The title Good-bye, Mr. Chips is taken from an expression that appears twice in the novel. On the night before their wedding, Katherine whispers “Good-bye, Mr. Chips” in the belief that, once they are married, they will never be the same again. Near the end of the novel, Linford, a new boy at school, departs from tea with the aged teacher with the words “Good-bye, Mr. Chips,” unaware that Chips will die the next day. These two episodes illustrate the factors that give Chips’s life its meaning: Katherine and the students of Brookfield School. From Katherine, Chips learns to temper justice with mercy and to balance learning with love, gentleness, and an appreciation of beauty. From his students, Chips derives his whole reason for living. The students of Brookfield School become Chips’s children, and he remembers their names and faces all the rest of his life. As he lies on his deathbed, Mr. Chips overhears one of the masters saying what a pity it was Chips never had children. At this, the old man opens his eyes and says “But I have, you know . . . I have . . . thousands of ’em . . . and all boys.”
Good-bye, Mr. Chips provides a nostalgic portrait of a teacher whose life is dedicated to his students. Although the schooling familiar to today’s juvenile and young adult readers differs sharply from that described in the novel, they will see many parallels between Mr. Chips and their own favorite teachers. In fact, shortly...
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