Novel into Film
Use the following questions and activities to consider the choices the filmmakers made in adapting this book to the screen.
- The classic opening of this story -- Chips comes to Brookfield, meets the headmaster, and teaches his first, rebellious class -- are rendered in the just over two pages of the first chapter of the novel. (Read from the paragraph that begins "Anno domini...by Jove, yes" through the next two and a half pages to "He had won his first round.") Compare this terse telling to the more elaborate version on film. How do the use of camera angles, especially, help the viewer feel the nervous excitement Chips is feeling? (Note: students should observe how few shots are actually on Mr. Chips's face, and how many either pose him against the grandeur of the school buildings, spy on him through windows, watch him from behind, or show his insecure position in other ways.)
- How many ways can you think of in which Chips is like his school? The novel describes Chips as "just as respectable, but no more brilliant, than Brookfield itself." How does the film manage to show this same concept?
- This film version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips has a great deal more drama than the novel. Compare scenes such as Chips's first meeting with a class of boys; the portrayal of bullying; the fight with Headmaster Ralston; and the air raid scene in the book, which becomes a crashing airplane in the film. Why do you think the filmmakers heightened these scenes in this way? Do you think it is more effective for a contemporary audience? Why or why not?
- A major turning point in Mr. Chips's life is his meeting Kathie. In the novel, Hilton can simply tell readers about Chips's internal changes:
A film, however, does not generally "tell" about a character's internal changes, but has to find ways to show them instead. How does the film illustrate Hilton's passage?
She made him, to all appearances, a new man; though most of the newness was really a warming to life of things that were old, imprisoned, and unguessed.... He began to feel a greater sureness; his discipline improved to a point at which it could become, in a sense, less rigid; he became more popular. When he had first come to Brookfield he had aimed to be loved, honored, and obeyed -- but obeyed, at any rate. Obedience he had secured, and honor had been granted him; but only now came love....
- When Goodbye, Mr. Chips was first written, World War I had been over only 16 years. The 1939 version of the movie, too, could presume audiences had lived through the War. How does this 2002 version bring home to an audience nearly 100 years later what it must have been like to live in England in this era?
- Goodbye, Mr. Chips is a very sentimental story, a famous "weeper" in both its original and film versions. How does this version of the story work to play on the audience's emotions? At what points did you feel especially emotional as you watched? Replay those parts, and notice how the camera angles, lighting, music, acting, cutting between scenes, or any other aspects of the filmmakers' art enhanced how you felt. What could you do if you wanted to re-film or rewrite those same scenes to make them less emotional?
- Some say that Goodbye, Mr. Chips is a dated and irrelevant story; others say that it is a timeless classic. Given the ways this film has updated the story, take a position on this in either a persuasive essay or a debate.
Using Goodbye, Mr. Chips in the Classroom
Goodbye, Mr. Chips: Plot Summary | Time & Place: English Public Schools
Discussion Questions and Activities | Novel into Film
The School Experience: An Inquiry | Resources | Teacher's Guide Credits
Essays + Interviews | Who's Who/Cast + Credits
Story Synopsis | Novel to Film | Russell Baker
Links + Bibliography | Teacher's Guide | The Forum
About The Series |
The American Collection |
Schedule & Season |
Feature Library |
Learning Resources |