Free Study Guide for Lost Horizon by James Hilton

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Conway tells the other passengers as they awaken that they are probably still in India, and that they have probably been flying along some river valley, stretching roughly east and west. If his memory suffices, they are probably in the valley of the upper Indus which would have brought them to this spectacular part of the world. He also thinks the mountain they are looking at is probably Nanga Parbat and the range is the Karakorams. He knows there are several passes through these mountains if the pilot intends for them to cross them. Mallinson insists that the kidnapping theory is no longer applicable, because there are no tribes this far that would seek a ransom. Now the purpose of this flight becomes once again even more frightening. Conway has no answers for their fears, but is secretly satisfied that there are still such beautiful places on earth.

Dusk soon falls which lowers their spirits once again, and Conway comes to the conclusion that they are heading towards Tibet. Soon, the plane gives a lurch, and they realize that the engines have been turned off, and the plane is rushing against a gale. The pilot then lands the plane badly with crashing and swaying jolts to the passengers and a broken tail-skid. They tear open the cockpit and discover the pilot is unconscious. Conway assumes finally the strong role of the leader, and they lift the man out and down to the ground. Then, they realize that the environment will be dangerous for them all and return the pilot and themselves to the cabin of the plane. Miss Brinklow surprisingly produces a bottle of brandy, and they give the pilot some.

Conway now believes that they have flown far beyond the western range of the Himalayas towards the less known heights of the Kuen-Lun. They have reached the loftiest and most inhospitable part of the earth’s surface, the Tibetan plateau. The next day, they take the pilot out of the plane, hoping the sun will revive him, but he becomes weaker and finally dies about mid-morning. The man muttered in his final delirium enough information to let them know that they were in Tibet, and that there is a lamasery nearby called Shangri-la. The dying man had been very emphatic that they go there. They argue about whether this is the best plan for them to follow, but finally come to the conclusion that their best chance of survival is to find humans. Just as they finally all agree to the plan, they see coming down a faraway slope the figures of men.



As the four passengers await the arrival of the men in the distance, Conway takes on the role of onlooker, refusing to be drawn into being a leader or being forced to decide what to do or not to do. Then, the figures reveal themselves to be a part of a dozen or more men carrying with them a hooded chair. Inside the chair is a figure robed in blue. Having lived in China for a few years, Conway understands the ritual of meeting and how ceremonial it must be. As a result, he steps forward to follow the proper procedure, and the stranger follows suit and says he is from the lamasery of Shangri-La and his name is Chang. He speaks perfect English and insists that he guide them back to the lamasery. Conway agrees, but Mallinson insists that their stay won’t be long, because they want to return to civilization as soon possible. Chang responds, “Are you so very sure that you are away from it?” It is a significant comment foreshadowing the future. He further declares that the four passengers will be honorably treated, and that ultimately, they will have no regrets.

Chang then sees to it that they have wine and mangoes, a fruit that Conway cannot believe could be cultivated so high in the mountains. Once they are refreshed, the party begins its climb towards the lamasery, viewing a mountain that Conway has never heard of before - Karakal - in the distance. Conway wonders if the lamas have surveyed its height, and Chang only comments that there’s nothing incompatible between monasticism and trigonometry.

They walk all morning and into the afternoon, with the air becoming thinner and harder to breathe, while Change sleeps in his chair. They eventually reach the summit of the ridge and then link themselves together with heavy mountaineering ropes in order to be protected as they follow a track consisting of a traverse cut along the flank of a rock wall. The height above it is obscured by the mist, and below is an abyss. Meanwhile, most of the way on this track, Mallinson is begging Conway to decide what they are going to do. Conway replies that there are times in life when the most comfortable thing is to do nothing at all. He reminds the younger man that they may have just exchanged one lunacy for another, given that they have just escaped the torturous nightmare of Afghanistan.

Suddenly, being first of the four passengers, Conway sees the lamasery appear out of the mist. It is absolutely superb and exquisite, seeming to hang on the side of the next ridge. Meanwhile, in the valley below, is a delightfully flavored place awash in green. He feels “the deeper sensation, half mystical, half visual, of having reached at last some place that is an end, a finality.” Chang then awakes and makes the mysterious comment that he has slept, because he “has to take care of himself.” He indicates that they will be given the opportunity to bathe and refresh themselves, and then he will be honored if they all join him for dinner. Mallinson agrees, but only if Chang will help them make plans for their departure.


Much of this chapter is a series of foreshadowing: Conway preferring not to be a leader, but accepting the role anyway; Chang, a Chinese, who speaks perfect English; Chang’s comments that they may not be away from civilization at all and that they will ultimately have no regrets about coming to Shangri-La; seeing a new mountain, Karakal; Conway’s feeling that he has at last found a place which is an end, a finality; and Chang’s explanation for his nap that he has to take care of himself. All of these events indicate that Shangri-La is a mysterious, unknown place that will bring all four of these “captives” to discover a world that may or may not bring them peace and happiness.


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