The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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The Five People You Meet in Heaven Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

In heaven, Eddie denies killing the Blue Man. Calmly, the Blue Man tells his story. Born Joseph Corvelzchik, his first memory was his mother lifting him over the ocean as they emigrated from Poland. He was then forced to work with his father in a sweatshop as a small child, and he became very anxious, which made his father ashamed. To calm him, a doctor prescribed him silver nitrate. As he grew up, the Blue Man’s use of the poisonous remedy turned his skin the color blue. He was then considered a freak, and he found himself alone and jobless until a traveling circus invited him to join them. The Blue Man eventually took pride in being a prized member of the circus. His show came to Ruby Pier, where he was invited to stay on. The park then became his home, and he had a community there and the freedom to live unbothered. Ruby Pier, he explains, is his heaven—not Eddie’s.
There is a stark inequality between Eddie’s and the Blue Man’s childhoods. At an age when Eddie was playing with balls, the Blue Man’s family was forcing him to work. Adult men—particularly fathers—are again portrayed as the catalysts for suffering. The Blue Man’s father expected him to behave like an adult in the sweatshop, but as a child he couldn’t meet those expectations. His father then did great damage, causing his son to disfigure himself and endure years of loneliness. Eddie and the Blue Man are connected through Ruby Pier, yet, their different associations with the place highlight the subjectivity of experience.
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The novel returns to Eddie’s childhood. Eddie has again lost the ball he received for his birthday the year before (which rolled away in the previous flashback). He runs after it, darts across a road, retrieves it, and then returns to play arcade games with his friends. The narrator now recounts the same story, only from the perspective of the Blue Man. The Blue Man is driving when suddenly he sees a boy run into the road. He slams on his breaks to avoid hitting the boy, but his heart is racing, and he begins to lose consciousness. He turns into an ally and hits the back of a parked car. The Blue Man gets out, has a heart attack, and dies. The narrative now returns to heaven. The Blue Man has just retold the story to Eddie from his perspective, and Eddie is shocked to realize that he was the young boy who killed the Blue Man.
Everything in Eddie’s world is connected—the same ball that had rolled into the backyard of other “circus freaks” the year before, creating an interaction in which Eddie felt afraid of them, has now led Eddie to cause the death of one of those same “freaks.” In heaven, it becomes clear that the monsters of childhood aren’t the real villains. People who seem powerful are often victims themselves, and roles of victim-perpetrator can be reversed, even without malice. Even the innocent actions of children can have unintended consequences.
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