ISU Paper on: Tuesdays with Morrie, The Fault in Our Stars and Still Alice

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In the novels “the fault in our stars” by John Green, “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova, and “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom, the authors unsurprisingly portray suffering, the concept of death and mortality, love and personal relationship as the prominent part of all the characters’ lives throughout the different stories. For instance, John Green in his work the fault in our stars, he describes the lives of kids dying of cancer and going through ‘losses” along with their lives. The three main characters Hazel, Isaac, and Augustus go through both emotional and physical pain as they lose some parts of their bodies. Moreover, Mitch Albom in his nonfiction work Tuesdays with Morrie, he highlights on the lessons he learned from his professor Morrie Schwartz as the latter was dying from a neurological problem. Through his once a week session with his beloved former professor, Mitch gathers a lot of significant information about life, relationship, love, and the inevitability of mortality. During the “lessons”, Albom learns that people lose their emotional health as they are busy chasing their personal desires. In addition, in Lisa Genova’s novel Still Alive the main character doctor Alice Howland goes through challenges with the Alzheimer’s disease, she loses her family as her relationship with the children, husband, and herself is completely changed over time. Although the characters of the three novels travel paths of loss, in the end, each follows the same path of hope: through building new relationships, understand their mortality, and accepting what life has given them.

In the three books, the authors through the different characters have portrayed a picture of the significance of building a positive relationship with others. In his nonfiction work, Tuesdays with Morrie Mitch Albom indicates how Morrie’s encouragement enabled him to realize the significance of creating a connection with the people that surround us. Moreover, as the story develops; Mitch portrays himself as an individual that has changed his perception on work and the significance of recovering the time he lost at work, while forgetting the things that should have made him proud of having lived his life to the fullest. Every moment the author visited his sick former professor and engages in lengthy conversation about life, his view of how much he had lost and the things he missed in life such as having caring people around becomes more lucid. In the novel, “the fault in our stars”, the author, John Green describes the lives of the three main characters, Isaac, Augustus and Hazel and the pain, loses, and how they developed a positive relationship through love. The author describes the close relationship between the two main characters, Hazel and Augustus and how the two found love in each other despite their worrying conditions. The two major characters discovered significant things about themselves during the short time they spent together. Although Hazel, as exhibited in the novel later, came to be very close to Augustus, she initially was afraid of developing a connection with Augustus in fear of causing pain to his life. However, as seen at the end of the book, the relationship that Hazel develops with Augustus leads to Hazel opening up to her new friend and learn the importance of being social and developing a positive relationship with the people that surround us for the time we are blessed to be with them. In Lisa Genova’s book “Still Alice”, the author portrays the loss the main character endured when she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and her consequent broken relationship between her and her husband, daughter and the entire family. In this work, Genova outlines the life of the main character, Alice and her wedded husband John whom together were blessed with three beautiful children. Before she started falling sick, Alice and her entire family had each other and life was nearly “perfect”. However, as Genova describes, when Alzheimer disease entered into Alice’s life, her husband started alienating her. In the process, Alice is left by her husband while excusing himself with work-related issues. All the characters in Genova’s novel take their career with a lot of seriousness that they forget to create and develop a positive relationship with each other by spending time together as a family. However, despite the challenges and the loss she goes through, finally, Alice feels hopeful as the once-entangled relationship between her and her daughter Lydia drastically improves. This notion is supported at the end of the book when the author describes that despite the fact that Alice's relationship with her family members had deteriorated, their association is strengthened as seen when Lydia reached out and held her mother's hand and gave out a smile as she squeezed it. Although Alzheimer disease contributed to the loss Alice’s memory, her connection with Lydia and the feeling of love from her daughter as she responded, “I feel love. It’s about love” (Genova 175) served as a happy ending for a once broken relationship between the two women.

In the three books, the authors describe how the main characters confront the issue of life and the inevitability of death. In the novel Tuesdays with Morrie, the author was surprised when professor Morrie revealed to him that death should not be feared, but rather should be warmly welcomed and embraced. In their conversation, Morrie explains that as long as there is a combination of love, fulfillment in life, and support from people that surround you, anyone can be in a position to openly accept death, “once you learn how to die, you learn how to live” (Albom 82), he said is quoted explaining to Mitch. The major lesson that the author learns from the sessions with his professor is that once an individual learns and accept the fact that he/she is going to die and that if he/she has people around who show care and love, then, he/she can live his/her life to the fullest without ever regretting of losing anything over the course of his/her existence, “the most significant aspect of life is to understand how to offer love and to accept it come in" (Albom 52), Morrie explained to his student Mitch. In the novel the fault in our stars, the author describes how three kids stood for each other despite the fact that they knew death was inevitable to them. The three characters routinely try to handle the issue of mortality with ease but often they find themselves scared of the inevitability of the same. Although the characters support and encourage each other, their relationship, action and thought are all cast in the shadow of the idea that they will no longer be able to see the sun rise again. The concern of the two major characters revolves around on answering question of finding a purpose in life and death. For Augustus, he is afraid that when he dies, he might fade into oblivion and that his life will not make any sense to the living. On the other hand, Hazel fears that she will hurt the people around her when she dies and leave them behind. However, through their intricate relationship, Hazel and Augustus develop a new understanding and interpretation about mortality. . Thus, as time goes the characters realize that certain misfortunes in life are inevitable and cannot be prevented, “the oblivion is inevitable, and we are all condemned and there will a time when all our labor will be returned to dust, and the sun will swallow the earth”(Green 66), Hazel explained to her friend Augustus. At the end of the novel, Hazel reads Augustus’s letter that was addressed to Van Houten and it reveals to her that the pain that an individual causes to those close to them after he/she dies is a mark that indicates that he/she mattered to their lives. In his last words through the letter, Augustus happily reveals that although he had left “scar” in Hazel’s heart, he will be immortalized in her life. Hence, even after the death of Augustus, Hazel is able to confidently step out of her isolation zone and celebrate the life of her friend despite the fact that her death was inevitable. Moreover, through the death of Augustus, Hazel comes to understand that mortality is a passage that offers us an opportunity to live the life we have to the fullest and appreciating those close to us. The pain that Augustus left in Hazel’s life acted as a source of joy for her as exhibited when she touches on this notion during Augustus’s eulogy by stating that, “there is a quotation in Augustus’s room, one that we found was soothing: without pain, we could not understand joy” (Green 112). In the book Still Alice, the author describes how the diagnosis for Alzheimer hit Alice and her entire family with a shock. As a learned professor teaching at Harvard, Alice knew that she did not have much time left for her to be with her family. Thus, she opts to heal her broken relationship with her daughter Lydia and spent a lot of time with her children. The fact that John, Alice’s husband thought that she was misdiagnosed and went ahead to insist on conducting genetic test to her and her children was a clear sign that he feared she might no longer be able to live a normal life as death was inevitable. Alice comforted herself by remembering that her life was like that of a butterfly which is short but beautiful. Although Alice knew her death was inevitable, she liked remembering that just because her life has been cut short by Alzheimer did not mean that it is tragic.  Thus, with her mother’s statement which stated that “just because their lives were short did not imply that they were sad” in mind, Alice understood that even with the less time of happiness, she will experience with her family, it is worth it.

