Lost Horizon : Summary of Epilogue
Summary of Epilogue
The narrator meets Rutherford again some time later in Delhi. He knows from the newspapers that Rutherford has returned from Kashgar. They go to Rutherford’s hotel room and the narrator asks if he has been searching for Conway?
Rutherford knew he couldn’t find Conway, but he went in search of news of him and to confirm the details of the story. The trail ended in upper Siam, so he has been looking for Shangri-la itself. The narrator thinks the manuscript is fascinating, providing Rutherford got the detail right. Rutherford though it was a story worth investigating and traveled thousands of miles to do so. He was not allowed to enter Tibet. He did meet an American traveler who had been to Tibet where stories of long-lived lamas are common. He reported seeing a Chinese lama who spoke English in a hooded chair in 1911. The man invited him to a nearby lamasery, but the American did not go. Rutherford did confirm the kidnapping of the plane, and he tracked the German that Conway met—Meister, who disappeared in Tibet in 1887. He couldn’t verify the other names like Perrault or Henschell.
Obviously, Mallinson never reached China. Rutherford went back to the hospital at Chung-Kiang to question them about how Conway got to that hospital with amnesia. The doctor remembered that he was brought in by a Chinese woman, very old, who then died. Rutherford and the narrator agree that the whole story is “an exercise in the balancing of probabilities” (p. 209) and is therefore, inconclusive. The narrator asks a last question of Rutherford: “Do you think he will ever find it?” (p. 211).
Commentary on the Epilogue
There are a few tantalizing facts to suggest the story is true, such as the glimpse of someone like Chang, and the old woman who might have been an aged Lo-Tsen, but they are vague and inconclusive. One feels though the narrator and Rutherford try to reason and weigh the evidence, they are like Conway himself, wanting Shangri-la to be real. Rutherford is so taken with the idea, he searches for it. Hilton leaves the reader slightly unsatisfied and leaning forward in the chair, waiting to be told Shangri-la exists and that Conway got back. He skillfully evokes the desire in everyone for such a place. The 1937 Capra film version actually shows a last scene of a half-dead Conway finding the pass to his beloved valley once more. The book, however, keeps it a mystery.