The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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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.
Time Theme Icon

Time is used to mark significant moments and periods in Eddie’s life, as well as to show the fluidity between life and death. Time is always moving forward, and yet by telling the story in out-of-order episodes, Albom creates the sense that time is not necessarily linear—particularly from the point of view of eternity and heaven.

In between stories of Eddie’s encounters with the five people in heaven, there are short snapshots from Eddie’s life. Beginning with his birth, each of these sections is titled: “Today is Eddie’s Birthday.” By marking Eddie’s birthdays in this way, the novel more clearly defines the changes in Eddie’s life as he moves through time. The final chapter then strings together all of Eddie’s birthdays after Marguerite’s death to show how after losing his wife, Eddie’s birthdays become increasingly lonely, and eventually he stops marking them at all. With all his loved ones gone, his life no longer feels differentiated, or worth taking note of as it progresses. Thus relationships appear to define time in some sense—without human connection, time becomes a more amorphous and incomprehensible.

On earth (in the novel), there is the sense that time is always running out. The book begins by describing the hours before Eddie’s death at the amusement park. Each new section of the first chapter begins by stating how many more minutes Eddie has to live: “Sixteen minutes left to live, Eddie….” or “Fourteen minutes before his death.” When Eddie tries to save the little girl from the falling ride, he feels he is fighting against time, calculating minutes and seconds in his mind to see if he can make it. Yet in heaven, characters do not experience time. They wait for each other to join them in different parts of heaven without counting the time, and experiencing a kind of eternity—in which time is not linear, but exists all at once, similar to how Eddie is detached from time after death and can perceive the arc of his life as a whole. Without aging, night, day, or an external rhythm (no place to “be”), the characters experience their existence through memories and emotions in a dreamlike state. At the end of his journey through heaven, Eddie himself enters into this state, and eventually gets the endless time with Marguerite that he has always wanted.

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Time 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 Time.
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.


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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 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.

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.