Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie The Fourth Tuesday Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Morrie is in a businesslike mood today, and suggests that they consider the idea that everyone knows they're going to die, but nobody believes it. Mitch tells the reader that before he arrived at Morrie's house, Morrie wrote down a few notes so he wouldn't forget, and his handwriting is now unreadable to anyone but Morrie himself.
Morrie's motor skills are further deteriorating. Setting this deterioration right next to Morrie's idea that nobody believes they'll die is like seeing proof of Morrie's concept, although Mitch is still in denial about Morrie's condition.
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Pausing the narrative, Mitch says that back home in Detroit the strikers are getting ready for a holiday demonstration to show solidarity against management. He adds that on the plane ride to Boston, he read about a woman who shot her husband and two daughters, and read that the lawyers in the O.J. Simpson trial are becoming celebrities. Mitch notes that in the last week, Morrie acquired a portable oxygen machine to use when he has trouble getting enough air to swallow. Mitch hates the idea of the oxygen tank being connected to Morrie, so he tries not to look at it.
By stepping back from the scene in Morrie's office to talk primarily about death, we're given even more evidence of Morrie's ideas. This is further developed through Morrie's oxygen machine, which is a way to postpone death for a while. Mitch doesn't want to face Morrie's death yet, which is why he can't stand to face this very tangible reminder.
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Back in the conversation in Morrie's office, Morrie reiterates that everyone knows they're going to die but don't believe it. He says that if people believed it, they'd do things differently, suggesting then that a good approach is to know you're going to die, and be prepared for it at any time, which then allows you to be more involved in life while you're alive. When Mitch asks how someone can be prepared to die, Morrie offers the Buddhist philosophy of imagining a bird on your shoulder asking if today's the day you're going to die.
Morrie's philosophy here shows his research into different religions. Mitch is beginning to ask more questions unprompted, which shows how his development is progressing. He's becoming a more engaged student.
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The narrative steps back again from the conversation and Mitch gives a brief account of Morrie's religious situation. While Morrie was born Jewish, he became agnostic as a teenager due in part to the suffering he experienced as a child. While he felt culturally Jewish, he enjoyed philosophies from Christianity and Buddhism. This religious outlook made him more open to the students he taught, and Mitch remarks that what Morrie is saying now, as his life is drawing to a close, seems to transcend religious differences.
Mitch mentions the idea of death as an equalizer, which further supports the text as a meditation on death. Morrie's religious makeup was influenced primarily by death and tragedy, and as a dying man, he is able to combine religious ideas in a way that is appealing to many, given the celebrity he's achieved since the Nightline interview.
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Get the entire Tuesdays with Morrie LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Returning to the conversation again, Morrie says, twice for emphasis, that the truth is that once you learn how to die, you learn how to live. When Mitch asks if Morrie thought about death before his diagnosis, Morrie replies that he didn't, recounting a time in his 60s when he told a friend that he was going to be the healthiest old man ever. Mitch asks again why people can't think about it when everyone knows someone who's died, and Morrie replies that people don't experience the world fully, and facing death brings a person out of the haze. Morrie repeats, again, that when you learn how to die, you learn how to live.
Morrie fully believes that, despite being surrounded by the deaths of others, a person can only live once they confront the inevitability of their own death. Morrie realizes that in some ways, he's no different than the people he believes aren't truly living, as he states that he himself once believed that he couldn't die either.
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Morrie struggles to put on his glasses and Mitch helps him, and the human touch brings Morrie immense joy. Morrie then tells Mitch that if Mitch listened to the proverbial bird on his shoulder, he might not be so ambitious, and might see his work as less important. Morrie then stresses the importance of spiritual development, although he admits to not fully knowing what spiritual development actually means. He offers a definition that it entails loving relationships, which many take for granted, as opposed to material things. As an example, he nods to the window and tells Mitch that he appreciates the window more than Mitch does because 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 look out the window, and Mitch tries internally to understand this point of view.
Morrie thrives on affectionate physical touch, especially now that he needs so much help performing basic tasks. By outright confronting Mitch and addressing the fact that Mitch lives his life very differently than Morrie does, Morrie is able to provide a tangible counterpoint for his personal culture and way of living. Notice too that when confronted, Mitch doesn't become defensive. He tries to understand, which shows that he's beginning to change.
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Morrie continues to receive a great deal of mail, and has friends and family to help him read the letters and write dictated responses. On this particular Sunday, Rob and Jon are home to help with the letters. They read a letter from a woman who lost her mother to ALS, and Morrie's response includes sentiments on the healing power of grief. Another letter refers to Morrie as a prophet, which Morrie doesn't particularly appreciate. The final letter is from a former graduate student, is four pages long, and is filled with death in the forms of murder, stillbirth, and ALS. After sifting through the letter, Morrie wonders out loud how to answer, and he grins when Rob suggests that they begin by thanking her for her long letter.
The fact that Morrie takes time out of his day to reply to mail shows how connected he is and tries to be in his community. This connection is also a community event on a smaller scale, as his family is there to help him read and reply to mail. Particularly with the final letter from the grad student, we see how death connects people, as Morrie connects not just with the letter writer, but also with his family as they discuss how to answer.
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Mitch and Morrie are in Morrie's office, and the newspaper Morrie's been reading has a photo of a baseball player on the front page, leading Mitch to remark that of all diseases, Morrie gets one named after a baseball player. He asks Morrie if he remembers Lou Gherig, to which Morrie replies that he remembers his goodbye speech. When Mitch then asks if he remembers the famous line from the speech, Morrie doesn't, and asks Mitch to do the speech. Mitch imitates Gherig, saying, "Today, I feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth." Morrie nods, and says that he himself didn't say that.
Mitch has always been interested in sports, while Morrie is portrayed as only ever participating for the connection it allows, as with his coach/player nickname with Mitch. Mitch and Morrie here get to further connect through sports, as well as death and ALS, as the famous baseball player Lou Gherig also suffered from the disease.
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