Almost all the characters in the three books appreciate the fact that despite their transgressions and loses, life has more to offer to them. In the book The Fault in Our Stars, the author describes the challenges that the three characters go through and the consequent appreciation of what life has given them. For instance, Hazel’s lungs were filled with a fluid that was built up, which in return deprived her oxygen. As a result of the pain that she went through, Hazel is forced to be admitted to the emergency unit. In addition, Hazel’s friend, Isaac faced an instant discrimination and rejection from his girlfriend after he lost his remaining eye which deemed him blind. Moreover, the author explains how the physical health of Augustus drastically deteriorated to the point that he was forced to take pain medications that left him nearly incoherent. In his description, John provides a picture of a broken August who felt that he would never be able to accomplish the heroic acts such as “ hurting down any remaining Nazis and bring them down to justice” (Green 85). As the novel progresses, the characters, particularly Augustus and Hazel acknowledge that the pain and loses they have incurred is a part of their lives or rather a side a side effect of living. Although professor Morrie agree with the fact that he has moments of grievances in his life, Mitch is offered a reason to smile despite the fact that he has lost a lot of time by encouraging him to always avoid feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he should focus on finding the inner peace in his life and cherish the little time to develop strong bond and love with the people that matter to him. In one particular instance, Morrie states that "I offer myself a decent cry if I require it; however, I do focus on the things that are still good in my life” (Albom 57). As the narrator sees his mentor die, he realized that, like his professor, he wants to leave this world knowing that he has not lost any precious moment, but rather he has lived his life to the fullest without any regrets. Moreover, the author acknowledges that he wanted by the time of his death, he has loved and forgiven himself for any wrongdoings he has committed to others as sincerely as he could.  At the end of the novel, Mitch sees in Morrie an individual that he wants to be, a person that values love, positive relationship with other members of society against money and superficial vanity. Through the influence of his mentor, the author is encouraged to love, develop a positive connection with other members of the society and avoid the veneer toughness he had exhibited for years. The lesson that Mitch learns from professor Morrie on developing a positive relationship culminates from one quote in which he stated that "there is no principle for interactions. They have to be talked out in affectionate approaches, with each party given an opportunity of stating what they want and require, what they are capable of doing, and the nature of their life” (Albom 178). In this regard, Mitch learns that by living his life to the fullest and making up for the loss, he will openly accept death and he would not fear it, "don't let go too early but should not hang for too long" (Albom 162), Morrie said to his student Mitch. In the novel, Still Alice, the author portrays how Alice struggles as she realizes she is losing who she is as a renowned professor at Harvard and she will no longer be able to teach and look after herself. Although before the inception of Alzheimer disease Alice strongly opposed her daughter’s decision to join acting, as the situation worsened, she comes into terms with her daughter and develops an emotional attachment as her own intellectual ability weakened. Thus, Alice becomes the mother Lydia aspired to be by being less judgmental and appreciated her daughter's ambition to become an actor. Although is filled with rage for not remembering the recipe she made some time ago, she finally accepts her situation by descending into bemused recognition of the fact that she will never be the Alice who used to lecture at Harvard.

In a concluding remark, almost all the characters in the three novels, have exhibited a feeling of satisfaction, love, and companionship at the end of their lives despite the loss they incurred. Thus, there is a striking similarity on how certain characters are immortalized among the living despite their disappearance. For instance, Morrie’s lessons are immortalized in Mitch’s life and he further positively changed his mind on how he viewed particular aspects of life such as leading a positive relationship with his loved ones. In addition, the last moments exhibited by the other two characters, Augustus and Alice is an indication that indeed, despite the loss, in the end, each follows the same path of hope: through building new relationships, understand their mortality, and accepting what life has given them.

Works Cited

Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays with Morrie. Brilliance Corp, 1997.

Genova, Lisa. Still Alice: A Novel. Pocket Books, 2009.

Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. Dutton Books, 2012.

July 18, 2022




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