A novel titled Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom tells a story about the final course from an old dying professor to his former star student. Morrie Schwartz, a prominent professor of sociology from Brandeis University, had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) a dangerous disease of neurological system which the cure had not known yet. This illness quickly paralyzed Morrie's neurological system, starting from his feet and ending with his death when it reached to his lungs. On the other hand, Mitch Albom, the student and also the author of this novel, was a successful journalist in Detroit Free Press. Mitch and Morrie met in the first time in Brandeis University, Morrie taught him in sociology class, after that, Mitch began taking all Morrie's class for the next semester. After the graduation ceremony finished, Mitch promised Morrie to keep in touch, in fact, Mitch never called and visited the professor anymore. One night, sixteen years after his graduation, when he was casually flipping television's channels, Mitch coincidentally saw Morrie featured in Nightline show, a show in ABC TV whose host was Ted Koppel. This was the rising action part of this autobiographical novel.
In the beginning section of this novel, titled The Curriculum, Mitch explained about the class generally. He also stated that for the final test, the student was obligate to produce a thesis about all the topics that had been learned in class, such as family, money, love, work, community, marriage, forgiveness, and death. The final thesis was this novel.
Using the Mitch as the first person narrator to tell the story, the course was held on every Tuesday in the professor's house. The course discussed about the life lessons ? the true and authentic meaning of life which human beings should seek and chase when they live. Morrie had an opinion that all human beings should be as human as they can be. Due to the globalization and modernity, Morrie called it as the attack of popular culture; instead of giving love, compassion, affection to other people, open communication, and respect each other, people nowadays give the first priority to money, wealth, career, and build up individualism values. They are very busy with their own life, and they were trapped in the siren song of their own life.
Moreover, the main idea of this novel is popular culture gives negative effects to people, such as greediness, materialism oriented, and selfish behavior, so that people should reject the popular culture and create their own values and culture. Popular culture that was shown in this novel was represented by mass media. Throughout the story, Albom showed things that had something to do with mass media, such as sitcom in television, newspapers, and magazines. To illustrate, when he was in London to report the Wimbledon Match, he was passing the newspapers and magazines stall. Albom read the headlines to the readers (pp. 13) According to the author, most of the headlines in those mass media were considered as silly and mindless. This was because, instead of reporting a meaningful and inspirational story or news, they just told a rumors and gossips about other people. The author admitted to himself if he did not rediscover Morrie, he must have bought and read the ridiculous newspaper. Furthermore, the O.J. Simpson trial which happened in United States at that time became the center of attention of American. In addition, almost on every Tuesday when he met the professor, Albom mentioned the newspaper headlines to the readers. He read about murder, torment, robbery, and a dozen other horrific crimes that supply to put beside the wickedness of the popular culture. For example, the case which happened in Mitch's workplace, Ted Turner's headline (pp.35), and the billboards in the airport (pp.34). Nevertheless, in my opinion, the most interesting thing that relates to mass media is found in Mitch character, whose job is a journalist, an occupation that has a tight relationship with mass media. He admitted that his job keeps him busy and spends his time and attention; it also lessened his time to communicate with his wife.
Popular culture that disseminates in the society recently has become a symptom which turns out to be a social construction. Mass media as a product of popular culture plays a big role in forming the social construction in the society. Through the mass media, public were dictated about what they should do and what they should not do, what they should have, and what kind of people they should be in order to be accepted in the society and their neighborhood. As a result, the public has a perspective that has and collect much money is a good thing, even the best thing. Being a number one is excellent, whereas, being a number two is a big disgrace. The more is the better, the more you get the happier you will be. Thus, no wonder people now are competing to have more money, material things, wealth, prosperity, status, and fame.
According to Morrie, most people are so fogged up by all this, so that no one has a thought about what is really important anymore. Unfortunately, what they chase and pursue all this time cannot make them happy, instead it will lead them to disillusionment, hunger, and be unsatisfied. Those material things make they feel threatened; worry about losing their job, money, status, fame, and other material things, which they already struggled for. As Morrie said that we should against and reject the popular culture values and develop our own sense of values and culture, he had created his own values and cultures long before the illness attacked him. He really appreciated things like holding discussion groups, walks with friends, doing his hobby, such as dancing. He read books, founded community projects, enjoyed nature and human activities, and kept in touch with his old colleagues and students. He did not waste his time watching television, gossiping program or movies of the week. He also had an opinion that we can lead more meaningful life, embracing aging, love and respect each other, and live without regret if we succeed refusing the popular culture.
