The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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The novel’s protagonist, a lonely, elderly man who has spent his life working in maintenance at Ruby Pier, an amusement park by the ocean. Eddie is from a working-class family of Romanian origin, and he is tough, hardworking, and concerned about the well-being of others. Abused by his father throughout his youth, Eddie learns to keep his emotions inside. As a young man, he works at Ruby Pier with his father to save up to study engineering elsewhere. When WWII begins, however, Eddie enlists to prove his masculinity, and is sent to an island in the Philippines. When he returns, he marries his sweetheart, Marguerite. After the war, Eddie spends the rest of his life fighting depression. His depression worsens as everyone he loves dies before him. At the beginning of the novel, Eddie dies and begins a journey through heaven, where he travels through endless colors, and meets five important people who will each teach him a lesson.

Eddie Quotes in The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The The Five People You Meet in Heaven quotes below are all either spoken by Eddie or refer to Eddie. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Hachette Books edition of The Five People You Meet in Heaven published in 2006.
Chapter 1 Quotes

His plans never worked out (…) Like his father before him, like the patch on his shirt, Eddie was maintenance – the head of maintenance – or as kids sometimes called him, “the ride man at Ruby Pier.”

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Eddie
Related Symbols: Ruby Pier
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we get a better sense for what kind of man Eddie is. Using free indirect discourse, the narrator seems to speak in Eddie's voice: thus, when we're told that Eddie never managed to make the life he wanted for himself, we get the idea that Eddie is talking to himself as he goes through the motions of working at Ruby Pier. Eddie sees his life as a failure: he had some plans, and never quite managed to achieve any of them. Specifically, he tried to save up to become an engineer after coming back from the army, but never found much success. Furthermore, Eddie is intensely lonely--the people with whom he spends the most time, the children at the Pier, don't even know his name. The book will challenge Eddie's pessimism, however--showing that Eddie accomplished a great deal in his life, whether he realized it or not.

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For the rest of his life, whenever he thought of Marguerite, Eddie would see that moment, her waving over her shoulder, her dark hair falling over one eye, and he would feel the same arterial burst of love.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Eddie, Marguerite
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

With less than twenty minutes left to live (though he doesn't know this), Eddie thinks about the love of his life, and his wife of many years: Marguerite. This passage is interesting because although Eddie's thoughts of Marguerite seem unexpected and unmotivated at this particular point, they make a certain amount of sense from our perspective--Eddie is thinking about the love of his life, just a few minutes before his life comes to an end.

The passage also shows us that Eddie, while lonely in the present, wasn't always so isolated. He's clearly capable of love for other people, and has received love in the past, making his current loneliness especially sympathetic. Eddie isn't a bad guy by any means--quite the contrary--but he's allowed himself to get weighed down with cynicism and self-doubt.

Chapter 4 Quotes

Later, she will walk him along the pier, perhaps take him on an elephant ride, or watch the fishermen pull in their evening nets, the fish flipping like shiny, wet coins. She will hold his hand and tell him God is proud of him for being a good boy on his birthday, and that will make the world feel right-side up again.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Eddie, Eddie’s Mother
Page Number: 24-25
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important passage, we meet Eddie when he's only 5 years old. His father (who is generally an antagonistic character) ritually holds him upside down and "shakes him out" every year on his birthday to symbolize his growing maturity. Eddie seems not to like being shaken out; in the passage, for instance, he looks forward to the moment when the ritual is over and his mother will help turn the world "right-side up again." This is just one example of the primary role the female characters take in the book: that of (rather one-dimensional) caregivers and nurturing figures, primarily taking care of men or children.

The passage is also notable in that it brings up God. The novel has been praised for its Christian themes (it's all about Heaven, after all), but it gives few details of doctrine or specific beliefs, and overall, there's meant to be a more general spiritual element to the story. The novel's religion seems to hinge on the belief that our lives are interconnected in complex, challenging ways--thus, the spiritualism of the book is more universal and accessible than the specific teachings of Christianity (or any other organized religion, for that matter).

