Study Guide

Tuesdays With Morrie Chapter 21

By Mitch Albom

Chapter 21

The Eleventh Tuesday: We Talk About Our Culture

  • Morrie's physical therapist is teaching Mitch an exercise to help loosen Morrie's lungs. The disease is getting to the dangerous point, and Morrie's lungs will soon stiffen and he won't be able to breathe.
  • Mitch tells us that as time passes he's happy to be hands-on, helping to take care of Morrie.
  • Despite how serious the situation is, Morrie tries to keep things lighthearted as he tells them to go easy on him because he's "an old man" (21.12). However, Mitch says that everyone's nervous laughter is the kind "that comes when the devil is within earshot" (21.9).
  • Afterward, they begin their discussion on culture, which is something that Morrie has already mentioned quite a bit.
  • Morrie says that culture is made up of people who become bad because they're threatened by things about the world they live in.
  • Mitch holds Morrie's hand while they talk; he tells us that he's become comfortable with all sorts of things that he wasn't before.
  • Morrie talks about which cultural rules you have to follow and which ones you don't. Although you have to obey stuff like stopping at red lights, you don't have to listen to someone telling you how to live your life.
  • Every culture has its own problems, so it doesn't work to run away—no matter where you do, people are just people.
  • Humanity's main problem is being shortsighted, unable to see past its own nose. Morrie believes that if people were able to reach outside themselves they would see how similar everyone is, despite differences.
  • To fight both culture and shortsightedness, Morrie suggests investing in people around you, taking care of others and loving them because people need each other.
  • In the afternoon, Connie and Mitch watch the OJ Simpson verdict. They watch in horror when Simpson's not guilty verdict is announced.
  • Mitch realizes that while this momentous occasion is happening and the whole world is glued to their television screen, Morrie is on the toilet.
  • Flashback to the 1970s, this time at a college basketball game. The whole gym is shouting "number 1" until Morrie shouts over them and stuns them by asking "what's wrong with being number two?" (21.40).