The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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The Captain Character Analysis

The leader of Eddie’s unit in the Philippines during WWII. Born into a military family during wartime, battle is at the center of the Captain’s life. The Captain is intelligent and sensible, and does everything he can to keep his unit alive during the war. While escaping captivity, the Captain shoots Eddie in the leg because he believes it is the only way he can get Eddie to leave with them. During the escape the Captain is trying to clear a path for his unit to get out, and he is killed by a landmine. In heaven, the Captain teaches Eddie that sacrifice isn’t the same as loss, but rather that it connects humans to one another and gives meaning to life.

The Captain Quotes in The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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

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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.

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The Captain Character Timeline in The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The timeline below shows where the character The Captain appears in The Five People You Meet in Heaven. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 13
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
...voice call to him from the trees. Suddenly finds himself in the trees with the Captain, whom he served under in the Philippines. The Captain confirms that he is Eddie’s second... (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
The novel flashes back in time. Eddie and his unit—Rabozzo, Morton, Smitty, and the Captain—are in the Philippines and are being held captive by enemy soldiers. While Rabozzo screams in... (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
In heaven, the Captain asks Eddie if he remembers how he got out of the village fire, and Eddie... (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 Captain tells Eddie that the only protection he could offer his men was his mantra that... (full context)
Chapter 16
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Eddie expresses his sadness that the Captain died so young, and his guilt that the Captain has been waiting for him in... (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
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Captain tells Eddie that he is there to teach him about the importance of sacrifice. He... (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...that people waiting in heaven can make it look as they wish. He asks the Captain why he chose to make his heaven the battleground. The Captain explains that having grown... (full context)