The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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Birthdays and Celebrations Symbol Analysis

Birthdays and Celebrations Symbol Icon

The novel flashes back and forth between Eddie’s passage through heaven and the retelling of his life story, using birthdays to mark each episode of Eddie’s life. Birthdays and other celebrations thus represent the passage of time, and they add importance to each milestone in Eddie’s life. When Marguerite is alive, Eddie feels enough joy and meaning to celebrate with her—they celebrate their wedding, birthdays, and they hold a farewell party before she dies. Celebrations highlight relationships and connections, and add meaning to the ordinary routine of life. After Marguerite’s death, Eddie no longer feels like life is worth celebrating.

Birthdays and Celebrations Quotes in The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The The Five People You Meet in Heaven quotes below all refer to the symbol of Birthdays and Celebrations. 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 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.

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Chapter 28 Quotes

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.

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Birthdays and Celebrations Symbol Timeline in The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The timeline below shows where the symbol Birthdays and Celebrations appears in The Five People You Meet in Heaven. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
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 game of... (full context)
Chapter 8
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
...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... (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 his mother... (full context)
Chapter 10
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Cycle of Life and Death Theme Icon
...realizes he was there as a child—and it becomes clear that this was Eddie’s eighth birthday (as mentioned in the previous chapter). Eddie marvels that back then, he couldn’t have known... (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 calls him... (full context)
Chapter 14
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
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...off to war, and his family and friends are sending him off with an emotional birthday celebration. Throughout the night Eddie thinks of asking Marguerite to wait for him, but he... (full context)
Chapter 19
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...father, brother, Marguerite, and Mickey Shea come into his room with a cake, singing “Happy Birthday.” Eddie wakes up to the sight and sound of his family coming in, and he... (full context)
Chapter 21
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...has set out taffy with a white colored ribbon and cake, and she sings “Happy Birthday” and kisses Eddie. Eddie tries to fight his detachment so he can enjoy this moment... (full context)
Chapter 22
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 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 with a... (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
Is it Eddie’s thirty-seventh birthday, and he is having breakfast with his friend Noel, who works for the park dry-cleaning... (full context)
Chapter 27
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
It is Eddie’s thirty-eighth birthday, and he is in the maintenance shop with his brother, Joe, who has a new... (full context)
Chapter 29
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Connection Between All Humans Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Eddie is at the horseracing track with Noel on his thirty-ninth birthday. Eddie bets again after every time he wins, trying to double his money. He calls... (full context)
Chapter 30
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
...trying to make everything pleasant for her. Everyone acts as if it weren’t a “farewell” celebration. A few days later, Marguerite wakes screaming, and Eddie drives her to the hospital. All... (full context)
Chapter 32
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
...restaurant menu, an army metal, and a polaroid of a man with children, blowing out birthday candles. The estate attorney finds Eddie’s bank information. As they walk out, the attorney thinks... (full context)
Chapter 34
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 fifty-first birthday, his first birthday since Marguerite died. He remembers how much he hated his birthdays in... (full context)