The Five People You Meet in Heaven Summary and Analysis: Mitch Albom

Read our complete notes on the novel “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom. Our notes cover The Five People You Meet in Heaven summary, themes, characters, and critical analysis.

Introduction:

The novel is written during the 20th century, encircling the events from the late industrial revolution during the era of World War II and the cultural shifts taken place during that time. The novel illustrates the struggle of the immigrants through the Blue Man during the late Industrial Revolution. The Blue Man narrates the story of his emigration with his parents from Poland and is forced to work in a factory with his father. Eddie, the protagonist of the novel, is born during a great depression in a working class. Eddie’s childhood is characterized by the poverty predominant during that time. This poverty adds a sense of depravity and hopelessness that shadows him in his entire life. Eddie, in his youth, experiences the obsession of society with regard to the contribution in war efforts, resulting in his own enrollment as a volunteer in World War II. Eddie’s enduring hopelessness and fretfulness portray the experiences of American troupers, predominantly in an epoch earlier post-disturbing trauma and other psychological fitness concerns have amenably discoursed. After the return from the war, the novel focuses on Eddie’s inner struggle and his diminishing connection with the worlds.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven Summary:

The novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven begins with a crippled elderly man, Eddie, who works at Ruby Pier, a seaside park, in maintenance. Eddie has always desired to leave the part and establish a new life somewhere else, yet was never able to. One day, during his routine rounds, he sees a cart on a ride “Freddy’s Free Fall” dangling and threating to dump out the ride-goers. While helping the other workers to get the people out, Eddie notices a little girl, “Amy or Annie” stands below the still falling cart. Eddie runs to save her and dies when the cart falls on him.

After Eddie’s death, he goes to heaven. While traveling through many shifting colors. He meets the Blue Man, who also worked at Ruby Pier as a Circus freak long ago. He tells Eddie about the five important people he will meet in heaven and each will tell him a lesson about his life. The Blue man tells him about his blue appearance that because of medicinal silver nitrate, he turned blue, resulted in his lonely life thereafter. He also tells him that Eddie is the cause of his death: the Blue Man suffered a heart attack while avoiding hitting Eddie, who had run after a lost ball on the road. The lesson that the blue man teaches Eddie is of human connection, i.e. all human lives are connected.

Eddie restarts his journey through shifting colors and arrives at a familiar battleground where he meets Captain. The events are flashbacked to the time when Eddie decided to enlist himself in World War II and prove his bravery. In the Philippines, their unit was taken incarcerated by the enemy. Months after their imprisonment, they plan an escape and accomplish it. The Village was set on fire and during their escape, Eddie thinks he sees someone moving in the hut and attempts to save the person. However, he is shot in the leg and cracked unconscious. He returns home perpetually crippled and acrimonious. The captain, in heaven, reveals to him that the person who shot him was no one else but him and he only intended to get him out of the fire. Moreover, the Captain died while trying to get his men out of the fire. The captain, before leaving, teaches him that sacrifice is necessary for life, and one must seek for it than lamenting it.

After meeting the Captain, Eddie starts traveling again and reach outside the restaurant in the hills. Though he sees his father there. The events are flashbacked to the childhood of Eddie when he would try to win his physically abused, and emotionally neglected father. There, a woman named Ruby meets Eddie and tells her that her husband, Emile, in her honor, build the amusement park Ruby Pier. When the park was burnt down, it ruined both her husband’s health and wealth. When Emile was in the hospital, Eddie’s father was dying next to him. Ruby tells Eddie that his father’s died while saving the life of his friend Mickey Shea while drowning; though he has just caught him attempting to rape Eddie’s mother. The woman, Ruby, taught Eddie a lesson of forgiveness and make him give of his ager for his father.

Afterward, Eddie meets his wife in the world of weddings in heaven. The events in the novel are flashbacked to the marital life of Eddie with Marguerite: their courtship at Ruby Pier, their wedding, and their attempt to have children. In order to stop Eddie from gambling away all the money they have on his birthday, Marguerite had a shattering car accident which tumbledown their likelihoods of having a child. Sooner or later, Marguerite forgave him yet she died afterward from a brain tumor. Since his Marguerite was a primary source of Eddie’s happiness and a source of his strength after the war, he was left feeling void. In heaven, Marguerite teaches him a lesson that love surpasses death.

