The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture


Randy Pausch

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The Last Lecture: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

One of Randy’s earliest dreams was to be the coolest guy at any carnival or amusement park—to Randy this was always the guy carrying around the enormous stuffed animal. Randy’s dad felt the same way, and, given his family’s competitiveness, capturing the largest stuffed animal became a heated competition. Randy then asks his lecture audience if they’ve ever walked around a carnival with a huge stuffed animal and felt how people looked at them, and then he asks if they’ve ever used a giant stuffed animal to woo a woman? Randy has, and he married her. As an adult, when Randy showed up at home with bigger and bigger stuffed animals, his family suspected him of cheating. But he never did—Randy might have leaned (it’s the only way to beat the ring toss), but he never cheated.
Randy easily could have cheated in order to acquire gigantic stuffed animals—he could have simply purchased them, or paid off the minimum-wage carnival tent employees; however, even in regard to something as trivial as winning huge stuffed animals, Randy believes in earning the prize rather than being entitled to it. It is only through earning the prize that he will be able to fully enjoy and appreciate tt.
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Randy reveals the secret to winning giant stuffed animals: long arms, and a small amount of disposable income. Randy has been blessed to have both in his life. At his last lecture, Randy shows photos of his giant stuffed animal collection. But, since it’s the digital age, he thinks the audience might believe he digitally manipulated the pictures, so he has his students walk from the wings of the stage, each carrying a giant stuffed animal he’s won over the years. Randy, knowing Jai wouldn’t need this many stuffed animals after he’s gone, decides that the best thing to do is to give them away—so that’s what he does. After the lecture, people from the audience are free to take one. And they do, including one student who, Randy later learns, also has cancer. After the lecture, she walks up, selects the giant elephant, and takes it away. In Randy’s words, “She got the elephant in the room.”
By taking his stuffed animals out of the digital world of his PowerPoint presentation and physically bringing them into the auditorium, Randy makes clear his message about achieving dreams in reality. Just as the stuffed animals might have seemed like a joke or a myth to those in the audience, Randy is illustrating that the things that we imagine but never believe we could actually achieve can be made real through hard work and persistence. It is exactly this process that has allowed Randy to win the stuffed animals. By giving these animals away, hopefully Randy’s message will stay with those who attended the lecture, and they’ll remember it whenever they glance at their giant prize.
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