The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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Narrator Character Analysis

The novel is written from the point of view of an omniscient narrator. Though the narrator is not a character in any of the stories, and never speaks in the first person, his (presumably the narrator is male because the author is, but this is never stated) frequent commentary about human nature and frequent interpretations of the actions of the characters give the narrator a strong, reflective voice.

Narrator Quotes in The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The The Five People You Meet in Heaven quotes below are all either spoken by Narrator or refer to Narrator. 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

It might seem strange to start a story with an ending. But all endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

We kick off with a discussion of the transient nature of human existence. Life is very short--indeed, the main character of the book, Eddie, will die almost immediately. And yet, the passage seems to suggest, death is never exactly the end. Sure enough, the book will show us that (in the world of Albom's book, at least)death is just a stage in our passage to the afterlife.

More generally, though, the passage suggests that lives are closely connected. On Earth, humans are constantly influencing each other in tiny but important ways, of which they're usually unaware. Thus, the end of one person's story could easily influence the beginning of someone else. We'll see many examples of such a principle in action--just as one phase of Eddie's life is coming to an end, he'll do something that begins a new phase of life for someone else.

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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.

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 13 Quotes

Young men go to war. Sometimes because they have to, sometimes because they want to. Always, they feel they are supposed to. This comes from the sad, layered stories of life, which over the centuries have seen courage confused with picking up arms, and cowardice confused with laying them down.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

The book has an interesting attitude toward the idea of war: the narrator claims that war is neither inherently good or bad. The problem, however, is that many soldiers join the army because they want to appear noble and brave, not because they sincerely believe in the virtues of the war itself. Eddie seems to be one of the many soldiers who joins the army to "become a man." In short, Eddie substitutes vague masculine ideals for genuine courage and resolve--he become a soldier because he thinks "it's what men do."

Notice that the book isn't saying that war is either good or bad--war, like life, is whatever you make of it. Albom isn't a pacifist; he wants people to stand up for whatever they believe in, provided that they're sincere in their beliefs.

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 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 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.

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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Narrator Character Timeline in The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The timeline below shows where the character Narrator 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
The novel begins with an unnamed, omniscient narrator counting down the last sixty minutes until the death of the protagonist, Eddie. It is... (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... (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
...to get off the dangerous boardwalk railing. Recounting another rumored story about Eddie’s youth, the narrator describes Eddie as a brave soldier who won many medals in war and came home... (full context)
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
...named Nicky lost his car key on one of the rides at Ruby Pier. The narrator comments regarding this incident that, “No story sits by itself.” (full context)
Chapter 8
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 13
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
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The narrator comments that young men sometimes go to war because they confuse battle with bravery. The... (full context)
Chapter 15
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
...Eddie thinks of how the bullet took away running, dancing, and feeling like himself. The narrator states that “war had crawled inside of Eddie, in his leg and his soul,” and... (full context)
Chapter 17
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
...to sleep the night before. They sit and then fidget for a while, and the narrator explains that they are both “waiting for the old man to come in and get... (full context)
Chapter 20
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The narrator summarizes Eddie’s memories of his parents. As a young child, Eddie tried to get his... (full context)
Chapter 23
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
...Pier, and Noel chides that Eddie isn’t very much fun, even on his birthday. The narrator comments that the darkness from the war still hangs over Eddie. Eddie continues thinking about... (full context)
Chapter 28
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...with foldable chairs and an accordion player. They walked home together afterward, holding hands. The narrator explains that with Marguerite, Eddie found a “deep but quiet love.” After Marguerite died, he... (full context)