Tuesdays with Morrie

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Themes and Colors
Teaching and Learning Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Culture and Religion Theme Icon
Movement and Change Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Tuesdays with Morrie, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Movement and Change Theme Icon

Tuesdays with Morrie is very concerned with the act of moving through time and space. Movement is treated in turn as inevitable, a privilege, scary, and necessary. Morrie is dying of ALS, a disease that progressively limits its victims’ ability to move. As such, the text is constantly updating the reader as to Morrie's current ability, or lack thereof, regarding movement. The reader is asked to consider what it means to have the ability to move through space, and what it means to lose that ability. The ability to move through time and change with age, especially, is treated as a very special thing. It is a prerequisite for then being able to love, create one's own culture, and eventually die.

The book consistently references dance as it explores movement. Morrie loved to dance in his youth and into his old age, until ALS began to take away his ability to walk. Yet, even after Morrie is confined to a wheelchair and eventually, his bed, Mitch often describes Morrie's hand movements and his thoughts in terms of dance and expressive, physical movement. Through this juxtaposition, the book both shows how age and disease diminish movement and, by extension, diminish life, but also that movement never ceases. The joy of movement remains available to Morrie, even as it diminishes. Dance and movement symbolize freedom for Morrie. However, he also finds a sense of freedom in being cared for as he loses his ability to care for himself, likening it to being a child and receiving unconditional love and care.

Movement is also explored in more metaphoric ways. At the beginning of the story, Mitch is moving at breakneck speed in his job as a sports reporter. He does a million things at once, trying to get ahead and find some sort of fulfillment. When compared to Morrie's conception of fulfillment, though, Mitch is at zero, and it isn't until he stops moving, thanks to the newspaper strike that puts him out of a newspaper job, that he can start moving in more meaningful ways. The book then makes the point that simply moving for movement's sake, or for the wrong goals, provides no joy. It is purposeful movement, motivated by engagement with the world, with others, and with one's own true desires, that brings joy and fulfillment.

The text focuses as well on movement through time and space in larger increments. Flashbacks take the reader back in time to Morrie and Mitch's younger days, and each week, Mitch travels 700 miles to visit Morrie. Mitch's physical travels outside of Detroit also bring him to internal places of decision-making, change, and growth. It is through his visits with Morrie that he is able to evaluate his current lifestyle and make changes for the better. The act of physical movement, then, becomes the overarching external action that causes internal reflection and change. In particular, the vignettes from Mitch and Morrie's early relationship stand in stark contrast to the person that Mitch became later in life. The vignettes show Mitch as a sensitive and idealistic person, while the present Mitch is hardened and materialistic. Yet, the book also suggests that he is capable of change, as his relationship and his lessons with Morrie show him returning to a more fulfilling way of living.

The book, then, shows that movement and change are always possible, even when they seem impossible. Just as Morrie's hands and thoughts can still dance despite not being able to roll over in bed or use the toilet unassisted, Mitch is able to change the course of his life despite it seeming as though his choices have locked him into a certain life. The reader is presented with the idea that movement and change are critically important, and that the two are prerequisites for being able to love, interact with and create culture, and ultimately, to face the final change of life: death.

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Movement and Change Quotes in Tuesdays with Morrie

Below you will find the important quotes in Tuesdays with Morrie related to the theme of Movement and Change.
The Curriculum Quotes

"Mitch, you are one of the good ones," he says, admiring the briefcase. Then he hugs me. I feel his thin arms around my back. I am taller than he is, and when he holds me, I feel awkward, older, as if I were the parent and he were the child.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch is at his college graduation ceremony and is saying goodbye to Morrie. Morrie's statement that Mitch is "one of the good ones" marks Mitch from the beginning as a kindhearted individual, which creates a counterpoint for the hardened and more materialistic person Mitch will later become after graduation.