The last person Eddie meets in heaven is a little girl Tala. She discloses that in the war she was killed at the hands of Eddie. The small shadow that he saw in one of the huts was hers. in deep despair, he starts believing that the darkness he felt all his life was because of this and he deserves that. Tala also tells him that though he is the cause of his death, yet he redeemed himself by saving the lives of children at Ruby Pier. This explanation let him find peace and he travels and reaches a Ferris wheel in the sky where Marguerite waits for him.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven Character Analysis:

Eddie:

He is an elderly, lonely man and the protagonist of the novel who has spent most part his life in maintenance at an amusement park named Ruby Pier, near the ocean. He belongs to a working-class family who migrated from Romania. He is a hardworking, strong man who is concerned about the wellbeing of others. Throughout his youth, his father abuses him and despite having a lot of affection for his father, he has kept those to himself. He is forced to work with his father at Ruby Pier to save money for studying engineering. In order to prove his bravery, he enlists himself in World War II. After returning from the war, he marries his beloved Marguerite. However, he spends the rest of life full of depression. The depression increases when the ones he loves most die before his eyes. The novel begins with his death scene and he is sent to heaven. While his journey through shifting, endless colors in heaven, he meets five important people who teach him the important lessons.

Eddie’s father:

An unnamed character of the novel. He is the gloomiest character of the novel representing excessive toughness and male aggression. He is shown as a violent, alcoholic and misogynist who labors as a head of Maintenance at an amusement park, Ruby Pier at very low pay. Throughout the childhood of his sons, Eddie and Joe, he physically abuses and neglects them even though Eddie often attempt to win his father’s love and went unsuccessful. He dies from Pneumonia that he caught while saving his friend Mickey Shea from drowning in the ocean.

Eddie’s mother:

A devoted, gentle and comforting lady who stays at home. He often attempts to stop her husband from violent behavior, yet is helpless. She shows interest in Eddie’s life particularly in his courtship with Marguerite. She stands firmly next to her husband during his last days, and when he dies, she becomes delusional denying his death. She has loving, positive traits representing and angelic female.

Marguerite:

She is an energetic, loving, gentlewomen and the only love interest of Eddie. Like Eddie’s mother, she is also a devoted wife and wants to have children, yet she can exert her will freer than her mother in law. She survived a car accident, however, dies at the age of 47 because of a brain tumor. In heaven, she teaches Eddies that love surpasses death.

Joe:

He is the elder of Eddie. Eddie, during their childhood, would fight for him as he dislikes to fight. He resists his father to work in Ruby Pier. He is a great disappointment for his father who thinks him unmanly. He disappears from the story when their childhood is over except when he visits Eddie. He becomes a salesman and earned a good income. After his retirement, he died because of a heart attack.

Mickey Shea:

He is a close friend of Eddie’s parent. He is an alcoholic, impulsive, cheerful, and lonely Irishman. He helps Eddie’s father in his financial problems and gets him a job at Ruby Pier. Moreover, to move ahead with their financial struggle, he gives money to Eddie’s parents when he is born. He gets drunk after losing his job and attempt to rape Eddie’s mother. Eddie’s father chases him to kill him yet when he sees him drowning saves him instead. Overwhelmed by the guilt of his actions, he dies drunk and alone.

Dominguez:

He is a young joyful man who works in assistance with Eddie at Ruby Pier. Eddie and Dominguez have good relations and after Eddie’s death, he becomes the head of Maintenance.

Amy or Annie:

A little girl who often visits Ruby Pier. Eddie has spoken a few times with her. Eddie, in order to save her life from collapsing ride, runs to save her life and dies himself. He waits to be her five important people who she will meet in heaven and teaches her a lesson of life.

Nicky:

A teenage boy, who frequently visits Ruby Pier. He turns out to baa grandson of Ruby. Nicky, while having a ride, loses his car keys in the ride that causes the ride to break after a few weeks and ultimately the death of Eddie.

The Blue Man:

During Eddie’s childhood, he was the member of human “freak show” at the amusement park Ruby Pier. He is also among the five important people who meet Eddie in heaven. He was an immigrant from Poland and is forced by his parents to work and earn money. His skin turned blue when he was given silver nitrate from his nerves. He tells Eddie that he is the cause of his death: the Blue Man suffered a heart attack while avoiding hitting Eddie, who had run after a lost ball on the road. The lesson that the blue man teaches Eddie is of human connection, i.e. all human lives are connected.

