The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
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
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LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Five People You Meet in Heaven, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon

Throughout the novel, Eddie’s encounters with the five people he meets in heaven teach him about the surprising ways in which life and death offer opportunities for redemption. He learns about the full extent of his own and others’ transgressions, and consequently moves through anger, regret and forgiveness on his way to finding peace.

The harm Eddie causes others is often unintentional, as his actions are full of unintended consequences. As a child, he unknowingly causes the Blue Man’s death by carelessly running into the street to catch a lost ball. While escaping captivity as a soldier in the Philippines during World War II, Eddie unknowingly kills Tala, a little girl hiding in one of the huts that he and his men have set on fire. Later, Eddie spends his birthday gambling—against his wife’s wishes—and on her way to stop him, Marguerite gets into a severe car accident, which drains their finances and her health. Consequently, Eddie and Marguerite are forced to cancel their plans to adopt a child—destroying Marguerite’s chances of being a mother. In heaven, however, Eddie finds the opportunity to redeem himself for all of his transgressions against others, including those he didn’t know he committed.

Yet the novel also shows that many of Eddie’s “sins” are just a part of being human, as everyone will hurt someone at some point. There aren’t any real “good guys” and “bad guys”—Eddie has caused a lot of pain, yet he was also a hero. He took care of his sick mother and all the children at Ruby Pier, and his dying act was to save a little girl. Other characters, primarily male, also show this capability for both good and bad. Mickey O’Shea, the friend of Eddie’s parents, was a loving and helpful part of Eddie’s life in all of Eddie’s memories. In heaven, however, Eddie learns that Mickey drunkenly tried to rape Eddie’s mother, an act that led Eddie’s father and Mickey into the fight that caused Eddie’s father’s death—while he was saving Mickey from an ocean storm. In heaven, Eddie meets Ruby, who explains the story of Eddie’s father and Mickey. She urges Eddie to forgive Mickey, as well as to see his father’s dying act of saving Mickey as evidence that he was capable of good. This is difficult, as Eddie’s memory of his father is of the callous and violent man who abused him as a child and neglected him during his adulthood.

Redemption can often come indirectly as well, the novel concludes. When Eddie meets Tala in heaven, she explains to him that by spending his life protecting the children on the rides at Ruby Pier, Eddie earned Tala’s forgiveness. Tala shows her forgiveness by choosing to be the person who brings Eddie to heaven. Eddie’s father, on the other hand, never apologizes to Eddie for his abusive, neglectful behavior—yet from Ruby’s perspective, Eddie’s father sought redemption in the end by saving Mickey, as well as calling out for Eddie on his deathbed. Ultimately Albom seems to conclude that sin and suffering are an inevitable part of life and human nature, and therefore the ability to redeem oneself and forgive others is both necessary and vital.

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Redemption and Forgiveness Quotes in The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Below you will find the important quotes in The Five People You Meet in Heaven related to the theme of Redemption and Forgiveness.
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.


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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 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.")