At this early stage, Mitch is willing and able to provide physical affection to Morrie, and while he admits feeling awkward during the hug, he's at least capable of showing emotion. This further develops young Mitch as an opposite type of character to the Mitch we'll come to know later in the present. By mentioning a familial relationship between him and Morrie, Mitch sets the scene for further exploration of the father/son relationship as it pertains to the two main characters.

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The Syllabus Quotes

Instead, he would make death his final project, the center point of his days. Since everyone was going to die, he could be of great value, right? He could be research. A human textbook. Study me in my slow and patient demise. Watch what happens to me. Learn with me.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

Morrie has just received his diagnosis of ALS from his doctor and experiences this thought and decision in the following days. Several important ideas coalesce here—first, we get a glimpse of Morrie's unwavering optimism. He makes the conscious decision to not just wither and be miserable with his fate; he decides instead to embrace it and fully experience what's going to happen. Then, we see that Morrie frames his life through teaching and learning, and this encompasses his greater community as well. By vowing to use himself as research and as a means to teach others about death, this central tenet of Morrie's life philosophy is fleshed out.

This statement can also be considered one of the overarching theses of the book, as through reading the text, the reader does just what Morrie asks— studying him, watching him, and learning with him.

The Student Quotes

After the funeral, my life changed. I felt as if time were suddenly precious, water going down an open drain, and I could not move quickly enough.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker)
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point, Mitch's favorite uncle has just died a painful death from pancreatic cancer. This is the first instance in the book where we see death as a catalyst for change. After experiencing his uncle's death, Mitch begins to quickly move away from the goal of the idealistic young musician he dreamed of being, and which Morrie encouraged him to pursue. The death of his uncle leads Mitch to move very quickly in a completely different direction, towards a life of acquiring material goods. With this transformation, the idea of movement for movement's sake is introduced. This idea will later be cast as a negative when compared to Morrie's way of living, and as it becomes apparent that Mitch feels little joy moving simply for the sake of moving.

Instead, I buried myself in accomplishments, because with accomplishments, I believed I could control things, I could squeeze in every last piece of happiness before I got sick and died, like my uncle before me, which I figured was my natural fate.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Janine
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Instead of starting a family with Janine, Mitch focuses on work in order to feel in control. Mitch never fully fleshes out why he feels that he will follow in his uncle's footsteps, but Mitch is driven through life by the idea that he too is going to die a horrible death. Rather than look for fulfillment in community or relationships, as Morrie will later suggest he do, Mitch tries to find meaning in his life through accomplishments and accumulating material goods. This early description of Mitch's character gives the reader a baseline for which to then judge Mitch's progress as he transforms through his visits with Morrie.

Seeing Mitch as someone who is successful by the standards of modern culture provides a counterpoint for Morrie's ideas of personal culture. Mitch is a living, breathing example of the kind of “success” that Morrie not only rails against, but believes is not true success. Mitch ultimately supports Morrie's belief, as he shares with the reader on several occasions that he felt unfulfilled despite having so much.

The Audiovisual Quotes

Do you prefer Mitch? Or is Mitchell better?

Related Characters: Morrie Schwartz (speaker), Mitch Albom
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch is in his first class with Morrie in 1976, and Morrie is calling attendance. By asking Mitch what he prefers to be called, Morrie makes several things clear. First, it's obvious that Morrie sees his students as individuals with individual nicknames and preferences, which Mitch says he's never experienced before. This is one of the reasons that Morrie is a good teacher, as he cares not just about the transfer of information, but puts more emphasis on building trust and a relationship with each student. In this way, this question is also a prime example of Morrie's desire to pay attention to people and make them feel like they matter. By doing this, Morrie continues to build community and strong relationships.

The Classroom Quotes

And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it.

Related Characters: Morrie Schwartz (speaker), Mitch Albom
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch is visiting Morrie for the first time, and after a silence that Mitch describes as awkward, Morrie jumps right into a brief discussion of modern culture. Throughout the text, Morrie consistently critiques the modern American culture of the 90s as materialistic and not conducive to a fulfilled and happy life. He is insistent that in order to become fulfilled, people must reject what modern culture holds up as important, such as money and accumulating material goods, in favor of building community and relationships.

