Good-bye, Mr. Chips

by James Hilton

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Was Ralston's opinion about Mr. Chips accurate?

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Goodbye, Mr. Chips is narrated in the third person, but the narrator identifies closely with the protagonist and tells the story from his viewpoint. Almost the first thing we hear of Ralston is that Chips dislikes him, and this dislike is clearly linked to the efficiency, ruthlessness, and ambition which make his character so antithetical to that of Chips and, for that matter, Brookfield School. The school to which Chips devotes his life is a perfect fit for his own personality and abilities. Hilton writes:

Chips, in any social or academic sense, was just as respectable, but no more brilliant, than Brookfield itself.

Ralston regards Chips's teaching methods as "slack and old-fashioned." It may be rather harsh to accuse Chips of slackness, but he is not a particularly good scholar and is certainly old-fashioned. Ralston is probably correct to think that Brookfield could achieve better academic results and become a more prestigious institution with younger, more dynamic teachers.

In this sense, Ralston is right, but he does not see the value of mid-range schools such as Brookfield or, for that matter, of average students, which is why he does not appreciate the solidity and integrity of Chips. Sir John Rivers, the Chairman of the Governors and a former pupil of Chips who was "not a very brilliant boy in class," takes his side against Ralston. The situation is resolved amicably, as Chips stays at Brookfield where he belongs, while Ralston moves on to "the headship of one of the greater public schools," which was what he always wanted.

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