Mitch is a man with a good heart who has surrendered his dreams of becoming a musician to dreams of material wealth and professional success. He has grown disillusioned and values money over love. After working himself nearly to death, leaving little time for himself or his wife Janine, the union to which he belongs at the Detroit newspaper he works for goes on a long strike, and for the first time, he finds himself with neither work nor a steady paycheck. Upon learning of the strike, he grows increasingly frustrated by the career and life decisions he has made, and experiences a life-altering epiphany in which he realizes that he needs to change. He wants a chance at self-redemption, a chance to reassess his priorities so that he may recreate for himself a fulfilling life, enriched with people and activities that give him meaning and purpose.

It is only with Morrie's encouragement that Mitch is able to realize the time he has wasted in all of the years he has immersed himself in work that now seems relatively meaningless. With each week he travels to visit Morrie and listen to his lessons, his view of what he has missed and what he must change in his life becomes more lucid. As he watches Morrie die, he realizes that, like his professor, he wants to die knowing that he has lived his life to its fullest extent, certain that he has loved and forgiven himself and others as often and as sincerely as he could. He sees in Morrie the man he aspires to be, a man who values love over money, and people over tabloid gossip and superficial vanity. It is because of Morrie's influence that he is able to change his own life and outlook to become more like his professor, his mentor, who has encouraged him to be loving and kind since his college days, when he walked around campus with a veneer of toughness. Only Morrie can penetrate the toughness that has grown around Mitch's heart, which he ultimately succeeds in doing.