Morrie's entire outlook on life and death has its roots in this statement. While death is universally unsettling and scary for many, Morrie chooses to completely accept his death and try to learn as much as possible as his health declines. Essentially, he rejects the overarching cultural narrative of fearing and avoiding death in favor of embracing it. Further, Morrie doesn't buy into the cultural worship of youth. Rather than see aging as decay, Morrie chooses to look at it as growth and development, casting a positive light on a subject so often considered negative.

Life is a series of pulls back and forth... A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. And most of us live somewhere in the middle.

Related Characters: Morrie Schwartz (speaker), Mitch Albom
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch and Morrie are sitting in Morrie's office in a flashback to Mitch's college days, and Mitch has been complaining to Morrie about the confusion he feels regarding his age and what he should be doing.

The concept of the tension of opposites describes what Mitch struggles with throughout the text. He knows he should be more like Morrie—more open with his emotions and more interested in relationships. Instead, he fills his life with work in the media, which represents the exact opposite way of living. As he works, Mitch accumulates material goods and achievements rather than positive personal relationships. He immerses himself in modern culture, and doesn't begin to return to a more fulfilled way of being until he reconnects with Morrie.

Throughout the book, Mitch mentions feeling at odds with what he knows he should be doing and what he's actually doing. As the weeks progress, Mitch chooses more often to follow Morrie's wisdom, which leads Mitch to a more comfortable and fulfilled place in the middle of the pulls.

The Second Tuesday Quotes

Holding him like that moved me in a way I cannot describe, except to say I felt the seeds of death inside his shriveling frame, and as I laid him in his chair, adjusting his head on the pillows, I had the coldest realization that our time was running out.
And I had to do something.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch has this chilling realization when he offers to lift Morrie from his wheelchair into his armchair in his office. This is the second instance for Mitch of death acting as a catalyst for change. Prior to this moment, it's unclear whether Mitch is going to continue visiting Morrie or not, and it's also unclear whether Mitch is going to take any of Morrie's wisdom and apply it to his life. This realization is what truly begins Mitch's pivot from hardened, materialistic, and superficial to someone who embodies Morrie's teachings.

Though this is the second time of death creating a change in Mitch, the change provoked this time around is much slower than the one that followed the death of his uncle. The change brought about by Morrie's death leads Mitch to movement that is purposeful and driven by love, rather than his previous movement for movement's sake that was driven by fear.

The Fourth Tuesday Quotes

“I'm going to say it again,” he said. “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” He smiled, and I realized what he was doing. He was making sure I absorbed this point, without embarrassing me by asking. It was part of what made him a good teacher.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz (speaker)
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

Sitting in Morrie's office, Mitch and Morrie are discussing death and the relationship of life to death. Part of what makes Morrie a good teacher is that he can turn the stuff of everyday life into a lesson on leading a more fulfilled life. However, it's often his lessons that are less overt that carry the most weight, as Mitch notes here. Morrie's teaching skills shine, as he carefully makes his point without making the statement something so major and imposing.

Morrie's statement itself can be read as a way in which to understand the book's purpose as a whole. The text is a meditation on death, but death is used as a catalyst for change for the living. Through the Tuesday visits and having to face Morrie's death on a weekly basis, Mitch is able to move to a more fulfilled state of being as he internalizes Morrie's lessons on death. Morrie himself says that now that he has to face his own death, his life is even fuller and more positive than it was before his diagnosis.

This method of teaching—of repetition, rather than overtly stressing a point—is carried throughout the text, as the phrase "once you learn how to die, you learn how to live" is repeated throughout. In this way, the reader is asked to consider the importance of the phrase in exactly the same manner that Mitch is.