Chapter 6 Quotes

People think of heaven as a paradise garden, a place where they can float on clouds and laze in rivers and mountains. But scenery without solace is meaningless. This is the greatest gift God can give you: to understand what happened in your life.

Related Characters: The Blue Man (speaker), Eddie, God
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Eddie has arrived in Heaven, but he's surprised to find that Heaven looks more or less like Ruby Pier, the place Eddie's just come from. Furthermore, Eddie finds himself talking to a figure he knew well when he (Eddie) was just a kid--the Blue Man, a carnival "freak." The Blue Man is the first person Eddie will meet in Heaven; as such, he gives Eddie some of the most basic lessons about Heaven. Here, he essentially explains what Heaven is "for."

The Blue Man suggests that the purpose of Eddie's time in Heaven is at first to do work, not just savor everlasting pleasure. Eddie must come to terms with his own life, understanding what he's accomplished during his time on the Earth. The notion that people who enter Heaven have to think on their lives--i.e., do some mental and emotional work--is surprising. And yet, the very fact that Eddie is in Heaven as he thinks back on his existence suggests that his contemplation will eventually bring him joy.

Chapter 9 Quotes

Sometimes you have to do things when sad things happen.

Related Characters: Eddie’s Mother (speaker), Eddie
Related Symbols: Birthdays and Celebrations
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

In this touching passage, Eddie is turning 8 years old, and he's forced to go to a funeral on his birthday. Eddie is too young to really understand what it means to be dead--or why he, someone who doesn't know the deceased, really needs to go to the funeral. (This is ironic, since, we later learn, Eddie is the accidental cause of the man's death.) Eddie, as a child, thinks that he can separate his own pleasure from other people's pain--he can stay home and watch TV while other people cry. His life is his own, nobody else's.

Eddie's logic is crude, and yet it's more or less the same reasoning that most adults use. The passage implies that there's something immature and foolish about the notion that we should only care about our own happiness. True maturity and wisdom, we come to see, stem from the realization that the universe is a complicated place, in which one person's life influences hundreds of other lives.

Chapter 10 Quotes

You are here so I can teach you something (…) That you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.

Related Characters: The Blue Man (speaker), Eddie
Page Number: 47-48
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, the Blue Man teaches Eddie one of the most basic lessons of the book--maybe the most basic one of all. All lives are connected, whether we like it or not. Those who try to live their lives separate from other lives are either foolish or in denial; they ignore a basic truth of the universe. As we've already seen, Eddie believed that his life was basically separate from the life of the Blue Man--and yet a little knowledge reveals that their two lives were closely and profoundly connected.

Eddie has learned the Blue Man's lesson; yet he'll struggle to understand it for the rest of the book. Eddie will meet other figures whose lives he influenced in major ways, and gradually, he'll begin to realize that his life wasn't lonely at all; it was actually eventful and exciting, albeit in ways Eddie himself never fully appreciated.

It is because the human spirit knows, deep down, that all lives intersect. That death doesn’t just take someone, it misses someone else, and in the small distance between being taken and being missed, lives are changed.

Related Characters: The Blue Man (speaker), Eddie
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

The message here, as delivered by the Blue Man, is that human beings naturally understand that all human lives are connected, particularly when it comes to living and dying. For example, the Blue Man lost his life in trying to protect the life of Eddie the 8-year-old child--one man's death allowed for another person's life.

All humans are naturally understand the importance of funerals and births--the Blue Man says this is because humans instinctively know that death and life are connected to each other. The passage is particularly interesting because it argues that we all know what the Blue Man is saying--it's just that during the course of our lives, we allow ourselves to become distracted from truth. The purpose of Eddie's time in Heaven, then, isn't to teach him new, exciting truths, but to remind him of what he secretly knew all along.

Strangers (…) are just family you have yet to come to know.”

