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In 1870, Mr. Charles Chipping, an unsophisticated, dour young man, embarks on a teaching career at Brookfield, an English boys school steeped in tradition. Chipping is a kindhearted man who takes pity on a homesick young boy he meets on the train to Brookfield. His initial lack of authority in the classroom, however, results in a chaotic outburst from the boys and a severe reprimand from his headmaster. Determined to stay at Brookfield, Chipping soon becomes a strict disciplinarian, disdained by the boys and looked upon condescendingly by his fellow instructors. As the years pass, Chipping enters middle age with a sad longing to be liked by the boys for whom he has such affection, but he is unable to put aside his stern facade. His lack of rapport with his students has also prevented him from becoming a headmaster, a position for which Chipping has always yearned. One summer, Max Staefel, a German master who is Chipping's only friend, suggests that they take a walking tour of Austria together. During a dense fog, Chipping encounters Katherine Ellis, a modern young Englishwoman who is enchanted by his kindness and old-fashioned manners. Although Chipping falls in love with Kathy, he thinks that their different personalities and ages would make marriage impossible, and she leaves the inn at which they are staying uncertain of his true feelings. When they meet again in Vienna, their love deepens, and just as Kathy is leaving to return to England with her friend Flora, Chipping proposes. At the beginning of the new term at Brookfield, the students and staff are amused by the thought of Chipping's marriage and are shocked to see how attractive and charming Kathy is. With her gentle guidance, "Chips," as she calls him, allows his kind nature to emerge and thereby gains the respect and affection of students and faculty. Although Kathy dies in childbirth, Chips's enduring love for her helps him to maintain his blossomed personality and advance his career. Years later, when an elderly Chips is given notice by a new headmaster who wants to "modernize" the school, the boys, along with their parents, many of whom as students had also grown to love Chips, demand that the headmaster ask Chips to stay on. Several years later, when Chips does retire, he maintains a cottage near the school and continues his closeness with the boys, entertaining them after school and listening to their troubles. When World War I begins and many of the masters enlist in the army, Chips is asked to return to the school and serve as its headmaster, the position for which he and Kathy had wished years before. After the war, Chips returns to retirement, but still stays in close contact with the boys. He dies dreaming of all his past students not long after young Peter Colley III, the youngest of a family of boys whom Chips had taught through the years, waves to him and says "Goodbye, Mr. Chips."