Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Good-bye, Mr. Chips is an episodic novel about the most beloved teacher at a British preparatory school. Although many of its vignettes appear in chronological order, the novel has no single narrative. It achieves its unity, not through a single story line but through the figure of Chips himself. Each episode provides another detail about the novel’s central character and the crucial role that he played in the lives of his students.

Mr. Chips is a composite of the “ideal teacher,” a representation of the dedication and love found in all who excel at this profession. Nevertheless, James Hilton takes great pains to make Mr. Chips seem ordinary. He is not the greatest scholar on the faculty of Brookfield School. He does not win the admiration of his pupils through skill at games or athletics. He was not even a particularly good teacher or administrator when he was young. Rather, like many other teachers, he improved year by year, eventually coming to symbolize Brookfield School.

Mr. Chips was born in 1848 and visited the Great Exhibition (also known as the Crystal Palace Exhibition) in London when he was three years old. In 1870, he was hired by Brookfield School’s old master, Wetherby, who died the following summer. In later years, he would be the only teacher left who recalled the school’s early days.

Mr. Chips is recognizable everywhere because of his tattered academic gown, a habit of interjecting the words...

(The entire section is 529 words.)