Morrie Schwartz shapes many college students into successful adults with his powerful life lessons. What and who shapes Morrie into the compassionate, knowledgeable, and fearless man he is? His close family members contribute to the majority of Morrie’s personality. His father teaches him about the importance of love. Morrie’s mother’s death teaches him from an early age about personal culture and mankind’s inevitable death. Morrie’s stepmother, Eva, invokes his love of learning. Finally, Morrie’s brother, David, teaches him compassion. The people who were the greatest influence on Morrie’s childhood were his mother, father, brother, and stepmother.
From a young age, Morrie is exposed to the harsh reality of death. His mother falls ill and is only able to sit in front of the window all day long. A telegram from the hospital announcing her death is delivered to the Schwartz residence. Since Morrie is the only one in the family who can read English, he is forced to announce to his whole family the death of their beloved mother and wife. This is Morrie’s first glimpse of the recurring theme of death throughout his life. He keeps the life-changing telegram with him until the day he dies, along with the burden of his mother’s death. Morrie’s father tries to force him to bury the memories of his mother so that David will believe that their new stepmother is David’s real mom. This is a confusing and painful time to Morrie, and he struggles with the internal conflict between obeying his father’s wishes and continuing to honor his mother’s memory. As long as Morrie and his brother are living in Connecticut, Morrie goes to a synagogue daily to pray for his mother’s spirit and his brother’s illness in order to ease his conscience and try to reconnect with her and heal him. He seeks spiritual security in his mother’s death. Praying at the Jewish synagogue exposes Morrie to different religious beliefs that eventually turn him into a religious, philosophical melting pot. He refers to his selectivity of multiple religious practices as his personal culture. Part of Morrie’s personal culture also includes dancing and taking long walks outside. All of these are taken away from him as his disease progresses. After his mother’s death, Morrie is able to begin the construction of his very own personal culture.
Shortly after Morrie and David’s real mother dies, their father remarries a lovely woman named Eva. David, Morrie’s brother, is intentionally raised to believe that Eva is his real mother, a lie which forces Morrie to suppress any memories and feelings of their actual late mother. Eva is a school teacher and raises the boys to be smart and to value their own education. She encourages Morrie all the time and showers him with love and affection, unlike his father. Eva fills a large hole in Morrie’s life that has been missing ever since his mother passed away. Eva’s encouragement and help play a significant part in Morrie’s career choice to be a college professor of sociology.
Morrie’s father has the greatest impact on Morrie’s decisions as an adult. To begin, Charlie Schwartz never shows his children how a true father should act. Charlie works when he has a job and avoids any verbal, physical, and emotional communication with Morrie and David. Morrie promises himself from an early age that his future children will know what a father’s love should feel like. Morrie constantly lets his sons know how much he loves them and how proud he is of them. Charlie’s lack of outward affection leads Morrie to crave attention his entire life. This need can especially be seen later in Morrie’s life when people hug him and he clings to their physical contact longer than most people do. Charlie’s death plays an important role in Morrie’s impending demise. Charlie dies suddenly of a heart attack after he is robbed at gunpoint, and Morrie is responsible for identifying the body at the morgue. This is a conflicting moment for Morrie because he wants to feel remorse for his father’s death, but since they have never had an emotional connection, he is unsure how he feels. From this moment forward, Morrie decides that when it is time for him to pass away, he wants to be surrounded by the people he loves. Through Charlie’s lack of parental love, Morrie learns how important demonstrating familial affection is.
Morrie’s brother begins teaching Morrie compassion from a very young age. After their mother dies, David and Morrie are sent to live at a hotel in Connecticut with distant relatives. One day they play in the cold rain and mud as most young children would. The next morning David wakes up and is unable to move. Morrie blames himself for his brother’s sudden inability to get out of bed. David is later diagnosed with polio, but to a young boy like Morrie, it seems as though he is partially responsible. David is in and out of leg braces and wheelchairs his entire life. David’s disability teaches Morrie to have compassion for everyone and that disabled people are no different than a completely able person.
Everyone is influenced by the type of personalities of the people they are raised around. Whether those peoples’ actions have a positive or negative influence on the child’s behavior later on in their adult life is up to the how the child deals with the difficult situations they are faced with. Morrie is faced with a debilitating disease. He could take the path where he secludes himself until his eventual death, like Mitch’s brother, or he could surround himself with loved ones and share his knowledge of life. Thankfully, Morrie chose to spread his abundant love and intellect to everyone he can possibly reach. Morrie’s philosophy of personal culture, his surplus of love to give, and his knowledge of life can be seen developing as early as his childhood. Morrie’s behavior as an adult can be traced back to his close family members: his father Charlie Schwartz, his mother, his stepmother Eva, and his brother David.