illustration of author Mitch Albom sitting next to Morrie Schwartz, who is lying in a bed

Tuesdays With Morrie

by Mitch Albom

Start Free Trial

What is the central theme in Tuesdays with Morrie?

The central theme in Tuesdays with Morrie is the way in which accepting one’s own death can help one to understand what really matters in life and to live more meaningfully.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In his 1897 prose poem, Les Nourritures terrestres, André Gide writes

A not sufficiently constant thought of death has given an insufficient value to the tiniest moments of your life. Don’t you understand that each moment would not take on such incomparable vividness if it were not detached, so to speak, on the dark background of death?

Despite being written two decades before Morrie Schwartz was born, this is an excellent encapsulation of the philosophy he expressed over the last months of his life, and which Mitch Albom recounts in Tuesdays with Morrie. Morrie knows that he is facing imminent death, and it is against this background that he determines to make the most of life. In extension, he takes it upon himself to teach Albom and others how to do so. The proximity of death has forced Morrie to evaluate what is really important in his life, and he comes to the conclusion that building and maintaining connections with those around him is of paramount importance.

As Gide says that people generally fail to value life because they do not think enough about death, Morrie sees those around him behaving as though they will live forever and have time for endless trivia, whether this takes the form of petty resentments, or an unending pursuit of wealth and approval. Morrie comes to see that the cure for such irrationality in his own case has been to accept his own death. He has decided to devote what remains of his life to matters of genuine importance. How to accomplish this, and the transformative effects of doing so, provide the central theme of Tuesdays with Morrie.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tuesdays with Morrie is Mitch Albom's memoir of his days spent with his former professor, Morrie Schwartz, as the latter was dying from a horrific neurological disorder. First and foremost, the book is about the importance of adopting the right values. Having decided to put aside, at least once a week, his own self-centered professional ambitions to sit with his beloved former professor, with whom he fell out of touch over the intervening years between graduation and the discovery of Morrie's illness, Albom begins to see in his one-time academic mentor a source of wisdom about life and the inevitability of death. The lessons Albom learned from Morrie comprise the themes of Albom's book. In a chapter titled "Taking Attendence," Albom recalls something Morrie told him about the average human's pursuit of fame or material wealth at the expense of what was really important given the impermanence of all human life:

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

The theme of treasuring life itself and the relationships one makes...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

at each phase of life runs throughTuesdays with Morrie. It is felt in every session between student and teacher. Morrie is a proponent of living a life built around these relationships and about the imperative of chasing personal fulfillment born of emotional connections. Morrie views the society around him as obsessed with material gain and professional ambition at the expense of emotional health. He teaches Mitch that death is the great equalizer and that no amount of wealth or ambition is worth the costs to one's soul involved in their attainment. As Morrie approaches the death he knows is imminent, the importance of this theme becomes increasingly apparent.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main theme in Tuesdays With Morrie centers around what one can learn about life through death.  The book is about a professor, Morrie Schwartz, who has ALS.  One of Morrie's former students, Mitch Album, had Morrie as a professor in one of his classes in college.  He and Morrie were close while he was in college, but after graduating, the connection weakened as Mitch moved on in life.  When Mitch learned about Morrie's situation, he began to visit Morrie every Tuesday.  Each visit was like a class.  The main focus of each class was what a person can learn about life when facing death.  Morrie wants people to live life while they are able to do so.  Life is fragile and changes so quickly because of an illness, an accident, or other factors.  No matter what one's situation is in life, people must make the most of it.  While there may be a little time for pity, one must not become self absorbed.  If a person does that, then they aren't living.  Morrie wants people to focus on the important things in life.  These include loving one's family, having close friends, and living life.  Too often, people get caught up chasing the wrong things in life or focusing on things which really don't matter.  This book, while focusing on Morrie's impending decline and eventual death, teaches us how to live life to its fullest.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team