The Sixth Tuesday Quotes

Charlotte glanced again at my food and I felt suddenly ashamed. All these reminders of things Morrie would never enjoy.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz, Charlotte
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch has been bringing food from Morrie's favorite deli for the last several weeks, but on this week Charlotte was home when Mitch arrived. She shared with Mitch that most of the food he's brought is now too difficult for Morrie to eat.

Food is very important to Morrie, although the act of eating itself is possibly even more important than the food itself. Morrie uses the act of eating with people as a way to build community. Mitch mentions fond memories of eating with Morrie in the Brandeis dining hall, which is one of the ways in which the two developed their relationship while Mitch was a student. By bringing food for Morrie each week, Mitch was attempting to recreate that sense of happiness and connection he felt in college.

At this point, however, we see how far the disease has progressed. Morrie can no longer eat the food because chewing is difficult and choking is a real possibility. Thus, this moment is one in which food shifts from being a positive symbol of friendship to a more tragic one, as a reminder of death.

The Seventh Tuesday Quotes

At seventy-eight, he was giving as an adult and taking as a child.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch has this realization after Morrie tells him that although he can no longer use the toilet unassisted, he's learning to enjoy being completely cared for like a child. The text draws a firm connection between the state of being a child and many of the positive aspects of Morrie's personal culture, such as unconditional love, care, and physical affection. As Morrie's mobility declines and he has to rely completely on others for every aspect of daily living, he in effect returns to childhood. Most importantly, he longs for and fully desires these simple pleasures, and sees them as pleasures rather than embarrassing.

At the same time, Morrie continues to give back to community in a very adult way, by listening to his friends and dispensing words of wisdom that can only be attained with age.

The Ninth Tuesday Quotes

When you're in bed, you're dead.

Related Characters: Morrie Schwartz (speaker)
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of Morrie's aphorisms, told to Mitch at the beginning of their weekly visit. Morrie comes up with this one when he can barely move, but he still insists on spending each day in his study.

Morrie's insistence that daily life will go on, despite the devastating effects of his disease, are indicative of his positive outlook on life. His positive outlook, in turn, is a direct result of his rejection of modern culture in favor of a self-created personal culture. Morrie's culture does leave room for sadness and grief for his fate, but only a little. He allows himself time in the morning to mourn and be sad, and then shifts to appreciating all the good in his life. He equates staying in bed and grieving with death, which in turn conflates being in his study and engaging with life and people with living.

This aphorism turns Morrie's bed into something of a symbol for death. On Mitch's last visit, it's the first visit in which Morrie is in bed for anything other than physical therapy. As he enters the bedroom, Mitch hears this aphorism in his head and it indicates that this will be the final Tuesday of their visits. Mitch and Morrie say goodbye, and Morrie dies days later in his bed.

The Tenth Tuesday Quotes

As my wife's loving voice filled the room, a crescent smile appeared on his face. And while his body was stiff as a sandbag, you could almost see him dancing inside it.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz, Janine
Related Symbols: Dance
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

Janine has accompanied Mitch to visit Morrie this week. She is a professional singer and usually declines to sing for people, but to Mitch's surprise, she sang for Morrie when he asked.

Mitch describes Morrie's reaction to hearing Janine sing in terms of dance, despite the fact that Morrie is no longer able to move much unassisted. This draws a connection between the physical act of dancing and what dancing means as a metaphor. Morrie never fully loses the joy of movement and dance; he remains capable of experiencing the same type of joy as he experiences music.

The fact that Mitch chooses to describe Morrie here in terms of dance also speaks to the importance of dance and music to Morrie's personal culture. Rather than simply describe the happiness he experiences in this moment, Morrie's happiness is described in relation to dance and movement. The idea of movement, then, is elevated and becomes an essential part of Morrie's conception of happiness and fulfillment.

The Eleventh Tuesday Quotes

“In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right?”
His voice dropped to a whisper. “But here's the secret: in between, we need others as well.”

