Goodbye, Mr. Chips

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When my cousin who’s about to complete his University expressed his dislike for James Hilton’s Goodbye Mr.Chips, I became defensive and wasted no time in suggesting that story is not that much boring and while we were busy sharing our thoughts, my uncle who himself read this story in his intermediate course intervened and also showed his lack of interest about the atmosphere in Mr. Chips.

It’s been thirty years that Mr. Chips is a part of intermediate course in my country and for some time a debate is going about removing it from syllabus.

Mr. Chips is a story of a school teacher about which it’s said that Hilton created this character after his father.

Originally written in 1934, the story is adapted into cinemafilms and two television presentations.

When some people are of the view that it should be removed and replaced by some modern tale, my mind takes me back to the time when our teacher would ask one of us to read a chapter from Mr. Chips and later she would translate it in Urdu for us.

At the end of lecture we were asked to prepare notes from guide books.

It was her way of teaching literature and this is the common way in which the novella is taught to our students in colleges.

Eminent Professor Bhem Singh Dihya from India always reminds his students that literature is a study of life and we cannot study Mr.Chips without establishing its connection with life.

In life, we often meet persons like Mr. Chips. They’re ordinary in appearances but they possessed some some special qualities.

Hilton’s character Mr. Chips knew how to teach languages and with this quality, he succeeded in leaving strong impact upon generation of students in his time.

Mr. Chips was a sincere soul and as a teacher, he did hardwork to achieve a high status at a Brookfield school.

How can we say that the world of Mr. Chips has grown old when themes of sincerity and hardwork towards one’s job are still relevant in our society of 2018?

Another criticism which is put forward by the opponents of this story is about love affair of Mr. Chips. They consider Katherine and Chips relation dull and boring.

Unlike modern tale of Twilight series, the love affair of Katherine and Chips was such that there’s lack of show of emotions in it but the reader needs to study the underlying theme in this love story of Katherine and Chips.

Katherine’s influence changed not only chauvinistic attitude of Mr. Chips but also altered him in a way that he became more effective teacher in a class.

How can we consider such kind of love dull when its influence alters personality to that much extent?

It somehow takes me back to 2008 when suicide attacks were common in country.  Once it happened that while we were in class a suicide blast killed dozens of policemen near our University. Confusion erupted among students and phones started to ring immediately. Other teachers informed our Professor but he continued giving his lecture.

Our minds were so occupied with the situation outside that we didn’t grasp a thing from his lecture.

Now, there’s a scene in Hilton’s story where Mr. Chips in the midst of bombing not only kept on teaching Latin but also carried on cracking jokes so to divert the attention of frightened students in his class.

Our teacher on that day in our University class didn’t try to calm us down. He only wanted to complete his lecture and though he succeeded in doing so, he unlike Mr. Chips failed to leave any impact upon his students.

When my cousin is of the view that reading Mr. Chips is a mere waste of time, I’m of the opinion that it’s not the time to say good bye to Mr. Chips. Literature never gets old. It can’t be associated with certain time period and keeping this in view we still can learn a lot from Mr. Chips.




5 thoughts on “Goodbye, Mr. Chips

  1. What a delightful read! I love literature and I agree with Paul, it’s not always the story but the way the story is delivered. My love of books stemmed from my primary school teacher who read with such passion and really got into character – she mostly read us Roald Dahl and from that time on, I was hooked. So much so that when I became a teaching assistant I ran a Story Corner Club where the children would dress up on character and we’d act out the story together in dress up and props. It was a very popular club (50+) children, and what I loved the most was that many children who struggled to read could access the power of story 🌈 Whether you love Mr Chips or you don’t, he certainly stimulated some great conversations here between you and Paul, and for that, I like Mr Chips 😉


  2. What an interesting post. I like your interpretation of “Goodbye Mr. Chips.” I think you’re exactly right too. Hilton’s novel is slow-paced and of course that’s not always everyone’s cup of tea.

    I never forget talking with some old school lit professor friends and we mentioned teaching novels we love to read. One prof quickly stated that he never taught novels that he himself enjoyed reading. “What?” we responded. He told us that the disappointment of hearing students talk about how terrible and boring the novel was to them would be too painful. I think I know what he means.

    I truly believe one of the side-effects of our “instant-gratification technology” is that it trains people to become less attentive to “anything” that isn’t hyped or full of spectacle. People want all “show” and absolutely no “tell.” And the “show” has to be fireworks not a relaxing fire in the fireplace.

    Nevertheless, I also agree that Literature never ages. It sustains us, always, through difficult times as well as moments of easy-going peace.

    Really great post. Thank you, Madeeha, for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sir, for reading and sharing your thoughts.
      I didn’t know that professors can think in such a way about teaching their favorite novels. It’s interesting for me.
      I remember, I once asked you about some good books and though you shared some names of writers like Anthony Trollope to read but you also mentioned you’re not in favour of recommending books.
      As a teacher what do you think is a proper way to introduce students to books?
      Do they need to read whatever they like or do you want them to get themselves acquainted with some particular era or writer first?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What an interesting question and a very good one at that. I realized after a number of years of teaching that students were often attracted to literature for reasons I hadn’t even considered! For instance, I remember a student telling me how she became interested in reading when she saw my enthusiasm as I taught literature. It wasn’t the book I was teaching it was the way I approached it. That was a epiphany for me. Now what’s important is to realize that the above student was one who basically saw books and reading as boring. Once she got past that, she started reading more. And also, I think it is absolutely imperative to resist the idea that students “must” be force-fed “great” literature. It never works. If by “students” you mean young people then the best bet are books relevant to their own experience. The key is developing a reading habit. If an “older” college age student hates to read, well, good luck. The desire to read is something that is developed early on. I remember my fifth grade teacher reading to us…something I think is critical. My own love for literature I believe stems from that experience, being read to! I often read aloud in my classes. I remember students asking to do so. And so I did. I can’t say if that got students to read, but as I’ve already mentioned it reflected a love for words, for narrative that engages one’s imagination.

        If a student hates reading, your success to get that person to read is next to nil. But if a student is open to the reading experience then it is always the best thing to give that student something he or she will enjoy. Instead of Moby Dick give the student Catcher in the Rye.

        So, to answer more directly your last question. If a student wants to read Jhumpa Lahiri then that’s great. Move that student to that novel. Let them what they want to read and very slowly, cautiously introduce that student to another writer who works with similar themes. Nurture the reading habit by any means available. it can be destroyed so easily.

        I recall reading an assessment report on a very rigid professor. One of his students wrote: “I used to love reading, now I hate books.” How depressing that was.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Ah, the last line is very sad. This forcre-fed way of reading literature never works, I’ve experienced it. Your explanation was very helpful and I can relate to it for I and my siblings were introduced to books when we were kids. As a child my younger sister loved reading books but gradually she’s losing her interest. It’s not that she hates reading but maybe it’s due to fact that she didn’t like us reminding her all the time to spend more time on reading.
          Thank you, Sir for your response!

          Liked by 1 person

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