The Sixth Tuesday We Talk About Emotions
For the first time, Morrie’s wife Charlotte greets Mitch at the door. She worked at MIT and Morrie told her not to quit her job because of him. She warns Mitch that Morrie is having a hard time, but that he would be happy to see him. Upon seeing Mitch's weekly offering of food, she smiles, but mentions he really cannot eat anymore, and that he is on a mostly liquid diet. Mitch says he wants to help, to bring something. Charlotte tells him he is bringing something; he is bringing a sense of purpose to Morrie. Neither Morrie nor Charlotte is getting much sleep as Morrie's nights become labored. She says she will go get Morrie, so they can have their meeting.
This is the climax of the book, where Morrie is struggling to survive his coughing fits. He has so much more he wants to say, yet the disease is really starting to take over his body. After a violent attack, he checks with Mitch to make sure the tape recorder is on. Mitch says yes. Morrie, with his eyes closed, says he is following another Buddhist practice of detaching himself. He says that he cannot cling to things, because nothing is permanent. One can experience things, but letting oneself be penetrated by these experiences is problematic. People get in over their heads if they fully enjoy every moment, so they shouldn’t believe the highest highs or the lowest lows in life. It's like dying. People know it's coming, but shouldn’t obsess over it.
After making his point, Morrie launches into another violent coughing attack. Mitch does the first thing that comes to mind, give Morrie a hard slap on the back to release the phlegm. The attack stops. After a brief rest, Morrie says he doesn't want to die in a fit like this. Rather, he would prefer to go peacefully. Nevertheless, if it happens in a coughing spell, he needs to detach from it and say, “This is my moment,” and accept it. He says he won't let go yet though, because they still have work to do and he has more to teach.
Before a flashback on Morrie's life, Mitch asks Morrie in an allegory if he believes in reincarnation. Morrie says perhaps, and that if it were true, he would like to come back as a gazelle. He says gazelles are graceful and fast. Perhaps this animal is a personification of how Morrie would like his death to be. Graceful and serene, or if it is in a violent cough attack, hopefully it will be fast.
The Professor, Part Two
Morrie's character was shaped further after he received his Ph.D. He decided to do work for the world through research and received a grant to observe mental patients and make records of their treatments in Washington D.C. This was a groundbreaking study in the 1950s. He observed screaming patients, patients defecating in their underwear, refusing to eat, and needing to be held down. There was a woman who would lie face down on a tile floor all day. Morrie felt sorry for the woman and eventually would lie with her. He realized she just wanted someone to notice her. Through his time at the mental institution, he learned what most people needed was more compassion in their lives.
After working there, he started teaching at Brandeis University, which is where he and Mitch would eventually meet. This was in the 1960s. His sociology classes were popular. Morrie wasn't big on grades and gave students As so they wouldn't lose their deferment and have to go fight in Vietnam. He made friends with many students and many would tell him that they never had another teacher like him.
The Seventh Tuesday We Talk About the Fear of Aging
Morrie lost his biggest battle this week in that he needed help having his behind wiped. He accepted this and faced it head on. He taught himself to enjoy his dependency. He reveled in feeling like a child again. Through this, he explained to Mitch that it is important to live in the moment and find a positive in everything. He said it was fun to feel like a youth again. This leads to a discussion on aging. He said he didn't buy the emphasis on youth, that it's better to be older because you are wiser. He knows much more than he did at 22. He doesn't envy the youth though, because he can remember being that age and take himself back to remember the feeling of being any age he wants.
The Eight Tuesday We Talk About Money
Morrie says society puts our values on the wrong things. This goes back to culture. He says people lead disillusioned lives, that they are brainwashed that money is good and that what one owns determines one’s self-worth. Morrie believes that these things are no substitute for tenderness or love, which becomes meaningful for him. He believes that love is the characteristic that makes people whole and happy. He says status will get one nowhere, but love will.
Analysis of The Sixth Tuesday - The Eighth Tuesday
When Mitch finds out Morrie doesn't eat the food he brings each week, he doesn't think he is helping his professor, but Morrie's wife Charlotte says that he is indeed helping, by giving Morrie a sense of purpose. Morrie knows he needs to stay alive each week so that he can finish his lesson with Mitch. The irony is that Mitch is probably extending Morrie's life, while he thinks he is just there to listen and be a good friend. In actuality, he is helping Morrie just as much as Morrie is helping him.
The climax of the book occurs in this section. Morrie is beginning to experience severe coughing fits that are literally killing him. He's taking a severe downturn in his health and his management of ALS. There are still more lessons to teach and the reader is left to wonder how much longer Morrie will be around to talk to Mitch. This is when Morrie's disease truly becomes real for Mitch, as he starts to witness these coughing fits and needs to assist Morrie, by hitting his back so hard that phlegm is released.
Morrie has a special place in his heart for Buddhism. While not a Buddhist, he uses some of the principles in his dealings with ALS. The theory of detachment is a big part what gets him through his coughing fits as he tries to detach himself from his body. This really shows the tone of Morrie's character. Even while going through something traumatic, he finds a way to get through it. Everything, even a cough, is a lesson. He does not dwell on things. Instead, he takes it for what it is and moves on.
When Mitch asks Morrie which animal he would like to come back as, he chooses the graceful gazelle. In this reverse of a personification (giving human qualities to animals), he takes the quality of an animal and puts it into the way he would like to be. The ironic thing is that Morrie appears to be quite serene. He handles things gracefully and takes them as they come. He already has some of the qualities of the animal that he would want to be.
There is another flashback to an earlier place in Morrie's life what Mitch delves into Morrie working at the mental institution. Morrie wanted to know these people and show them compassion, which parallels Morrie's life now. He has become the person that really needs the compassion and someone to listen. While not a mental case, his visitors have dwindled to just family and a few good friends, like Mitch. The mental patients were locked up and not getting visitors, but both need compassion. Morrie gave the compassion while he was there and is now receiving it from Mitch and his family.