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Tuesdays with Morrie

Mitch Albom

The Audiovisual - The Fourth Tuesday: We Talk about Death

The Second Tuesday: We Talk about Feeling Sorry for Yourself - The Third Tuesday: We Talk about Regrets

The Fourth Tuesday: We Talk about Death

Summary

The Audiovisual, Part Two

Ted Koppel interviews Morrie for a second time. Koppel comments that Morrie "looks fine," and Morrie replies that only he can know the deterioration that is taking place daily, which is evident in his garbled speaking. Morrie explains that his love r elationships sustain his high spirits. He mentions a dear friend, Maurie Stein, who had sent Morrie's aphorisms to a reporter from the Boston Globe newspaper. The men had both been at Brandeis University during the early 1960's. Now, Maurie is deaf, and Morrie will soon be mute. Koppel asks how the two will communicate, and Morrie answers that they will hold hands; after thirty-five years of friendship, they do not need speech or hearing to communicate with one another.

Since his first appearance on "Nightline," Morrie has received letters from viewers across the country. One woman, a teacher, writes that she has a special class of nine young students, all of whom have lost a parent to untimely death. Morrie is moved to tears by the letter, as he recalls his mother's death when he was a boy. He cries unabashedly on camera, and tells Koppel that he still feels the pain he felt seventy years ago upon learning of his mother's death.

The Professor

In a flashback to his childhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Morrie recalls reading the telegram that brought the news of his mother's death. Because his father, a Russian immigrant, could not read English, eight-year-old Morrie was the first to r ead the news, and the one to tell it to the rest of his family. On the way to the funeral, his aunt, who was in hysterics, asked Morrie what he would do without his mother, and what would become of him now, without her to care for him. At this, Morrie bur sts into tears. His mother had been ill for a while, though Morrie, being a child, thought he could make her illness go away by ignoring it.

Morrie's father, Charlie, had come to America to escape the Russian Army. He seldom had work and the family had lived in absolute poverty. Following their mother's death, Morrie and his brother, David, were sent to live and work at a hotel in rura l Connecticut. One night, the boys played outside in the pouring rain. The next morning, David was unable to move his legs, as he had polio. However, Morrie thought that the rain had caused the paralysis, and had blamed himself for his brother's suffering . He went to the synagogue to pray for David and his deceased mother.

Morrie's father was not at all affectionate with his sons, but his second wife, Eva, gave the boys the tenderness and caring they longed for. Despite their immense poverty, Eva had stressed the importance of education, which Morrie took very seriously . Morrie had been told by his father not to mention his mother at all, as he wanted David to think that Eva was his natural mother. Morrie was burdened by this demand, and kept the telegram that had been sent to inform them of his mother's death, the only proof she had ever existed.

When Morrie was a teenager, his father had brought him to the fur factory where he worked to find him a job. Morrie was grateful that the factory could not hire him, as there were barely enough jobs for the adult workers. He hated the stifling, clinging a ir of the factory, and vowed never to do work that would exploit another. Thus, he had decided not to be a lawyer. Nor could he be a doctor, as he hated the sight of blood. By default, he had decided to become a teacher.

Analysis

Communication without language serves as a prevalent theme throughout Tuesdays With Morrie, and is highlighted during his interview with Ted Koppel. Koppel seems mystified as to how a deaf man and a mute man could possibly communicate with one anot her, though Morrie understands that friendship runs deeper than mere words. As his condition deteriorates, Morrie becomes increasingly dependent on physical affection. This need is enhanced by his sudden physical reversion to infancy, and complete depende ncy on others for their care. Morrie's relationship with Mitch grows increasingly physical as Morrie's disease spreads; the men often hold hands as they converse, and gradually, Mitch overcomes his discomfort with displays of physical affection. His gradu al acceptance of affection is due to Morrie's teaching, and Mitch's realization that he must be open in his expression of love towards those he cares about. Morrie, however, has for a long time honored the idea of communication without words, and in a fla shback described in The First Tuesday, tests this idea in a class by keeping silent for fifteen solid minutes, then breaking the silence with discussion about the affect of silence on a relationship.

Morrie also uses his unabashed emotions to communicate with others, as he does during his interview with Koppel, when he sheds tears for his mother, who had died seventy years prior. Clearly, his mother's death is a tragedy that has affected Morrie's life since his eighth year, when he read the telegram announcing her death. That Morrie had to be the one to read and relay the tragic news speaks to the immense responsibility and independence he had to take on as a very young boy. This premature responsibil ity and independence have, undoubtedly, also affected Morrie's adult character, which makes it especially difficult for him to accept his sudden dependency on others, as he has relied only on himself since his childhood. Morrie's childhood feelings of res ponsibility go beyond what they should, not only in his responsibility for himself, but for others. Morrie blames himself for his brother's polio, and, in a sense, feels at fault for his mother's death, but is helpless to cure his brother or to bring his mother back to life. Morrie's feeling of helplessness is much like Mitch's sense that he has lost control upon the death of his favorite uncle, which he describes in the beginning of the book. However, the feelings of helplessness shared by the young Mitc h and the young Morrie act as the catalyst for different effects. Mitch reacts by joining the work force and striving for financial success, as where Morrie throws himself into his education, and is driven by a passion for knowledge which carries him into his adulthood, and, eventually, into the profession Mitch believes he has such a talent for.

Morrie's passion for education is instilled by his stepmother, Eva, who, unlike his father, is kind and tender towards Morrie and his brother. It is implied that Morrie's great need for physical affection in his adulthood is due to the absence of it durin g his childhood, as, following his mother's death, he was barely acknowledged by his cold-mannered father. Eva steps in and feeds this need during the late years of Morrie's youth, but it seems his need is never fully satisfied, and this is why he looks t o his friends and family for constant physical attention.

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