Study Guide

Tuesdays With Morrie The Hibiscus

By Mitch Albom

The Hibiscus

Before we get going with this one, we want to note that since this story isn't fiction, Albom hasn't made up symbols and allegories to include in it it the way a fiction writer often will. But there are a still couple of things that do some symbolic work anyway, thanks to what we'll cheesily refer to as the poetry of life. And the first is Morrie's little hibiscus plant that sits on the windowsill of his study.

This little plant sits there, contained by a pot and stuck indoors, but growing none the less. You know who else is contained? Morrie, by his body as it fails; this also leaves him stuck indoors. But he continues to grow, to engage critically with himself and the world and to strive toward the most meaningful existence he can create. Morrie, like the plant, lives anyway.

The hibiscus also helps illustrate the simplicity Morrie prioritizes in life. Insofar as Morrie is against culture for all of the ways it distracts us from actually tending to our happiness, the simple beauty of a houseplant seems way more his speed. He doesn't decorate with expensive paintings or large photographs—instead, he chooses to share his space with the most basic beauty. After all, nothing's more basic than nature.

And speaking of things that are natural, Morrie brings the plant into his discussion about death. He asks Mitch to bring him the plant, and then explains:

"It's natural to die," he said again. "The fact that we make such a big hullabaloo over it is all because we don't see ourselves as part of nature. We think because we're human we're something above nature."

He smiled at the plant.

"We're not. Everything that gets born, dies."
(24.22-24) 

The plant is the perfect example of this truth. And though as humans we're not "above nature," in our ability to observe the plant, we can see the inevitable—and perfectly natural—cycle of living and then dying. And though death waits at the end, we are still able to see the beauty of the plant in its life—and it's this beauty in living that Morrie tries so hard to recognize and appreciate while it lasts.