Related Characters: The Blue Man (speaker), Eddie
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

The Blue Man gives Eddie another version of the same lessons he's been teaching: all lives are connected in tiny yet crucial ways. A human being isn't just connected to his friends and family--he's also connected to strangers. The Blue Man's message helps us understand the structure of the novel, as Eddie is going to meet lots of people whom he barely knows, and yet the life of each person Eddie is about to meet has been forever altered by Eddie's own actions, good or bad.

The Blue Man's message is both inspiring (if cliched) and intimidating. We tend to think that being a "good person" means living a good, peaceful life and not causing harm to anybody else. What the Blue Man is effectively saying is that we have no real control over our own lives--we're always on the verge of causing some unseen change in another person's life; we don't even know if the change will be good or bad. Humans like to pretend that they're in control of what they do and say, but the Blue Man (and Albom) is arguing that humans are only dimly aware of what they're really doing to other people.

No life is a waste (…) The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone.

Related Characters: The Blue Man (speaker), Eddie
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of Chapter 3, the Blue Man gives Eddie a final piece of useful advice about the nature of life. The Blue Man has been telling Eddie that our lives are not really our own: everything we do has an effect on the people around us, often in ways that we're only dimly aware of. (For example, an innocent episode from Eddie's childhood caused the death of the Blue Man, unbeknownst to Eddie himself.)

What, then, should be the enlightened person's response to the Blue Man's lessons? How do we live our lives in a way that respects the complexity of the universe? (More pointedly, does it matter whether or not we respect the complexity of the universe? Seems like our lives are unpredictable either way.) The Blue Man suggests that one can attain a kind of "inner peace" by accepting that one's life is "bound up" in millions of other lives. There is, in effect, never a reason to feel lonely: we're always connected to other people.

Chapter 14 Quotes

As always with Marguerite, Eddie mostly wants to freeze time.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Eddie, Marguerite
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Eddie thinks about his beloved girlfriend (and later wife), Marguerite. In the flashback, Eddie kisses Marguerite and tries to tell her to wait for him--amazingly, Marguerite seems to read Eddie's mind, and promises that she'll wait for him to return from the war. Eddie's love for Marguerite is clear: he even wishes that he could freeze time forever and savor his moment with Marguerite, instead of going off to battle.

The passage is especially interesting because the entirety of the novel is devoted to the idea that human beings can't freeze time; i.e., time and life happen to all of us, whether we like it or not. Eddie's desire to escape from time is poignant, then, because no human being can do so: we all go through life influencing people in unexpected ways.

Chapter 16 Quotes

Adam’s first night on earth? (…) He doesn’t know what sleep is. His eyes are closing and he thinks he’s leaving this world, right? Only he isn’t. He wakes up the next morning and he has a fresh new world to work with. But he has something else, too. He has his yesterday (…) That’s what heaven is. You get to make sense of your yesterdays.

Related Characters: The Captain (speaker), Eddie, God
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Eddie continues talking to the Captain, with whom Eddie served in World War II. The Captain gives Eddie an interesting parable to illustrate a point: when Adam (the first human, according to the Bible) went to sleep after the first day of his life, he must have thought the world was ending forever. And yet the world didn't end--he woke up again and got to live longer. By the same token, human beings like to believe that life ends with death; instead, life continues in a different form. The beauty of Heaven, we've come to see, is that it gives people the benefit of hindsight: it allows people to look back on their lives and learn from their mistakes and experiences.

Sacrifice is a part of life. It’s supposed to be. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to.

Related Characters: The Captain (speaker), Eddie
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

The Captain, we know by now, sacrificed his life during war to protect the lives of his fellow soldiers, clearing a path and setting off a land mine in the process. Curiously, the Captain seems not to regret his untimely death at all--rather, he's proud that he was able to save the lives of his troops by sacrificing his own life. Sacrifice, he goes on, is a noble act, maybe the most noble act of all.

