Good-bye, Mr. Chips

by James Hilton

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Is Goodbye, Mr. Chips a romantic novel?

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A novel that is built more like a reverie about the life and times of Mr. Chipping, the work is highly romantic in many aspects.  One such way is to create a sense of permanence in impermanent times.  In making Mr. Chips a stalwart of Brookfield, Hilton creates the idea that human beings are capable of representing a sense of lasting memory and legacy in a world that seems increasingly devoid of it.  This is an immediate hearkening back to Shelley's desire for immortality in poems such as "Ozymandias."  Hilton seems to be suggesting that ordinary people such as Mr. Chips can be the statue that does not erode or represent atrophy.  Mr. Chips lasts through economic crisis, global conflict, changing times and perceptions, as well as students and headmasters.  He teaches generations from the same family and as seen as the human embodiment of Brookfield.  This is highly Romantic in both scope and vision.  Another element of Romanticism present is the idea that emotional attachment to one's labor is evident.  Mr. Chips is not some disenchanted secondary school teacher who is alienated from his work.  He remembers the names of his students, and also understands the importance of his work.  He is linked to both the content of what he teaches, as evidenced during the Air Raid, and the people to whom he must teach, as evidenced in the care he displays towards the younger student who is able to claim to be the last one to speak to Mr. Chips.  Finally, the work is Romantic because it yearns for what has passed.  When Mr. Chips dies, the reader seeks to scroll through their own mind to investigate if they have experienced a Mr. Chips in their own life.  This emotional connection to the work is another element of Romanticism for it displays a longing to connect to something that might be gone.

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