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.
The Value in Ordinary Life ThemeTracker
The Value in Ordinary Life Quotes in The Five People You Meet in Heaven
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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…
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.