“It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it . . . if you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back.” ~ Morrie (118)
Tuesdays with Morrie tells the narrative of an old man, Morrie, who is faced with a fatal disease that kills from the inside-out. Depressing? Yeah, you could look at it that way. So why was the book written if it’s just going to make people feel depressed? Well, ironically, the author, Mitch Albom uses Mitch’s experiences with Morrie to create an opposite effect, leaving the reader feeling warm and fuzzy, rather than sad and discouraged. In Tuesdays with Morrie, Albom chooses to include Morrie’s example to others, his advice and teachings, and material that seems somewhat unrelated to the plot, like the Audiovisuals and side stories, to help the reader understand an overarching theme of keeping an optimistic attitude in life.
For the first part of his book, Albom incorporates many details about Morrie’s disease. Along with including the fatality and limitations of Morrie’s abilities with the disease, Albom goes into depth about how Morrie feels and how he chooses to face his condition. The thorough descriptions tie back to Albom’s theme of optimism in hard times.
Albom begins by explaining Morrie’s reaction to the doctor’s news. Albom connects Morrie to the world as he explains Morrie’s confusion at why the whole world does not stop for him. By including Morrie’s immediate confusion, Albom later creates a surprising moment when Morrie’s attitude shifts to hopefulness. Morrie tells Mitch, with his change of attitude, “Do I wither up and disappear, or do I make the best of my time left?” (10). This helps the audience to realize that optimism can be found in difficult situations, even if not found right away.
With Morrie’s new optimism he decides to have a “living funeral” in order to say good-bye (12). Morrie had recently returned from a friend’s funeral and noticed all the wonderful things said and thought of how his friend would never be able to hear those comments. So, Morrie wanted a chance to hear the heart-felt comments that would be said at his own funeral, before he had to say his final farewells. Albom brings in this idea because it seems peculiar; it catches the reader’s attention; no one has ever tried this “living funeral” idea, except Morrie. Morrie wants people to laugh and celebrate his life while he still lives. Through Morrie’s bright example of having a living funeral, Albom helps us to see the overarching theme of positivity by using this unusual, but relevant, concept.
Along with Morrie’s decisions and example, Albom includes Morrie’s advice on avoiding self-pity, having gratitude, and being unselfish. Everyone pities themselves whether they admit it or not. Mitch remembers people he knows who would pity themselves every day. But Morrie only allows himself a morning of pity. Mitch learns from Morrie about the negative pull of self-pity and how it can cause one to have a bad outlook on life, making them become pessimistic. When being pessimistic it is difficult to see blessings in life and show gratitude for them. Morrie talks about the good and happy things still left in his life: his family, friends, and the ability to still move some part of his body. Albom chooses to include Morrie’s advice to show that life should not gravitate around being selfish and pitying yourself. Others in the world have trials and hardships; we need to open our eyes to the depressing matters in our world and come together to create a more caring planet. This is Morrie’s advice on avoiding cynicism.
To go along with Albom’s minute details on the disease which allow the reader to understand the ability of finding hope in trials, he brings in the seemingly unconnected Audiovisuals. But as the reader focuses more on the relevance of the show, they can understand that Albom used this to further support the overarching theme of optimism.
When Morrie begins the show, all he wants to do is be a good influence on the rest of the country, and even on the rest of the world. He explains how he copes through the struggles of his disease. He uses this opportunity to uplift others who cannot always see the positive side of their trials. Koppel, the host, asks “How will you give when you can no longer speak?” and Morrie simply responds “Maybe I’ll have everyone ask me yes and no questions” (70). This is an example of Morrie showing positivity in his disease, when the typical response would be negativity. Morrie proves that he is – even under his circumstances – a happy person by what he says and does on the Audiovisuals, and that is why Albom adds them. Beyond Morrie’s optimistic decisions, the Audiovisuals give Morrie’s advice and encouragement to the world.
To further develop the theme, Albom utilizes a story about an ocean wave (179-180). The wave glides along blissfully, until ahead he sees other waves crashing on the beach, becoming nothing. The wave feels frightened, but, another wave comes along and explains that there is no need to fear because they are all part of the ocean, and even though they may crash they will be swept out to sea to become yet another wave. This story explains how hardships come to everyone, but trials are part of life. Things will turn out alright in the end, because life has a bigger picture. Morrie’s disease allows him two decisions: negativity or positivity. Morrie chooses the latter. Instead of letting the disease pull him down, he pulls himself up like the wave.
Through Morrie’s last stages of life, a valuable lesson can be learned. With all of the trials we face in life, having a positive attitude is the best cure during our hardships. We can follow Morrie’s examples and advice to overcome our fears of falling into a self-pitying revelry. This book teaches that being optimistic will help us accomplish more in helping others instead of focusing on ourselves. This theme is Albom’s purpose for writing Tuesdays with Morrie.