The Utopian Philosophy of Shangri-La in James Hilton's Lost Horizon Essay

The Utopian Philosophy of Shangri-La in James Hilton's Lost Horizon Essay

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The Utopian Philosophy of Shangri-La in James Hilton's Lost Horizon

 
For some people life may not be satisfactory. Life has many troubles including death, pain, and suffering. It leaves little hope. There are ways in which people can live to have a good life. This method of how a person should live is viewed differently thoughout the world. James Hilton represents this combination of ideas and cultures in the novel, Lost Horizon (1933). This novel tells the tale of four distinctively different people retreating from a war zone. In their retreat they are kidnapped and taken by plane deep into the Himalayan mountain wilderness. Little did they know that here in the confines of the mountains there is a paradise. This paradise is called Shangri-La and is a Tibetan Monastery and community in a place of splendid beauty. Surprisingly, the kidnapped group finds that they are considered guests in this elevated community. They are apprehensive of the cerebrated treatment that they receive, but soon accept and enjoy their "misfortune." Shangri-La is a paradise, but the guests become held prisoner to pleasure and happiness.

In the time they spend at Shangri-La they learn that this is a Utopia where they do not age. Because of the people's long life, they find time to become educated and "achieve calmness and profundity, ripeness and wisdom, and the clear enchantment of memory" (155). Surprisingly, the paradise is rich in culture. It contained work of art that "museums and millionaire alike would have bargained for" (94). Along with the arts, Shangri-La's library contains "a multitude of books … that the whole atmosphere was more of wisdom than of learning" (95). The distinct philosophical views of Shangri-La create the essence of th...


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...bligation. Kant's theory to portray virtue is evident throughout the novel's setting to make sure that everyone will "find everything quite satisfactory" (68).
 
These four distinctively different philosophical theories create a complex web of mental environment, which is the most important aspect of the setting in this novel. These philosophies are so effectively blended into the spirit of Shangri-La, that they created a new philosophical fusion: a perfect society. The philosophical beliefs of the Shangri-Lain culture is what frames it into a Utopia. The philosophy is not only the setting, it is the deeper meaning of the story. This setting gives hope to the weary, and may be a link into the development, through philosophical understanding, of a perfect world.


Works Cited

Hilton, James. Lost Horizon. PocketBooks: Simon & Schuster Inc. New York, 1960.

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