Tuesdays with Morrie

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The Natural World and Morrie's Hibiscus Symbol Analysis

The Natural World and Morrie's Hibiscus Symbol Icon

Part of Morrie's personal culture includes taking walks outside, and he shows a great appreciation for nature. Even when he is no longer able to go outside, and even gets a chill sitting next to an open window on an 80-degree day, he still insists on sitting by the window in his office. Nature, the changing of the seasons, and the life cycles of plants with the seasons allude to the cyclical nature of life and death. In particular, Morrie takes great interest in the hibiscus plant outside his window. It is full and vibrant when Mitch begins his Tuesday visits. By the time of Morrie's death, the hibiscus well on its way to losing all of its leaves for the winter. There is sadness in this “death” of the plant – a sadness connected to Morrie’s own death, of course – but there is also joy in the fact that the plant is part of a cycle, that it will live on when spring returns. This idea of the cycle of life becomes increasingly important to Morrie as he approaches death, and is important to the book as well. After all Tuesdays with Morrie can be seens as a kind of rebirth for Morrie, a continuation of his cycle. It comes as no surprise, then, that Morrie is very deliberate in his choice of burial location, making sure to choose a spot that is naturally beautiful. In this way, he ensures that in his death, the living will be able to appreciate life as they admire the beauty around them when visiting his grave. As the weeks progress, Mitch also becomes more attuned to the beauty of the natural world, noticing on his final visit the many plants in Morrie's front yard as he makes the final internal shift towards fully appreciating life in the face of death.

The Natural World and Morrie's Hibiscus Quotes in Tuesdays with Morrie

The Tuesdays with Morrie quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Natural World and Morrie's Hibiscus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Teaching and Learning Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Broadway Books edition of Tuesdays with Morrie published in 2002.
The Thirteenth Tuesday Quotes

Then I'd go for a walk, in a garden with some trees, watch their colors, watch the birds, take in the nature that I haven't seen in so long now.
In the evening, we'd all go together to a restaurant with some great pasta, maybe some duck—I love duck—and then we'd dance the rest of the night. I'd dance with all the wonderful dance partners out there, until I was exhausted.

Related Characters: Morrie Schwartz (speaker), Mitch Albom
Related Symbols: Food, The Natural World and Morrie's Hibiscus, Dance
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

Morrie is describing his perfect day for Mitch. The fact that what Morrie describes is so ordinary is indicative of the way Morrie lives his life and practices his personal culture, as Morrie doesn't choose to do something flashy or ostentatious. Instead, he wants to do the most normal of things—swimming, spending time with friends, eating, and dancing. While Morrie's personal culture is focused primarily on finding joy in simple things and relationships, the fact that he would choose to spend his last perfect day in this way points to just how invested he is in this way of living.

This speech also is where we see all three positive symbols (dance, eating, and nature) combine, and see how they play into Morrie's culture. Nature is a way to move, slowly and with the purpose of admiring the beauty of the world. Eating is a way to build community and experience joy, as is dancing.

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Conclusion Quotes

The last class of my old professor's life took place once a week, in his home, by a window in his study where he could watch a small hibiscus plant shed its pink flowers. The class met on Tuesdays. No books were required. The subject was the meaning of life. It was taught from experience.
The teaching goes on.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz
Related Symbols: The Natural World and Morrie's Hibiscus
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the final passage of the book. The words here are the same as the opening lines of the text, save for the addition of the final line. This repetition serves several purposes. First, repetition in general is used throughout the text to emphasize and remind the reader of important points, such as Auden's "love each other or perish" and Morrie's mantra "when you learn how to die, you learn how to live." This ties back to Morrie's way of teaching. As Mitch notes on page 82, rather than make a student potentially feel dumb by asking them if they understand a point, Morrie prefers simply to repeat a point for emphasis. Here, although the idea is Morrie's, they're Mitch's words, which further reinforces the idea of teaching as a cycle. Mitch is borrowing Morrie's method and repeating himself, adding the final line as a nod to the nature of books and education as something living that continues after a class is over or a book has been finished. This cements Mitch's role as the new teacher, and allows the reader to also step into that role as they apply what they take away from reading the book to their own lives.

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The Natural World and Morrie's Hibiscus Symbol Timeline in Tuesdays with Morrie

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Natural World and Morrie's Hibiscus appears in Tuesdays with Morrie. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Curriculum
Teaching and Learning Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...life. He describes where it was taught – Morrie's study, where Morrie could see his hibiscus plant, on Tuesdays – and what was taught: The Meaning of Life. Mitch lists the... (full context)
The Fourth Tuesday: We Talk About Death
Teaching and Learning Theme Icon
Culture and Religion Theme Icon
Movement and Change Theme Icon
...Mitch can experience the natural world outside and Morrie can't. Morrie says he appreciates watching nature happen outside the window like he's seeing it for the first time. Both of them... (full context)
The Sixth Tuesday: We Talk About Emotions
Death Theme Icon
Movement and Change Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
Mitch walks up the driveway to Morrie's house, noticing the plants planted in front of the house. Charlotte, Morrie's wife, answers the door—an unusual event, since... (full context)
The Ninth Tuesday: We Talk About How Love Goes On
Teaching and Learning Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Culture and Religion Theme Icon
Movement and Change Theme Icon
...although he insists on spending his days in his study so he can watch his hibiscus plant, saying to Mitch "when you're in bed, you're dead." (full context)
The Twelfth Tuesday: We Talk About Forgiveness
Teaching and Learning Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...allows him to make things right. Mitch continues to rub Morrie's feet and notices the hibiscus plant is still holding on in the window. (full context)
The Thirteenth Tuesday: We Talk About the Perfect Day
Teaching and Learning Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Culture and Religion Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
Morrie asks to see the hibiscus plant, and Mitch holds it up so Morrie can see. Morrie says that dying is... (full context)
Teaching and Learning Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Culture and Religion Theme Icon
Movement and Change Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
...see friends in small groups for lunch. He'd then go for a walk and admire nature, and in the evening they'd go to a restaurant with good pasta and duck, and... (full context)
The Fourteenth Tuesday: We Say Good-Bye
Death Theme Icon
Movement and Change Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
...come visit. As Mitch walks up the path to Morrie's house, he notices all the plants and details as though he's seeing them for the first time. Connie answers the door... (full context)
Conclusion
Teaching and Learning Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Culture and Religion Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
...place once a week on Tuesdays, next to a window where Morrie could watch his hibiscus plant. No books were required, and the subject was the meaning of life, taught from... (full context)