The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The most “formidable brick wallRandy ever came across was 5’6” and beautiful, but it reduces him to tears and forces him to call his father to ask for advice on how to scale it. This brick wall is Jai, Randy’s future wife. Randy reiterates that his courtship of Jai epitomizes the idea that “brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.” Randy was 37 when he and Jai met, and lived in a tiny attic apartment despite being a tenured professor. When a friend once asked him what kind of woman would want to live there, Randy replied, “the right kind.” But Randy knew that wasn’t true; no woman would want to live there. When Randy went to give a guest lecture at UNC, the University assigned Jai to host him. Randy was immediately taken with her, and he flirted “pretty aggressively” despite the professional setting.
Even at the very beginning of Randy and Jai’s courtship, Randy does not allow the “obstacle” of the professional setting to stop him from getting to know Jai better and attempt to get her interested in him. It is perhaps worth thinking about whether Randy’s advice in this case is worth taking without at least some additional thought, however. While in this case the story of Randy and Jai works out happily, and in fact many romances begin in the workplace, there is also something a bit jarring about his refusal to adhere to the standards of a “professional setting” and instead to flirt “pretty agressively.” What if, for instance, Jai had not wanted to flirt with him? While Randy’s response to “walls” almost always involves a degree of respecting others, it is possible to take his advice the wrong way with the result that one might pursue one’s goal regardless of what other people want, which is more likely to lead to unhappy, or even dire, results as opposed to happy ones.
Themes
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Randy asked to see Jai for drinks after a faculty event, and she agreed. He thought about her during the whole dinner, and afterward they went to a wine bar. He was supposed to fly home the next morning, but told her he’d change his flight if she’d go on a date with him. Jai agreed and they had a great time. After Randy went back home to Pittsburgh, he offered Jai his frequent flyer miles to go visit him—she considered it, then declined, saying she was “not looking for a long-distance relationship.” Randy wasn’t deterred, and he sent her a dozen roses with a card that said he respected her decision and wished her nothing but the best. Of course, that convinced her to get on the plane and visit.
Randy is always positive in his attitude and proactive with his behavior at every turn of his relationship with Jai. He leverages the short length of his trip into a next-day date, and then, after Jai declines to visit him because she doesn’t want to be in a long-distance relationship, Randy seizes the opportunity to make an extremely romantic gesture and send roses and a card. Randy’s kindness and persistence ultimately convinces her to come see him.
Themes
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Attitude and Positive Behavior Theme Icon
Randy says he’d fallen in love with Jai, even if she was still finding her way. They saw each other almost every weekend through the winter, and eventually, he asked her to move to Pittsburgh. She agreed to move, though not into Randy’s apartment, so Randy made arrangements to have a weeklong seminar at UNC to help Jai pack up. When he arrived, Jai told Randy that she couldn’t move to Pittsburgh because she didn’t love him. Randy was heartbroken, and Jai drove him back to his hotel. Randy spent most of the day on the phone with his parents, “telling them about the brick wall” he’d just smashed into. Randy’s dad told him that he didn’t think Jai meant it. Randy asked what he should do, and his mom told him to just “Be supportive… If you love her, support her.”
Jai’s pessimism poses an obstacle to her relationship with Randy: right whenJai is poised to move to Pittsburgh to be with Randy, she gets scared and decides she doesn’t love Randy and can’t move with him. Randy doesn’t try to force her to change her mind—instead, he gets over this brick wall by having a positive attitude, being patient, and supporting Jai in her feelings.
Themes
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Attitude and Positive Behavior Theme Icon
So, Randy supported Jai, spending his week teaching and hanging out in his office just up the hall from her, checking in on her once-in-a-while. Eventually Jai called him and told him she was sitting there missing him. She realized she was in love after all, and at the end of the week Jai moved to Pittsburgh with Randy.
So, Randy’s patience pays off, and Jai comes to the conclusion on her own that she wants to be with him. Randy’s positive belief in Jai’s love for him proved successful—had he had a more negative, reactionary attitude, she might have come to a different conclusion.
Themes
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Attitude and Positive Behavior Theme Icon
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