Related Characters: Morrie Schwartz (speaker), Mitch Albom
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch and Morrie are discussing culture, and Morrie has just made the point that if people saw each other as individuals in need of love and care, the world wouldn't have so many problems.

As the book progresses, Morrie develops the idea of community to encompass not just one's own community of friends and family, but expands it further to include the world. Much of Morrie's philosophy centers on caring for others emotionally and physically. The book stresses strongly the need for emotional care as a child through the glimpses we get into Morrie's difficult childhood due to the death of his mother. It's inarguable that he needed more care as a child than he received. As an old man in the present, Morrie continually returns to the idea that he is entirely dependent on others for everything now that he's sick. However, he also tries to make it very clear to Mitch that even as a younger, healthy man, Mitch too is in need of others to be fulfilled. This statement is an explicit acknowledgement that community is not just for the very young and the very old, which further develops Morrie's concept of community as all-inclusive.

If I could have had another son, I would have liked it to be you.

Related Characters: Morrie Schwartz (speaker), Mitch Albom
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

Morrie says this to Mitch as Mitch massages Morrie's feet. This week they're discussing regrets, and Morrie has just been discussing that while he mourns the short time he has left, he treasures the fact that he has enough time to make things right before he dies.

Throughout the text, the relationship between Mitch and Morrie is presented first as a close student/teacher relationship. As time progresses, however, their relationship develops to become more like that of a father and son. This happens both in the past in Mitch's college days, as well as in the present. Morrie's statement here is the point at which their relationship makes the final shift to familial, with this acknowledgement that Morrie considers their relationship to be such.

This shift additionally provides evidence of the importance that Morrie places on family over platonic relationships. As Morrie declines, he begins to cancel visits with other friends because he feels he cannot fully respond to them, being as tired as he is. However, although Mitch offers, Morrie refuses to cancel their Tuesday visits. Morrie's refusal to cancel is indicative of the shift of their relationship to that of a father and son, a shift which is finally spoken of and acknowledged in this moment.

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.

The Fourteenth Tuesday Quotes

I blinked back the tears, and he smacked his lips together and raised his eyebrows at the sight of my face. I like to think it was a fleeting moment of satisfaction for my dear old professor: He had finally made me cry.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch is saying goodbye to Morrie on his final visit and has just kissed him for the final time. For the entirety of Mitch and Morrie's relationship, one of Morrie's goals has been to show Mitch that crying is okay. Mitch, as a character that works very hard to fit a persona and doesn't fully embrace Morrie's wisdom regarding emotion, resists crying until this point.

Mitch's willingness to cry here shows just how far his character has developed. Through the fourteen weeks he's spent visiting with Morrie, Morrie has been prepping him both to deal with his death and to exhibit emotion in a healthy way. Morrie cries openly whenever he's moved to do so, whether it's because of sadness or music. Mitch initially finds it awkward, but in this final moment of heightened emotion with Morrie, Mitch completes his transformation into a more fulfilled and openly emotional person.

The Professor Quotes

Eva would kiss them good-night. Morrie waited on those kisses like a puppy waits on milk, and he felt, deep down, that he had a mother again.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz, David, Charlie, Eva
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch is telling the story of Morrie's early childhood experiences. After the death of his mother, Morrie struggled emotionally. His father was cold and not one for showing affection, which Morrie craved. After Charlie married Eva, who is described as warm enough to make up for Charlie's cool moodiness, Morrie felt more emotionally whole and fulfilled.

Showing the profound effect of a mother figure in Morrie's early life sets Morrie up for the kind of family he wanted to build as an adult. When he did marry and have children of his own, Morrie made sure to emulate Eva rather than his father in his interactions with his sons. Morrie's sons never had to long for physical affection the way Morrie did as a child. In this way, it becomes apparent that love, and particularly physical affection, is a major driving force throughout Morrie's life.