We've already encountered sacrifice--voluntary or involuntary--in many forms in the novel. Eddie sacrifices his life for a child at the Pier, the Blue Man sacrifices his life to keep Eddie alive, and the Captain sacrifices his life for his troops. In each case, we should notice that the person who dies doesn't seem angry--sacrifice is an honor, proving the noble truth that humans are connected to other humans in both living and dying.

Sometimes when you sacrifice something, you’re not really losing it. You’re just passing it on to someone else.

Related Characters: The Captain (speaker), Eddie
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the novel is at its most overtly Christian. The Captain, who has sacrificed his life foe the benefit of his troops, claims that sacrifice is the highest good. Sacrifice--a cornerstone of Christianity, considering Christ's sacrifice on the cross--is a noble act because it assumes that one's life isn't truly one's own. As the Captain argues, life is a gift that must be passed on to others--thus, when they sacrifice themselves for the sake of other people, they're just passing on the gift of life to another person.

The passage recalls a key Christian belief, articulated in the Biblical Book of Job: human beings don't "own" their own lives, and should be grateful to God for whatever they're given in life. As the Captain implies, humans are lucky to be alive at all; therefore, they shouldn't be angry when they die while passing on life to someone else.

Chapter 20 Quotes

All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Eddie, Eddie’s Father
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, the narrator tells us that Eddie grew up with an abusive father--evidence of the narrator's point that all parents damage their children. Eddie's father is a cruel, tough, indifferent man, who struggles to show affection of any kind for other people. The sad truth of Eddie's life is that he's allowed his father's bad habits to shape his own behavior. Eddie isn't a violent man, but in some ways he's just as cold and indifferent as his father was--he struggles to express his affection for other people, even Marguerite, the love of his life. The passage is tragic and yet strangely liberating--by noting that all parents, good or bad, affect their children strongly, the narrator is suggesting that Eddie's tragedy isn't the end of the world, but just one tiny part of the human experience.

Eddie privately adored his father, because sons will adore their fathers through even the worst behavior. It is how they learn devotion. Before he can devote himself to God, or a woman, a boy will devote himself to his father, even foolishly, even beyond explanation.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Eddie, Eddie’s Father
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

Strangely, Eddie seems not to hate his father for beating him or gambling excessively. Instead, Eddie worships his father. The narrator notes that parents are our first models for God--Eddie, who grew up with a harsh, often cruel father, seems to think of God as a harsh, cruel being who's abandoned and mistreated Eddie for years. (Notice also that narrator rather narrowly assumes boys mostly look up to fathers, while girls presumably look up to mothers.)

While Eddie's adoration for his father is unfortunate in many ways (as a result of his admiration for his father, Eddie becomes a tougher, grimmer person who struggles to express his feelings), there's also a silver lining: paradoxically, the very fact that Eddie seeks to emulate his father's bad habits proves that Eddie is a loving son.

Chapter 21 Quotes

How can he explain such sadness when she is supposed to make him happy? (…) She looks beautiful wearing the print dress Eddie likes, her hair and lips done up. Eddie feels the need to inhale, as if undeserving of such a moment. He fights the darkness within him. “Leave me alone,” he tells it. “Let me feel this way, I should feel it.”

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Eddie, Marguerite
Related Symbols: Color and Darkness
Page Number: 118-119
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we see the long-term effects of Eddie's tragic inability to express his feelings. Eddie has been trained to believe in backwards masculine ideals--he's told to keep his feelings bottled up, proving his strength and toughness. As a result, Eddie doesn't know how to tell his beloved wife, Marguerite, about his post-traumatic stress, a result of his service in World War II. Eddie even comes to believe that he's supposed to feel dark and depressed as a result of his military service--machismo tells him that depression is somehow a sign of his maturity.

Eddie loves Marguerite deeply, but because of the culture in which he was raised, he's unsure how to communicate with her, and as a result, their marriage deteriorates.