This novel has many strong points to support the main idea. The first is the existence of media as the representative of popular culture; also he used some devices to represent the modernity, such as modem, cellular phone, computer, and Detroit as a modern city. Besides the headlines in newspapers and magazines, the Nightline show emerged in three special sections, The Audiovisual. The second is Mitch used good metaphors, such as the pink hibiscus plant to represent natural cycle of human's life (birth and death), and Morrie's bed as a symbol of death. During his sickness Morrie never stayed in bed, since according to him, staying in bed means that he surrendered to his disease. Readers only know that he was in his bed when Mitch came on the last Tuesday. The third is Mitch described the physical appearance of Morrie. Since the main focus of the novel is Morrie, from the early beginning of the novel Mitch depicted the physical look of Morrie. The fourth, knowing his readers were very curious about Morrie. Mitch regularly told the reader about Morrie's condition every Tuesday when they met. The fifth, he used flashbacks and background information about himself and Morrie. These were very helpful, because they provide a distinct image of Mitch when he was young which was in contradiction with his adulthood. The flashback also helped the readers to see what kind of relationship that Mitch and Morrie had when they were in Brandeis so that the readers can imagine their unique relationship in past time. The sixth is the choice of words. Generally, this novel was very "readable" since Albom used easy-to-understand words. The story flows smoothly and the readers can easily follow the idea of the author. The seventh, he contributed real additional characters or figures that appeared in headlines and television, such as Ted Koppel, Maurie Stein, Ted Turner, and O.J. Simpson. This made the story became more alive and very helpful for current readers and readers from different country, since they can imagine about things that happened in United States when Mitch was working on this novel. The eight is the novel gave solution about the social condition of the society. Through the character of Morrie ?developing his own culture? implicitly Mitch offered the solution for his readers regarding the impact of popular culture. The ninth, Morrie's aphorisms were very inspirational and strong for readers. These made this great novel became the greatest life lessons book.
Despite of the strong points about the novel, I want to criticize some points. The first, Mitch did not describe a lot about the physical appearance or personality character about people surrounding Morrie, such as Charlotte, David, Rob, John, and Norman. In fact, some of the characters were discovered a few in middle chapters, even the Norman character was discovered in the last chapters of the novel. The second, though popular culture brings negative impacts towards human's life, it also bring the positive impacts. For example, by using media, such as newspaper and magazines, people all over the world can find out the information and the news, as we all know that information is very important in this globalization era. Moreover, although Morrie was depicted as a person who did not enjoy watching television, finally, he used media (The Nightline show) to spread his wise aphorisms. The third is Mitch depicted that Morrie is an agnostic. However, in his final days, in The Audiovisual part 3, he did "talk" to God. What I want to analyze here is that even an agnostic, at last, believe that God is exist. This means that human, in his/her life, cannot be separated from God. The fourth, although Mitch offered solution in the novel, for some people the solution can be less applicable for their life. For illustration, if someone had an acute impact of popular culture, such as, working like a demon is already become the part of his/her life, s/he cannot easily apply the solutions which the author offered.
After reading the novel, I want to highlight the transformation of Mitch's character before he met his old professor in the second time and after he rediscovered Morrie before his death. The impact of popular culture can be seen clearly in Mitch's character. The death of his uncle became the turning point of his life. Then, he worked hard to find a happiness which was more visible and real, for example money and material things. He focused his life on other people, not on himself or on what he feels; this was represented by his writings about famous athletes who were at the top of their career. Albom had an unsatisfied ambition towards all the things that he already accomplished; he worked extremely hard, work in a rush, chased by the deadline, and accumulated the money as much as possible. He believed that all those accomplishments can be used to control things around him. He had set the strong will to collect all those "happiness" before he died because of an illness, like his uncle. Indeed, his hard works resulted in a settle and comfort life of him, he got achievements and acknowledgements by people, and he started having a feeling that he was in demand. However, after all of his years spent driven by financial success, he cannot find happiness in money and professional power. Everything began "back to normal" when he returned to Massachusetts to meet Morrie. The old professor helped Albom to regain to be a person what he used to be, to be a fully human. As if the course with Morrie was a warning for him that what he was doing all this time was meaningless. Morrie urged Mitch to give of himself, which is more meaningful than giving money. He advised him to devote himself to loving, creating something that gives you purpose and meaning, and giving generously to his community. Morrie added that people will never forget about us, although death happened. This is because love will always be planted in our heart. There is a part of the book that I think is interesting to illustrate this, it was when Mitch's workplace was closed for uncertain period. As a result, he could not work and reach the "happiness" as usual. He felt confused and his life was upside down. He associated the newspaper office where he worked as his oxygen. Oxygen that made him stay survives (pp. 41). He had grown used to thinking that readers desperately needs his writing in newspaper, surprisingly, he was astonished that everything still went on without him and his column. We can see from this that if we give nothing but love, people will easily forget about us. After 3 months attended the "course", Mitch tried to fix himself and doing something meaningful for his life and other's. Mitch has had the time to restore meaning to his life, rekindling loving relationships and create his own culture, as Morrie has instructed him to do. In the end of the story, Mitch, at last, succeeded to contact his brother, Peter, in Spain after long time they lost the connection. Besides, he changed to be a sensitive person. This was represented by teardrops. Mitch never cries before he rediscovered Morrie. At the end of the story, he cried when he said goodbye to Morrie on the last Tuesdays, and cried after read the fax from his brother.
In conclusion, due to the strong points that it has, this inspirational novel is really suitable for everyone; for teenager, middle age people, Moslems, Christians, Jewish, Hindus or Buddhist. Furthermore, Morrie's struggled to fight against his illness can be an inspiration that we must not give up with our condition. However, this novel can be made better, if another characters such as Charlotte (Morrie's wife), Rob and John (Morrie's son), and David (Morrie's brother) were also revealed more detail in the story. In terms of popular culture, in my view, we can rethink about it more carefully, what the advantages and the disadvantages of it to our life. After all, all the products which were produced are there to help us, to make our life easy, not to destroy the human beings.