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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES / ANALYSIS
Mitch Albom opens the novel with background information on Morrie Schwartz. Morrie was one of Mitch’s favorite professors, in college, at Brandeis University. Mitch introduces Morrie to his parents and gives him a briefcase for a gift. They hug; and when Mitch steps back he can see that Morrie is crying.
This first chapter introduces the reader to the setting, mood and theme of the novel. We learn that Morrie Schwartz was Mitch’s favorite professor from when he went to college. It is also foreshadowed that this novel will be centered around Morrie’s last class, which was given in his home, to Mitch Albom. The theme of the class was the meaning of life and Mitch was the only student. It is apparent that this novel will be reflective, somber and hopefully enlightening. For we also know that at the end of the lesson-the “graduation” (1), will be Morrie’s funeral.
Morrie could sense that his health was suffering, when he could no longer dance; this was even before he was diagnosed with ALS. Morrie loved to dance to any music and even with or without a partner.
As he aged into his seventies, breathing became harder, walking more challenging, and sleep troubling; he began to see doctors and was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Despite his terminal illness, he kept swimming, with help of course, and even insisted on teaching a class at the University.
Mitch Albom presents more insight to Morrie’s character in this chapter. We see that he is carefree, loves to dance, a distinguished sociology professor, and determined to live his life to the very fullest, to the very end. When Morrie had to give up dancing, he kept swimming; when he could no longer dress and undress himself, he got help and still swam; when Morrie had to go to the bathroom, he asked one of his visitors to hold his cup; when Morrie was suffering from the terminal illness, ALS, he still taught a college class.
Morrie was innovative and inspirational to those around him. Upon attending a funeral, he felt sad that his deceased colleague never got to hear all of the praise said about him; Morrie held his own living funeral where he could hear the praise and tribute paid upon him.
The Student/ The Audiovisual
Mitch explains what has happened to him since he last saw Morrie on his college graduation day. He moved to New York City with high hopes of becoming a musician. However, upon the death of his uncle he soon saw his life to be too short to waste time playing at empty venues, committing to unreliable bands, and writing songs which he thinks will never be heard. Mitch decided to continue his education at Columbia University, obtaining his Masters Degree in Journalism.
One evening as he was flipping through the television channels, he heard the voice of Ted Koppel ask, “Who is Morrie Schwartz” (23)?
The chapter then flashes back to the first time Mitch met Morrie: it was their first class together in the spring of 1976. It was a small class and Morrie asked Mitch what he preferred to be called. Upon telling Morrie that his friends call him “Mitch”, Morrie told him that he hopes one day Mitch will think of him as a friend.
Since the death of his uncle, it seems that Mitch was trying to make the most of his life by accepting job after job, accomplishment after accomplishment. He did not keep touch with any of his college friends, or even Morrie. Albom gives us the impression that he was so busy trying to live his life that he never stopped to realize he wasn’t.