Chapter 23 Quotes

The old darkness has taken a seat alongside him. He is used to it by now, making room for it the way you make room for a commuter on a crowded bus.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Eddie
Related Symbols: Color and Darkness
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Eddie meets with his friend for his birthday. Together, they discuss the safety risks at Ruby Pier, where Eddie has been working. Eddie takes the safety hazards at the Pier very seriously--he continues to remember his time in the war, and so the threat of danger is never far from his mind.

The passage is important for a couple reasons. First it shows that Eddie continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder--a problem that, thanks to his idea of what a "real man" should be like, he's done nothing to fix. But he has at least achieved a measure of acceptance for his "darkness," and is now used to it to the point that it doesn't seem so traumatic anymore. Whether this fact is comforting or depressing is up to us to decide.

Chapter 24 Quotes

Religion? Government? Are we not loyal to such things, sometimes to the death? (…) Better to be loyal to one another.

Related Characters: Ruby (speaker), Eddie, Eddie’s Father, Mickey Shea
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage (one of the most controversial in the novel), Ruby--the next person Eddie meets in Heaven--tells Eddie about how Eddie's father died. Eddie's father went out to save his old friend, Mickey Shea, from drowning, and as a result, Eddie's father himself died of pneumonia.

Eddie is astounded that his father would have risked his life for the sake of something as abstract as loyalty to a friend--especially because, as Ruby has told him, Mickey had just tried to rape Eddie's own mother. And yet Ruby argues that loyalty to one's friends is something well worth dying for--far more valuable than religion or government. The passage supports Albom's notion that the only "true" religion is a religion of humanity, based on the idea that all people are connected. Abstract religious or political principles are never as important as our relationships with living, breathing people. (Of course, this lesson also comes in the context of a very religious, supernatural "Heaven.")

Chapter 28 Quotes

What people find then is a certain love. And Eddie found a certain love with Marguerite, a grateful love, a deep and quiet love, but one that he knew, above all else, was irreplaceable. Once she’d gone (…) he put his heart to sleep.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Eddie, Marguerite
Page Number: 155-156
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Eddie is reunited with Marguerite, the love of his life. Although we've known about Marguerite for some time, it's only now that we truly understand why she was so special to Eddie. Eddie has always had a tough time showing his feelings--therefore, it was hard for him to make friends and meet people. In Marguerite, Eddie found someone who understood him intuitively--who didn't have to ask him lots of questions or pester him for the truth. Marguerite is, perhaps, the closest thing to a saint in the novel--selflessly, she sacrifices her own needs and happiness for the sake of her husband.

The passage is an interesting example of the controversial way Albom portrays women--more often than not, he depicts them as perfect, moral creatures, whose great purpose on the Earth is to care for complex, conflicted men.

That was my choice (…) A world of weddings, behind every door. Oh, Eddie, it never changes, when the groom lifts the veil, when the bride accepts the ring (…) They truly believe their love and their marriage is going to break all the records…

Related Characters: Marguerite (speaker), Eddie
Related Symbols: Birthdays and Celebrations
Page Number: 156-157
Explanation and Analysis:

Albom's depictions of women in the novel are respectful and yet arguably one-dimensional. Here, for instance, Eddie reunites with Marguerite, his wife, in Heaven--and he's surprised to see that Marguerite sees Heaven as "full of weddings." Marguerite explains that she sees Heaven as a place for weddings because weddings are a defining part of the human experience--they're the moment when two people are on their best behavior and show their love for one another, feeling idealistic and hopeful about the power of their love.

The fact that Marguerite should see Heaven as a place for weddings reflects the truth that her role in the novel is defined purely by the fact that she's Eddie's husband. We don't really know much about Marguerite, except that she's the perfect, saintly wife--we don't know her personality or idiosyncrasies, and Albom doesn't give her the kind of complex inner life that he gives Eddie, the Captain, etc. In the novel, more often than not, women exist to steer complex, emotionally damaged men on the path toward Heaven.

