Chapter 1 Summary
Tuesdays With Morrie is a memoir about the lessons the author, Mitch Albom, learned from his professor while at university and later at the end of his professor’s life. Chapter 1, “The Curriculum,” introduces the narrative structure of the opening chapters, the characters, and the themes Mitch Albom discusses in Tuesdays With Morrie.
Morrie Schwartz was Mitch Albom’s favorite professor at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. The first half of “The Curriculum” explains that Morrie is dying and that they have begun to meet each other on a weekly basis, likening their visits to a class. Although Albom is learning from his former professor, this is not a traditional class. Albom juxtaposes the reader’s expectations of a traditional class with the more intimate classes that his “Tuesdays With Morrie” took. The class is unorthodox because it does not contain tests, grades, or lectures, but it does involve an oral exam and the student is expected to ask questions. Instead of a graduation ceremony, this class has a funeral. Albom explains that the book Tuesdays With Morrie is the class’s final paper.
Albom provides an overview of his memoir in “The Curriculum.” Broadly, the book discusses the meaning of life. Specifically, the topics include love, work, community, family, aging, forgiveness, and death. The opening chapters of Tuesdays With Morrie discuss the difficulties Morrie Schwartz faced at the end of his life, juxtaposing them with the lessons Albom learned from his old professor. This structure of juxtapositions is an organizing device that makes for a mood that is in turns nostalgic, sentimental, and uplifting.
The latter half of “The Curriculum” tells of Morrie’s college graduation in 1979. Even at this time, Morrie was already old and fragile, but he is still very intelligent and kind, which is reflected through his honest and warm smile. Albom clearly admired Morrie during their time together in college; he took nearly all of the classes Morrie taught.
Albom explains that graduation is the end of childhood. It also seems to be the end of his time with Morrie. When Albom introduces his parents to Morrie, it is clear that both the professor and the student have a great deal of respect and affection for each other. Morrie describes Albom as “a special boy” and Albom gives his professor a briefcase. As they embrace, Albom already feels like their roles have been reversed—the aged professor feels like a child in his arms—which foreshadows their later relationship during Morrie’s illness. Although graduation is often a time of parting, the two promise to keep in touch. They fulfill that promise with their informal Tuesday class at the end of Morrie’s life.