The generation gap is a persistent problem that prevents the younger generation from learning and finding their way in life. Tuesdays with Morrie by Albom is an explicit example of how accepting the authority of an older person can help the younger generation to deal with their emotional issues and set their priorities. Before spending fourteen weeks with his professor, Mitch was unable to engage in his life and relationships due to the inability to deal with his emotions. At the same, communication between generations is also vital for the elderly, since it brings peace and a sense of purpose to their lives. The analysis of the plot, characters, and themes of Tuesdays with Morrie leads to the understanding that today’s society prevents younger adults from learning from the elderly.
Tuesdays with Morrie is a novel written in the form of memoirs about the meetings of Mitch Albom and his college professor, Morrie Schwartz, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The action takes place in the nineties, during the O. J. Simpson trial, when Mitch accidentally finds out that his college professor, who was once very dear to him, is terminally ill. Mitch recalls that he once promised to keep in touch with his professor, but failed to do so. Albom decides to visit Morrie and finds him slowly losing control of his body due to the illness. After the first meeting, during which the professor and his student discuss the importance of love, Mitch decides to visit Morrie every Tuesday and talk about life.
During the following fourteen weeks, the narrator witnesses the gradual decline of Morrie’s life while taking essential lessons from him. Every week the two characters focus on a specific topic, and Mitch records the conversation. The novel describes how Morrie teaches to deal with regrets, self-pity, and the fear of aging. The professor preaches the importance of love and family while criticizing American culture and greed. Throughout the meetings, Morrie tries to accept his fate and find a piece with his illness slowly moving to identify himself with his spirit rather than the body. Shortly after the fourteenth meeting, Morrie passes away, and Albom writes the memoir to help pay for his professor’s extensive medical bills and passing the wisdom to further generations.
The has two main characters, Mitch Albom, the narrator, and Morrie Schwartz, the interviewee. Mitch is a middle-aged man who has given up his dream of becoming a pianist to afford a living. He is a successful journalist who is financially prosperous but unhappy. According to Michau and Louw, Albom seeks assistance in personal life to become a successful person, since he was already successful professionally (140). He struggles from being emotionally handicapped since he does not know how to express his feelings in front of others. Even though in his articles, Albom writes about the misfortunes and hardships of others, he does not feel sympathetic and remains emotionally detached from the problems of others. The fourteen weeks spent with his mentor help Mitch learn life’s true values, one of which is learning to love and deal with emotions. In short, the narrator accepts the authority of the older generation, which helps him to learn vital life lessons and become a more successful man.
Morrie Schwartz is a sociology professor in his seventies battling ALS with his friends and family. He enjoys the company of his student and admits that it brings the meaning to his final days since he can share his knowledge. He is grateful to his fate for having the time to reflect upon what is important to him. Morrie believes that “the most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in” (Albom 16). He points out that most people are confused about their priorities since they seek money and material comfort. According to Verhaeghen and Hertzog, Morrie is a wise man since he knows how to deal with uncertainty and has a clear set of values (257). In brief, Morrie finds his purpose in being able to spread the knowledge and communicate with people dear to him.
The central theme of the novel is death and how it affects the individual and the environment. Morrie is given time to prepare for his death, which is crucial for the majority of people, according to Meier et al. (262). Morrie’s death is juxtaposed with the death of O. J. Simpson’s family, an abrupt, violent end of life with no possibility to make peace with dying. The novel shows the irony of death, since “everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it” (Albom 23). At the same time, Morrie treats death as a part of life and claims that when people learn how to die, they also learn how to live. The thought of death is shown as a purifier to a person’s mind since it helps people to focus on the true values and discard all the unnecessary things in life.
Another theme developed in the novel is mentorship and the importance of passing the knowledge between generations. According to Michau and Louw, the book is a vivid example of how a relationship between a mentor and a mentee should develop (134). Indeed, both Morrie and Mitch find comfort in the conversations, and the student is helped to find his way in life. Even though the book touches upon various motives, the two themes mentioned above are the basis for the development of characters.
In my opinion, Tuesdays with Morrie is a reflection of how modern society treats the elderly. In the majority of mass media, the older generation is shown negatively. Most young people, similar to Mitch, believe that they know better about how to deal with their lives. However, after several trials and failures, they turn to the wisdom of the older generation to help them find life’s meaning. Albom was lucky enough to get the knowledge from the older generation before it was too late. However, the majority of people realize that they need help when their parents and loved ones are already dead, and the relationships with them are broken. Therefore, the novel describes the need to change the priorities and start respecting the older generation to become valuable members of society.
The book reveals the problems of younger and older adults and how communication between generations can help to address these issues. For the younger generation, it is crucial to get the knowledge to become more successful in their lives. The older generation may find comfort and purpose of being in being able to share their wisdom and receive gratitude. However, the values of modern society abstract such communication, and most of the time, it is possible only accompanied by extraordinary events, such as a terminal disease.
Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson. Doubleday, 1997.
Michau, Abrie, and Willa Louw. “Tuesdays with an Open and Distance Learning Mentor.” Africa Education Review, vol. 11, no. 2, 2014, pp. 133-145.
Meier, Emily A., et al. “Defining a Good Death (Successful Dying): Literature Review and a Call for Research and Public Dialogue.” The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, vol. 24, no. 4, 2016, pp. 261-271.
Verhaeghen, Paul, and Christopher K. Hertzog. The Oxford Handbook of Emotion, Social Cognition, and Problem Solving in Adulthood. Oxford University Press, 2014.