Chapter 30 Quotes

…Eddie admitted that some of his life he’d spent hiding from God, and the rest of the time he thought he went unnoticed.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Eddie, God
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the novel becomes overtly religious (God) without ever mentioning a specific religion. Eddie and Marguerite stroll through Heaven, savoring each other's company. Eddie asks Marguerite if God is watching him, and Marguerite says that he is. Eddie comes to realize that he's spent his life denying God or trying to avoid God.

The passage suggests that Eddie is coming around to the religious point of view that the novel puts forth--a point of view that revolves around the connections between all human beings. The fact that Eddie feels comfortable accepting the absence of God during his life on the Earth suggests that he's finally ready to embrace God in his life in Heaven.

Chapter 35 Quotes

He was nothing now, a leaf in the water, and she pulled him gently, through shadow and light, through shades of blue and ivory and lemon and black, and he realized all these colors, all along, were the emotions of his life.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Eddie, Tala
Related Symbols: Color and Darkness
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Eddie goes through a rite of purification that symbolizes his struggle to come to terms with his life on the Earth. Tala--the little girl whom Eddie killed years ago during his time in World War II--leads Eddie into a river, where he finds that colors are coming off of his body. Some of the colors are bright, while others are dark, but together, they make a beautiful rainbow.

The symbolism of the colors is clear enough: Eddie's life has been full of joys and sorrows (bright and dark colors)--and yet the combined effects of so many different colors is more stunning than any single color could be. Eddie thinks of the pain in his life as a horrible burden, but in fact, his pain and suffering have actually made his life richer and more complex. It's strange to think that pain can be anything other than miserable, but as Albom sees it, one needs both pleasure and pain to get the full measure of mortal life. 

Chapter 36 (Epilogue) Quotes

And in that line now was a whiskered old man (…) who waited in a place called the Stardust Band Shell to share his part of the secret of heaven: that each affects the other and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Eddie, “Amy or Annie”
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, we've come full-circle. When we met him, Eddie was just arriving in Heaven, having died at Ruby Pier. Now, Eddie is an experienced resident of Heaven, ready to introduce someone else to the wonders of the afterlife. Furthermore, the first person Eddie will introduce is the young girl whose life Eddie saved by sacrificing his own. Thus, Eddie fulfills the same role for "Amy or Annie" that the Blue Man fulfilled for Eddie years before: he sacrificed his life to save a child, and in Heaven, will tell the child about the importance of sacrifice and interconnectedness.

The novel ends with a theme that Albom has been exploring for some time now: all stories are one. In other words, Eddie's life is only one part of someone else's story (for example, "Amy or Annie"). By accepting the truth about life and interconnectedness, Eddie comes to terms with his life on the Earth and embraces his new existence in Heaven.

