The Audiovisual, Part Two
Albom makes three allusions to the three interviews that Morrie did with Ted Koppel and "Dateline." These three interviews put Morrie's death into three parts: diagnosis, progression and the end. Here we are at the progression. Morrie and Koppel need no introduction this time. They speak of their childhoods before the interview begins. Morrie doesn't use his hands to speak like the last time. He had trouble with certain pronunciations. Morrie says he doesn't despair though, because he is surrounded by loving relationships. He says he doesn't fear not being able to speak, because he can communicate just by holding hands. The love that passes between the hands will be enough. Morrie then goes on to read a letter to Koppel that he wrote to a teacher who had written to him. This letter brought back his mother's death, which although was over 70 years ago, still had an effect on Morrie.
Here Albom flashes back to an eight-year-old Morrie, receiving a telegram from the local hospital that his mother was dead. Morrie had to translate, as his Russian immigrant father spoke poor English. He heard his aunts cry, “What will become of you?” and burst into tears. After the death, his father shut down, and his brother contracted Polio. Morrie's world was crumbling. He saw love again when his father re-married. He received kisses from his stepmother, who would sing to him. While her songs were of poverty and cigarettes, Morrie still felt love through the melody.
As Morrie became a teenager, his father decided he needed to work. Albom points out that the setting is now the Depression, and the family was desperate for money after the stock market crash of 1929. His father took him to the fur factory where he worked. Morrie hated that windowless building. He promised himself he would never work in a place like this, where the boss yelled at people as they worked away. He never wanted to work where money was made through the sweat and tears of others. This led into his teaching career, one where he could have a positive influence. This is another characterization of Morrie, as the reader learns why he chose his profession and why he was so caring. He knew exactly how not to treat people through these examples.
The Fourth Tuesday We Talk About Death
The reader now returns to the dying Morrie's house, and Mitch and Morrie are discussing just that - death. Morrie says, “Everyone knows they're going to die, but nobody believes it.” We know our hearts will stop beating, but everyone seems to have a sense of invincibility. It seems so far down the road, that we don't dwell on it. Morrie says that if you prepare yourself for death, you can be more involved in your life. This is a Buddhist tactic, ask yourself if today is the day and if you died today, would you have been who you wanted to be and done all you wanted to do? He says learning to die is learning to live.
Morrie says he didn't talk of death before he got sick, saying he'd be the healthiest old man you'd ever meet. He was one of those people who believed they would never die. Facing death however makes you focus on the essentials and you see everything differently. For example, if you know you will die, suddenly your job might not seem so important. A walk with a friend might become your top priority. You might appreciate nature more. Morrie says he notices the trees every day now.
After being on "Dateline" twice, Morrie becomes inundated with letters from viewers. He and his friends and family would gather for letter-writing sessions, where Morrie would dictate responses to each letter. It was as if he were leading a discussion group, part of the culture he loved earlier in his life. Another lesson from Morrie was no matter what, to take time to acknowledge those who had reached out to you. Through these letters, he was continuing to teach.
The Fifth Tuesday We Talk About Family
As September rolled around, Morrie found himself not teaching in a classroom for the first school year in 35 years. However, he continued to teach his old student, Mitch. On that fifth Tuesday, Mitch suggested a discussion on family. Morrie surrounded himself with photos of the family around his house. There is a metonymy here, using the word foundation to represent that your family is the ground upon which you stand on. In a moment of allegory, Morrie quotes the poet W.H. Auden saying, “Love each other or perish.” He says his disease would be unbearable if he was divorced or childless. Friends would stop by, but it would not be the same. Nothing else will give you that devotion, including money, fame, not work.
Mitch reflects on his life. He has no children. Morrie says he's not trying to tell Mitch what to do, but in his mind, having children shows you how to love and bond in the deepest way possible. He says he wouldn't change this for anything in the world. Morrie then questions Mitch about his family. He had met his parents at graduation, but wanted to know about siblings. Mitch says he has a younger brother, but then changes the subject.
Mitch's brother was his opposite: he had blonde hair to Mitch's brown, he was the poor student to Mitch's good one, and he was the druggie to Mitch's sobriety. However, he was the favorite of the family. He moved to Europe after high school to enjoy a casual lifestyle while Mitch went to college. Their biggest difference was health. Mitch was healthy, while his brother contracted cancer. He chose to battle the disease in Spain, away from family, not wanting any support. He ignored phone calls, despite Mitch's pleas for a connection. Mitch dove into work as he could not control his brother's situation, but he could control his own. He says he was drawn to Morrie, because he would let him in when his brother would not. This is why he changed the subject when Morrie asked about his sibling.
Analysis of The Audiovisual, Part Two - The Fifth Tuesday
Albom alludes back to Morrie's interviews with Ted Koppel. Koppel is a minor character in the story with major implications. If it were not for his first interview, Morrie and Mitch likely would not have ever reunited. These interviews tell us a lot about Morrie and his state. He hardly seemed sick in the first one and questioned Ted himself at the beginning, but by the last one, when his health had taken a major downturn, they were like old friends. Morrie shows here that one should always ask questions up front and learn about someone before fully trusting that person. Morrie trusted Ted with his story and wanted to make sure he was trustworthy.
There is a flashback in this section to Morrie's childhood. By taking us back here, Albom really helps the reader understand Morrie. Using this characterization to develop the character of Morrie, the reader can empathize with him even further. This is because the reader sees a mostly sickened character as an active child, learning about how the world works and deciding what he doesn't want to do with his life. Morrie learned how not to act from watching his father's coldness and hostility. By going back to his childhood, the reader can begin to understand why Morrie is so wise and why he's teaching these lessons to Mitch.
There is foreshadowing throughout the book, as we all know that Morrie is going to die. However, Morrie takes this a step further by discussing death and saying you can't be afraid of it. This foreshadowing allows readers to think about their own lives. If learning how to die is learning how to live, one can then ask what they need to do to get the most out of their own life. Morrie's gift is that he knows how to do this. By talking about his impending death, he is trying to help others live a fuller life.
Routine is a big part of this book. There is the routine of the visit every Tuesday, the routine of bringing lunch (even though Morrie never eats it), and the routine of the lessons. However, one thing that is never routine are the lessons themselves. Morrie knows so much about life,that he can teach something different every week. Routine can be seen as a bad thing, because people might not be adding enough variety into their lives, but even with their routine, there isn't a negative. While they do the same thing each week, they deepen their relationship, lesson by lesson.
The discussion about Mitch's brother is also a foreshadowing. The reader can assume that the brother would not be mentioned unless he serves a purpose to the story. Morrie's family members shaped who he became. Now the reader has a chance to wonder how Mitch's brother affected his life. The two were separated by distance and an unwillingness to communicate on the brother's part. Nevertheless, one is led to believe that this will be discussed further and become an important part of Mitch's life.