Student Question

What themes are developed in Lost Horizon?

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James Hilton's novel of a legendary Himalayan valley made the term "Shangri-La" part of the English language. One primary theme is the human tendency toward dissatisfaction. Another is the desire to prolong one's youth. Both fit with the moral aspect that longing for the unattainable can bring negative consequences.

Charles Mallinson falls under the spell of the mysterious lamasery and believes in his love for Lo Tsen. Disappointment awaits them when they fail to heed Hugh Conway's warning and leave the idyllic valley. The lovely young woman he desired turns into her real, elderly self.

Conway turns his back on his desire to stay and have eternal youth, opting for the mundane world. Arriving there at last, he regrets his choice and he, along with the reader, is left to wonder if he will ever regain what he has cast aside.

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