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Eddie Character Timeline in The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The timeline below shows where the character Eddie appears in The Five People You Meet in Heaven. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
...unnamed, omniscient narrator counting down the last sixty minutes until the death of the protagonist, Eddie. It is an ordinary day at Ruby Pier, an amusement park on the ocean where... (full context)
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
The narrator continues the countdown of minutes to Eddie’s death. With 30 minutes left to live, Eddie encounters Dominguez, a cheerful young man who... (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
With 26 minutes left to live, Eddie tiredly pounds his cane to warn a group of balking teenagers to get off the... (full context)
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
With 19 minutes left to live, Eddie sits down in an aluminum beach chair behind the rides, in what is described as... (full context)
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
With 14 minutes left to live, the novel returns to Eddie, warmly remembering his first dance with Marguerite at Ruby Pier on the dance floor once... (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Eddie suddenly hears a woman screaming, and he moves as quickly as he can towards the... (full context)
Chapter 2
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
The novel flashes back to Eddie’s birth in a poor hospital in the 1920s. Eddie’s father is smoking cigarettes in a... (full context)
Chapter 3
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Eddie has just died, and he is now floating through a series of vibrant changing colors... (full context)
Chapter 4
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The narrative flashes back again. It is Eddie’s fifth birthday, and he is playing at his father’s feet while his father plays a... (full context)
Chapter 5
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
In the mysterious afterlife, Eddie wakes up alone in the Ruby Pier of his childhood. Surprised at how young and... (full context)
Chapter 6
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Eddie feels like he is dreaming. The Blue Man explains that he is dead and in... (full context)
Chapter 7
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Eddie is seven years old, playing ball with his older brother, Joe. The ball rolls into... (full context)
Chapter 8
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
In heaven, Eddie denies killing the Blue Man. Calmly, the Blue Man tells his story. Born Joseph Corvelzchik,... (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The novel returns to Eddie’s childhood. Eddie has again lost the ball he received for his birthday the year before... (full context)
Chapter 9
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
It is Eddie’s eighth birthday, and he is complaining that he doesn’t want to attend the funeral that... (full context)
Chapter 10
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Eddie feels remorseful that the Blue Man died from his own foolish childhood mistake, and pleads... (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
The Blue Man transports Eddie to the memory of his funeral. Eddie realizes he was there as a child—and it... (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
The Blue Man embraces Eddie, and Eddie suddenly feels all of the emotions the Blue Man felt during his time... (full context)
Chapter 11
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
...present day, a crowd gathers, gaping, around the scene at Ruby Pier just moments after Eddie’s death by the falling cart. Nobody wants to get close to the scene, but nobody... (full context)
Chapter 12
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
It is Eddie’s seventeenth birthday, and he is sitting on his bed reading comic books when his mother... (full context)
Chapter 13
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
In heaven, Eddie wakes up on a familiar battleground in a decimated jungle during a storm. He hears... (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
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...go to war because they confuse battle with bravery. The story now flashes back to Eddie’s youth, when World War II was taking place. For Eddie, working at Ruby Pier and... (full context)
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In heaven, Eddie surveys the ruined jungle and realizes this is the place that has long haunted his... (full context)
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The novel flashes back in time. Eddie and his unit—Rabozzo, Morton, Smitty, and the Captain—are in the Philippines and are being held... (full context)
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...falls down while working in the coalmine. Crazy Two forces him to keep working, and Eddie tries to defend him. In response, Crazy Two leans down and shoots Rabozzo in the... (full context)
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One day, Eddie sees Crazy Three juggling coal, and he decides to show him the correct way to... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Further back in time, Eddie is a young man about to ship off to war, and his family and friends... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Back in the Philippines, Eddie and his unit burn down the village of their now-dead captors. Fueled by their suffering... (full context)
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In heaven, the Captain asks Eddie if he remembers how he got out of the village fire, and Eddie can’t recall.... (full context)
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The Captain tells Eddie that the only protection he could offer his men was his mantra that nobody gets... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Eddie expresses his sadness that the Captain died so young, and his guilt that the Captain... (full context)
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The Captain tells Eddie that he is there to teach him about the importance of sacrifice. He explains that... (full context)
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Eddie remembers from the Blue Man that people waiting in heaven can make it look as... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Another wind picks Eddie up, and he travels again through the colors of heaven. He travels through the stars,... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Eddie is recovering in a Veteran Affairs hospital, after being returned home from war. His mother,... (full context)
Chapter 20
