The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

The Value in Ordinary Life 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
Time Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
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.
The Value in Ordinary Life Theme Icon

Throughout the novel, Eddie struggles to see value in his life, which he sees as ordinary and filled with unmet dreams and plans. Having never left Ruby Pier to study engineering or make a life for himself elsewhere, he believes his life was devoid of accomplishment and therefore meaningless. But the novel, by describing the nuance and detail of every period of Eddie’s life, shows the beauty inherent in all of the moments and relationships that make up that life, even those that appear mundane. The characters Eddie meets in heaven then teach him that his life had meaning and value from the moment he was born.

Throughout the novel, human connection is the primary source of life’s meaning. Eddie’s love for his mother, his brother, and especially Marguerite animate him and give him a sense of connection. Every moment he shares with these characters stays with him as a treasured memory, creating beauty in his life. Even difficult memories and pain connect Eddie to others, as well as to his own sense of humanity.

Routines, though they may seem boring or ordinary, can also give life shape and allow relationships to grow. Eddie’s routine with Marguerite gives meaning to their life, and allows their love to heal back together after Marguerite’s accident. Eddie’s routine life working at Ruby Pier may bore him, but there is meaning in his routines. He becomes known as someone others can trust—both among children who visit the park and the men he works with, who miss him terribly when he dies.

The novel also conveys the idea that all lives have value, even those that are unrecognized by others. Society often cruelly dehumanizes some of its members, and the existence of “circus freaks,” like the Blue Man, highlights this tendency. Yet it is the Blue Man who teaches Eddie that “No life is a waste.” From the outside, it might appear that the Blue Man’s life was of little value, but on Ruby Pier the Blue Man found a sense of home and belonging, as he formed a community with other members of the circus and the recurring visitors.

Sacrifice, Eddie learns from the Captain, is another element that gives life meaning. The Blue Man unintentionally sacrifices his life for Eddie when he swerves his car to avoid hitting Eddie. He tells Eddie that dying by sparing another’s life is a worthy way to die. The Captain tells Eddie that Eddie’s lost leg was a necessary sacrifice for saving his country. Rather than feeling embittered by the loss, he should be glad because sacrifice is worthy and important. Overall, Albom emphasizes the fact that even those parts of life that seem the most mundane or unpleasant do, in fact, have great value in the overarching scheme of things.

Get the entire Five People LitChart as a printable PDF.
The five people you meet in heaven.pdf.medium

The Value in Ordinary Life 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 The Value in Ordinary Life.
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.


Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Five People You Meet in Heaven quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

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 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.

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 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 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.