James Hilton’s novel Goodbye, Mr. Chips is the story of an English schoolmaster who dedicated his entire adult life teaching young boys. He was a somewhat shy person. Nevertheless he was a competent school teacher, professional and attractive in many different ways. Although his first teaching experience was not successful, he was determined to become a good schoolmaster. After coming to Brookfield, he began to warm up to his students. But more important he brought discipline to his school which is the requirement for good teaching—something he did not achieve while teaching at Melbery.
After teaching 25 years at Brookfield, Chips was still unmarried. Everyone thought that he would never get married because he had passed the usual marrying age. But, he did marry and it happened under unusual conditions. He went on a trip to the Lake district of England and there, he met his future wife, Katherine Bridges. During the trip, he was climbing a steep hill when he saw a woman from far waving at someone down below. The woman was standing on a dangerous-looking ledge and appeared to be asking for help. Chips thought that she needed to be rescued and proceeded to help her. Instead of helping her, he hurt his ankle, and in the end, she ended up helping Chips. Within weeks after their first meeting, they fell in love with each other and before the end of summer, they got married.
Katherine deeply loved Chips and he loved her in return. Within a short time, the charming Katherine turned Mr. chips into an good-natured gentleman who was adored by his students. He was changed by the power of love. Chips became a kind, congenial, friendly individual to everyone—so much so that he became the most beloved teacher at Brookfield. Full of enthusiasm, young English schoolmaster Mr. Chipping came to teach at Brookfield in 1870. It was a time when dignity and a kindness of spirit still existed, and the dedicated new schoolmaster expressed these beliefs to his disorderly students. Nicknamed Mr. Chips, this gentle and caring man helped shape the lives of generation after generation of boys. He became a legend at Brookfield, as continuing as the institution itself. And sad but grateful faces told the story when the time came for the students at Brookfield to bid their final goodbye to Mr. Chips.
This novel Goodbye, Mr...
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...ool’s war dead; for everyone else they are just names, but for Chips, each name has a face attached. After the War the retireds, after 42 years teaching Roman History and Latin at Brookfield.
Mr. Chips is the living personification of institutional memory. The classes of boys, the teachers and headmasters, even the subjects and teaching methods, come and go, but Chips has remained throughout. He “still had those ideas of dignity and generosity that a frantic world was forgetting.” He embodies the pre-War world and its values. In the very middle of an era that was witnessing an unregulated attack on all of the West’s institutions and values, Hilton created Mr. Chips, it represent the conservative ideal—providing a bridge of memory to all that is beautiful and good and decent in our past, just in case, in our zeal to create a perfect world, we forget the qualities and accomplishments which give us the pretty good world in which we live.
This book is unabashedly sentimental. I appreciate the sensitivity non-political way in which they make the most important of political points: even as we move forward we must always preserve those things and ideas of value in our past.
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