. Because he is so patient and less demanding, Chang observes that he is wiser than his companions and explains that they will not be able to hire men from the valley to be their porters, because they will refuse to leave the valley. Conway also observes to Chang that it was not a chance meeting when Chang and the men had come across their plane and that they must have known beforehand about their arrival. He wonders how? For a moment, Chang shows stress, something that Conway had not noticed before. He insists to Conway that none of them are in any danger at Shangri-La, but they may have to face some delay in their departure. Conway is agreeable to a short delay, because he feels so comfortable at the lamasery. As Chang moves to depart from the dinner table, Conway asks him the literal interpretation of Karakal. Chang whispers that it means “Blue Moon.”

When morning comes, Conway muses on his role at the lamasery now. He thinks about his position as a leader who had safely evacuated the British personnel from Baskul. He feels that it is not a bad achievement, and that gives him comfort. However, he does have some slight worry about whether the others can achieve their departure, given the strangeness of this place. As for himself, the puzzle of Shangri-La is beginning to exercise over him “a charming fascination.” He is far from grumbling about their situation.

When Mallinson once again inquires of Chang about porters, Chang tells him what he had told Conway the night before: there are no men willing to accompany the group so far from their homes. Conway smoothly intercedes again to avoid any ugliness by asking Chang what he proposes they do. Chang seems to be willing to answer Conway just about anything and offers the suggestion that they wait approximately a month or two for delivery men expected at the time. He thinks they will be willing to take the four with them on their return journey. Of course, he offers no exact date, claiming they never know exactly when a delivery will occur. But he insists again that the lamasery will continue to offer its utmost hospitality. This information infuriates Mallinson, but Conway restrains the younger man in order that he not insult Chang.

Notes

This chapter is basically a study in the determination of Mallinson to depart from Shangri-La and Conway’s growing fascination with the lamasery. One represents the frustration and the impetuous demands of youth while the other is a study in patience and complacency and even a desire to just find some peace in his life. These two contrasting characters will be the ultimate determiners of the outcome of this story and the lessons the reader will learn in the end: one being fear of the unknown and the other, the search for a meaningful life.

 

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