paper chase

The Paper Chase

The Paper Chase is a 1970 novel, as well as a 1973 film based on the novel and a television series based on the movie.

Written by John Jay Osborn, Jr., a 1970 graduate of Harvard Law School, the book tells the story of Hart, a first-year law student at Harvard, and his experiences with Professor Charles Kingsfield, the brilliant, demanding Contracts instructor whom he both idolizes and finds incredibly intimidating.


The story centers on Hart, a brilliant young law student from the U.S. Midwest who attends Harvard Law School and becomes obsessed with one of his teachers, Professor Charles W. Kingsfield, Jr. Hart becomes an expert on Kingsfield's subject, Contracts; he reads everything about the subject, including all of Kingsfield's papers, most of which are not on the reading list. He goes so far as to break into the law library to read Kingsfield's original law school notes. Hart becomes such an expert that Kingsfield asks him to contribute to a paper.

At the same time he begins a relationship with a woman named Susan Field who turns out to be Kingsfield's daughter. Susan stands aloof from the law-school rat-race and is able to dismiss all the things Hart cares about the most.

The story unfolds in philosophic manner too. At the end of the term, Professor Kingsfield really means something in his students life but he still doesn't know their names. For him, it is only a group of people, names on a paper. He doesn't even recognize the protagonist Mr. Hart after several encounters, debates, insults and so on.

At the end, after so much of effort and success in exam, grades comes and he doesn't open it but throws in air, climbing a rock in beach where he is about to marry the same professor's daughter who just got the divorce from her former husband. They say together "It is again just another bunch of papers".


The novel is divided into three sections: Fall (chapters 1–15), Winter (chapters 16–33), and Spring (chapters 34–58).

Chapters 1, 3, 13, 27, and 35 begin with quotes that set the tone for those chapters.

30th anniversary edition

In 2003 a 30th-anniversary edition of The Paper Chase was released by Whitston Publishing which contains both a new preface and an afterword by the author, with the latter containing material deleted from the original novel.



The 1973 movie, based "almost word for word" on the novel according to Osborn, starred John Houseman as Kingsfield and Timothy Bottoms as Hart.

Television series

The CBS television network aired a one-hour drama series in the 19781979 season based on the movie. John Houseman reprised his movie role, and James Stephens played Hart. In 1983, pay-cable network Showtime brought back the show with both Houseman and Stephens. At the end of three seasons on Showtime, Hart finally graduated from law school.


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