Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie The Thirteenth Tuesday Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Charlotte and Morrie have decided that Morrie's body should be cremated. They discuss this with the rabbi from Brandeis, who is a close friend and will be conducting the funeral service. Morrie tells the stunned rabbi to make sure they don't overcook him. Morrie's body is so decayed by this point, he can make jokes about it.
With his comment about cremation, Morrie's success with detachment is obvious. He's not tied to his body anymore. The discussion of what will happen with Morrie's body also indicates a growing degree of acceptance among everyone else too.
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When Mitch sits down for his visit, Morrie tells him about a book he read about death in a hospital, and how nurses remove bodies extremely fast as though death is contagious. As Mitch fumbles uncomfortably with Morrie's microphone, Morrie assures him that death isn't contagious, it's natural.
This is further proof of both Morrie's degree of detachment and his acceptance of his death. Mitch is still very uncomfortable with the thought, though—Morrie's lessons haven't fully sunk in yet.
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Morrie coughs, and Mitch braces for something serious. Morrie's nights are even worse now, and he spends hours coughing. The oxygen tube is now up his nose, and Mitch tells the reader this symbolizes helplessness.
The tension of opposites returns here—Mitch surely knows that Morrie relies on the oxygen to survive, but he sees it as a marker of death and helplessness.
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Morrie tells Mitch that the night before, he had a terrible coughing spell and even started to feel dizzy, but he felt peace, like he was ready to go. Morrie tells Mitch that the sensation was incredible, and it made him think about a dream he'd had where he was crossing a bridge into the unknown. When Mitch confirms that Morrie didn't cross over, Morrie says the important part is that he felt like he could. He says that feeling is what everyone is looking for. Morrie continues, saying that when we can have peace with dying, we can make peace with living.
Mitch is shaken seeing how detached Morrie is becoming. Morrie has not only accepted fully that he's going to die, but is finally able to detach in moments when dying seems a likely possibility. By Morrie's logic, now that he's attained this degree of detachment, he's able to make peace with his life as a whole.
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Get the entire Tuesdays with Morrie LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Morrie asks to see the hibiscus plant, and Mitch holds it up so Morrie can see. Morrie says that dying is natural, and the fact that people make such a big deal out of it is because people don't see themselves as part of nature. However, everything is born and later dies, but Morrie says that people differ from plants and animals because we can love. He says that through love and memories, people can live on in the hearts of loved ones. He finishes his speech, saying that death ends a life, not a relationship.
Here again we see the conflation of Morrie and the hibiscus plant. It's still alive, although it's going to die soon, just like Morrie. Additionally, the hibiscus plant, now that it's immortalized in the book, lives on like Morrie does.
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An experimental drug that delays the progression of ALS will soon be on the market, but Morrie dismisses it. Mitch says that Morrie is realistic to a fault about his death. Mitch asks Morrie if someone could wave a wand and make him better, if he'd become the man he used to be. Morrie says he could never go back now that he fully appreciates his body and understands what big questions to grapple with. Mitch asks what the important questions are, and Morrie answers that the questions have to do with love, responsibility, spirituality, and awareness.
Morrie here crystallizes his ideas from the last several weeks into four main concepts. Hearing about the new drug makes the reader hopeful for a moment, but it then serves the purpose of further developing Morrie's degree of detachment.
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Mitch tries to imagine Morrie healthy, and realizes it's been 16 years since he saw Morrie standing. Mitch asks what Morrie would do if he had one day to be perfectly healthy. Morrie answers that he'd wake up, do his exercises, have a lovely breakfast, and then 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 he'd dance with everyone, and then he'd go to sleep. Mitch finds this so simple and average, he feels a little disappointed. But he realizes that finding perfection in such an average day is the entire point.
Morrie's perfect day is completely average, and Mitch grasps the gravity of this. It takes being fully comfortable and happy with the culture he's created to structure his hypothetical perfect day in this way, where everything is average but simultaneously of elevated importance to his life. Notice too that all three of the book’s positive symbols (nature, food, and dance) make an appearance in Morrie’s perfect day.
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Related Quotes
Before Mitch leaves, Morrie asks if he can ask about Mitch's brother. Mitch doesn't know how Morrie knows his brother has been on his mind. Morrie says that it can hurt to not be with someone you love, but that Mitch needs to make peace with Peter's desires. Mitch thinks about Peter as a child and how full of life he was, and then thinks about the frail adult he is now. Mitch asks Morrie why Peter doesn't want to see him, and Morrie sighs. Morrie says there's no formula for relationships, but they have to be negotiated in loving ways, making room for both people. He says that in business, people negotiate to win, and suggests that Mitch is too used to that lifestyle. Morrie says that love is when you're as concerned about someone else's situation as you are about your own. Mitch feels helpless and like he sees all the death in the world. Morrie says that Mitch will find a way to his brother, saying that Mitch found his way back to Morrie.
Rather than discussing detachment and relationships as they pertain to his relationship with Morrie, here Morrie is encouraging Mitch to apply what he's learning to his other relationships with the goal of achieving a similar result. Morrie touches on the difference between what Mitch has been immersed in for the last 16 years and what he's learning now, making it very clear that treating relationships like business transactions won't work. We get the sense that Mitch may be as concerned about Peter as he is about himself, but is possibly just unable to show it in a productive way.
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Morrie says that he heard a nice story the other day and recounts it to Mitch. The story is about a happy wave in the ocean who then notices that the waves in front are crashing into the shore, and panics when it realizes its fate. A second wave sees the first unhappy wave, asks what's wrong, and the first wave replies that they're all going to crash and become nothing. The second wave tells the first wave that it doesn't understand: it's not a wave; it's part of the ocean. Mitch smiles, watching Morrie breathe.
This references back to Mitch and Morrie's earlier discussions of reincarnation and life energy. The wave is one individual that's a part of a much larger entity, and Morrie is feeling more and more like a wave, in that he sees himself as an individual in a vast sea of humanity who will very soon cease to be an individual.
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