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Tuesdays with Morrie

Mitch Albom

Study Questions and Essay Topics

Key Facts

Quiz

Study Questions

What is the significance of the pink hibiscus plant that sits on the ledge in Morrie's study. How is it a metaphor for Morrie's life, as well as the cycle of life in general?

The plant is continually used as a metaphor for Morrie's life and for life itself. As Morrie's body gradually deteriorates, so does the condition of the pink hibiscus plant which sits on the window ledge in Morrie's study. With each degeneration of Morrie's health, the plant's pink petals wither and drop off into the soil to decompose. Morrie soon grows reliant on a tank of oxygen which he requires to breathe, and on his aides, family and friends for simple tasks such as eating and going to the bathroom. However, despite such adversity, Morrie, like the plant,"holds on, small but firm" to his life as he nears its end. The hibiscus embodies the concept that all living creatures experience a natural life cycle which inevitably and rightly ends in death; eventually, both Morrie and the plant will die, as all living beings eventually must.

What does Morrie mean by the statement "Love or perish"?

Morrie recites a quote by his favorite poet, W. H. Auden, to convey one of his most vital lessons to Mitch: in the absence of love, Morrie says, there is a void that can be filled only by giving of oneself and one's love, and by accepting the love others offer. When love abounds, Morrie tells Mitch, a person can experience no higher sense of fulfillment. In all of his fourteen Tuesday lessons, Morrie teaches that love constitutes the essence of every person, and of every relationship, and that to live without love, as Auden says, is to live with no means for survival. The importance of love becomes especially clear to Morrie as he nears his final days, for without the love of his family and friends, he would quite literally perish, as he depends on them for spiritual and physical endurance.

Explain Morrie's idea of "detachment." What does "detachment" mean to Morrie, and how does he use it to cope with his disease?

Determined to accept his own death and the concept of death itself, Morrie consciously "detaches himself from the experience" when he suffers his violent coughing spells, each of which comes loaded with the possibility of his last breath. Morrie derives his method of detachment from the Buddhist philosophy that one should not cling to anything, as everything that exists is transient. In detaching, Morrie is able to step out of his tangible surroundings and into his own state of consciousness, namely for the sake of gaining perspective and composure in a stressful situation. Morrie does not intend to stop feeling or experiencing when he detaches, but, rather, detaches out of a desire to experience wholly. He explains that it is only when he releases himself from a life-threatening experience that he is able to completely let go of his fear, to detach from a situation that renders him terrified and tense. Morrie does not want to die in fear or in pain, and detaches in these frightening moments so that he may accept the impermanence of his life and embrace his death, which he knows may come at any moment.

Suggested Essay Topics

What are Morrie's religious values? Does he steep himself in the theology of one religion, or many?

How does Morrie's dislike of the media's role in popular culture contradict his willingness to be interviewed by Ted Koppel for the television program "Nightline"?

How has Morrie's childhood affected his behavior as an adult? Explain how each of his family members, including his mother, father, stepmother, and younger brother, have affected his development.

What reasons does Morrie give for rejecting the mores prescribed by the popular culture. How has he created his own culture, and what values does it consist of?

How does Morrie rationalize his thoughts that aging is growth, and not decay, as most people see it?

Explain Morrie's relationship with Ted Koppel. What does Morrie see in Koppel that others fail to?

Who inspired Morrie's passion for books and education? What inspired his passion for people? Why did he decide to become a professor of sociology?

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