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Free Study Guide for Lost Horizon by James Hilton

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FREE PLOT ANALYSIS - LOST HORIZON BY JAMES HILTON

CHAPTER 5

Summary

For the remainder of the morning, the four discuss the matter of leaving the lamasery. Mallinson is somewhat mollified and more accepting of their fate, but still determined to leave this strange place that he labels “crooked.” Conway is the voice of reason, logically deciding that it can’t be any worse than two months in any other isolated part of the world. Miss Brinklow is fatalistic, saying that she has been called to the Lord’s service and is agreeable to whatever Providence brings her. Barnard, the American, isn’t the least concerned about their being posted as missing, because he doesn’t believe that affects him one way or another, a puzzling statement to say the least.

Conway then remarks that the first rule of their stay must be to avoid getting on each other’s nerves. The others agree, and then they observe that it will at least be comfortable there, even if it is a mystery. Chang enters after a while and offers to guide them on a tour of the lamasery while Mallinson and Miss Brinklow comment that they never thought they’d end up in a place like this nor why they have.


The grand tour is an interesting moment for them all. Conway is becoming even further enchanted with the rich amenities of the place. There is a delightful library, filled with the world’s best literature and hundreds of maps of the area, although Chang comments that they will not find Shangri-La on any of them. Miss Brinklow wonders if they will see the lamas at work, but Chang replies that her request is impossible as they are very rarely seen outside the lamahood. When she asks what they do, Chang says that they “devote themselves to contemplation and to the pursuit of wisdom.” To Miss Brinklow, that’s doing nothing.

Then, they follow Chang through several courtyards to come upon a scene of unmatched loveliness. It is an open pavilion fringing a lotus pool surrounded by sculptures of lions, dragons and unicorns. In the pavilion are a harpsichord and a modern grand piano. This pavilion inspires comments and questions about the lamas love of western music and the fact that they might someday order a phonograph delivered to the lamasery. For now, there is no need for them to hurry in this request. Barnard observes that “No hurry” must be the slogan of the lamas. When he then questions Chang about how they pay for all this, Chang again closes up and refuses to answer. Conway sees this as once again edging the visible border-line between what might and what might not be revealed.

At this point, an agile, lithe-limbed Chinese girl appears and plays the harpsichord. Conway is fascinated by her and realizes that she is a Manchu. Chang says her name is Lo-Tsen, and like Chang, she has not yet achieved full initiation. He says there are no sex distinctions among the lamas. However, when Conway asks her age, Chang once again says he cannot tell him. Later that evening, after dinner, Conway strolls into the moon-lit courtyards and as he gazes on Karakal, he realizes he is physically happy, emotionally content, and mentally at ease. He is puzzled by Shangri-La, but even though he cannot understand it yet, he feels it will somehow be understood eventually. Then, he hears sounds from far below in the valley. Using his understanding of the Chinese language which is near in structure to the Tibetan language, he realizes that the people in the valley are burying Talu, the man who had hijacked their plane and flown it into the valley. Now Conway knows for sure that their flight was not a meaningless exploit of an insane man. It had been planned, prepared and carried out at the instigation of the lamasery. The question still is: what is the purpose of their being brought to Shangri-La? He decides that his discovery, however, must not be communicated to the other three of his group, who could not help him solve the puzzle, nor to their hosts, who probably would not help him.

Notes

This chapter is devoted to the four travelers coming to terms with their predicament. Mallinson has given in to the thought of a two month stay, Barnard feels their loss will not affect him at all, and Miss Brinklow sums it all up to the mysterious force of Providence. Conway is happy there and is content to solve the puzzle of their arrival in Shangri-La. He is wiser than the other three and soon comes to some important conclusions about the flight there, and how it obviously had been planned. Now he is eager to learn why.

 

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