The Last Lecture Themes, Symbols, and Motifs

Randy Pausch

The Last Lecture

  • 23-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 61 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a high school English teacher with over 10 years of experience
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The Last Lecture Themes, Symbols, and Motifs

Childhood Dreams

The central lesson of Randy’s “last lecture” is how to achieve your childhood dreams. Because the content of his lecture included experiences and insights gleaned from his own life, Randy was able to note the important patterns of his childhood desires, how his parents supported his dreams, and the ways in which he accomplished these dreams. He was able to accomplish his biggest dream: to be a Disney Imagineer. Because he was able to accomplish what he wanted, Randy set himself a new goal, which was to help others achieve their dreams.

Brick Walls

Part of Randy’s central lesson in his last lecture was about overcoming obstacles with tenacity and a positive attitude. He uses the image of a brick wall to symbolize the obstacles that we face when we try to achieve our dreams. His own brick walls involved getting rejected from a graduate program, almost missing out on marrying his wife, and losing out on his chance to experience zero gravity with NASA. However, Randy believes that “brick walls are there for a reason” and are an opportunity for a person to either be more creative with their approach to an obstacle. Alternatively, brick walls can challenge a person to decide how much s/he may want his/her goal.

The Importance of Having a Positive Attitude

Near the end of the memoir, Randy makes an allusion to A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, and proposes that there are essentially two types of people: Tiggers or Eeyores. Eeyores are cynical and negative people, while Tiggers are fun-loving and positive, regardless of their circumstances. Ultimately, it is up to each individual to decide which kind of person they want to be. Randy’s own zest for life and his accomplishments are evident throughout his memoir and it is clear to see that having a Tigger attitude, despite any obstacle, works.

Working Together

One of Randy’s biggest goals was to teach his students strong collaborative skills. In all of his classes, he put students into groups of four and they were assessed on their effective contribution to their group’s project. Even the strongest academic students could learn a…

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