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The narrator summarizes Eddie’s memories of his parents. As a young child, Eddie tried to get his father’s attention,... (full context)
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At rare times, however, Eddie’s father would give out small gestures of approval, and Eddie hungered for these moments, and... (full context)
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The narrative now shows Eddie after he has come back from the war. He is in a deeply depressed state,... (full context)
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A woman wearing a long skirt and a parasol speaks to Eddie outside of the diner, and introduces herself as his “third person.” She tells him his... (full context)
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The woman with the parasol tells Eddie that she knows him, even if he doesn’t know her. She then tells him her... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Eddie is thirty-three years old today, and he wakes up sweating from a recurring nightmare: wandering... (full context)
Chapter 22
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In heaven, Ruby continues telling Eddie her story. On one Fourth of July, some drunken workers accidentally set Ruby Pier on... (full context)
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The story flashes back to the night of Eddie’s thirty-third birthday. Eddie’s father is in the hospital with pneumonia, which started a week before... (full context)
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When Eddie’s father finally dies from the pneumonia, Eddie only feels the “emptiest kind of anger.” He... (full context)
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All through Eddie’s life, he has tried to avoid the fate of working at Ruby Pier like his... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Is it Eddie’s thirty-seventh birthday, and he is having breakfast with his friend Noel, who works for the... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Ruby tells Eddie that his father wasn’t as bad as he seemed. Ruby brings Eddie to a scene... (full context)
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Ruby explains that Eddie’s father died from the pneumonia he caught on the beach the night he saved Mickey... (full context)
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Ruby reminds Eddie of how weak his father was in the hospital, and how he was unable to... (full context)
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Ruby tells Eddie she cares about him and his father because Eddie’s father was sharing a hospital room... (full context)
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Reflecting on the new details about his father’s death, Eddie reminds Ruby again of how abusive his father was to him. Ruby tells Eddie she... (full context)
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Left alone now, Eddie walks up to the diner window, and again watches his father sitting inside. Eddie’s father... (full context)
Chapter 25
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On earth, nobody has come to the morgue to collect Eddie’s few personal effects, including his wedding ring. The park employees have arranged a funeral for... (full context)
Chapter 26
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Alone again, Eddie finds himself in a room with a row of doors. He realizes he is starting... (full context)
Chapter 27
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It is Eddie’s thirty-eighth birthday, and he is in the maintenance shop with his brother, Joe, who has... (full context)
Chapter 28
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Eddie is stunned to see Marguerite in heaven, and insists that it can’t be her. He... (full context)
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Marguerite tells Eddie that she also met five people in heaven, and learned things, and that she has... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Eddie is at the horseracing track with Noel on his thirty-ninth birthday. Eddie bets again after... (full context)
Chapter 30
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...and Marguerite’s condition, the couple is unable to go through with the adoption. Marguerite and Eddie are disconnected for a while, because of Eddie’s guilt and Marguerite’s resentment. Eddie’s friendship with... (full context)
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...Though she is only 47 years old, she goes home to spend her last days. Eddie makes a big dinner, and invites over all their friends and relatives. He pours extra... (full context)
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In heaven, all Eddie wants is time with Marguerite. They spend countless nights and days, talking and walking through... (full context)
Chapter 31
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After a long time in heaven, Marguerite tells Eddie that she knows he was angry with her for dying. He eventually admits he was,... (full context)
Chapter 32
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On earth, Dominguez is walking with a detached, hurried estate attorney into Eddie’s apartment. Dominguez comments on how tidy Eddie kept his apartment, and thinks of how he... (full context)
Chapter 33
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Surrounded by silence and whiteness, Eddie misses Marguerite terribly. He feels nothing, and a long time passes in that empty place.... (full context)
Chapter 34
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It is Eddie’s fifty-first birthday, his first birthday since Marguerite died. He remembers how much he hated his... (full context)
Chapter 35
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In heaven, the little girl by the river introduces herself as Tala. She invites Eddie to sit with her on a mat. She tells him the Tagalog words for things... (full context)
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Eddie is in shock, but asks her questions to find out what happened. In broken, childlike... (full context)
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Tala picks up a stone, and tells Eddie “You wash me.” Reluctant and unsure, he follows her into the river. She takes off... (full context)
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Eddie knows now that he is coming to the end of this part of heaven, and... (full context)
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The river now rises above Eddie, and all the children but Tala disappear. Eddie feels himself letting go of all the... (full context)
Chapter 36 (Epilogue)
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After Eddie’s death, Ruby Pier stays closed for a week before re-opening. The ride that killed Eddie,... (full context)