The Captain:

During World War II, he is the leader of the unit in the Philippines. He was born into a military family. He is an intelligent and sensible man and does everything he can do to keep his unit save and alive. During their escape from the captivity, he shoots Eddie in his leg to keep him moving. While saving his unit, he is killed. He is also among the five important people in heaven whom Eddie meet. The captain teaches Eddie a lesson of sacrifice.

Robozzo:

He is one of the men of the unit in World War II who is held captive by the enemy and is forced to work in a coal mine. When he was unable to work in the mine, the Crazy Two shoot him before everyone.

Crazy One, Two, Three and Four:

The anxious, frantic Filipino warriors who abduct Eddie’s unit in the course of World War II. They force them to work in the mines and have miserable death. They were then killed by the unit’s member to escape.

Ruby:

She is an elegant, skilled and keen lady whom Eddie meet in heaven. The amusement park Ruby Pier, in which Eddie works is named after her by her husband Emily. She tells Eddie about the cause of his father’s death that dismisses Eddie’s anger and aggression for his father and also teaches him a lesson of forgiveness.

Emile:

He is a rich husband of Ruby. He has built an amusement park and named it after his wife. When Ruby Pier catches fire. Both his health and wealth diminishes and was admitted next to Eddie’s father in the hospital.

Noel:

He is Eddie’s friend in his thirties. He persuades Eddie for gambling. On Eddie’s birthday, Marguerite suffered a car accident while stopping Eddie to give away all his money in gambling. He is a reminder for Eddie’s fault in Marguerite’s accident.

Tala:

She is the fifth and last important person whom Eddie meets in heaven. She is a title Filipino girl who is killed unknowingly by Eddie’s unit while escaping from the captivity.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven Themes:

Following are the major themes of the novel.

Forgiveness and Redemption:

The five important people that Eddie encounters in heaven teaches him about the opportunities that life and death offer for redemption. He learns about his wrongdoings and so as others’ and resulting anger that transfers to regrets and finally forgiveness. The harms that Eddie caused others are unintentional and have unintentional results. The unintentional killing of a little girl Tala and the car accident of his wife Marguerite are redeemed in heaven. Moreover, the novel also illustrates the idea of sin is also part of human life. Everyone hurts someone at some point of life; there are both good and bad characters, yet one must forgive others for the harms they have done.

The Connection between Humans:

On Earth, all humans are connected to each other whether they know each or are strangers. Similarly, in the novel, all characters are connected to each other though they haven’t met on Earth. Eddie unintentionally is the cause of The Blue Man’s death. Moreover, he is also the cause of the little Filipino girl Tala’s death. In addition to this, Eddie never met Ruby in his life, yet she is the owner of the park in which he works. Eddie also learns that the connections that are made on the Earth remain after death. Initially, on Earth, he lost his beloved wife Marguerite, yet after his death, both of them are reunited forever. Moreover, memories of the deceased people also establish a connection among the people. The abuse that Eddie experienced at his father’s hand haunt him throughout his life yet the love and affection he received from his mother have warmth it to a great extent.

Sacrifice is another important part of life that interconnects people. At some point in life, a man must sacrifice his happiness and even his life to provide comfort for others. The Blue Man sacrifice his life to save Eddie’s life; the Captain sacrifice his life to save his unit, similarly, Eddie has to sacrifice his life to save the life of a little girl Amy.

The Value in Ordinary Life:

Eddie, throughout the novel. Sees his life as ordinary life, full of struggle and unmet dreams and plans. He feels an unaccomplished and meaningless life for not leaving Ruby Pier and establish his life somewhere else. He always tries to find the value in his ordinary life. However, in heaven, all the characters he meets shows him that his ordinary life has value since he was born.

The connections and relations that human has added values and meaning to one’s life. Eddie’s love for his family and friends create beauty in his life, and also stop him to leave Ruby Pier.

Gender Roles:

Though the gender roles are not directly illustrated by the novel, yet we see strong differences in that exists between the Author’s portrayal of the male and female character. Primarily, the women in the novel are described by their connections with the male characters, while male members are described by their role and occupations. The male characters most of the time stands individually, yet each and every woman in the novel is described and associated with a man. For Marguerite, happiness revolves around her husband, yet Eddie’s internal struggle is independent of Marguerite. This shows the superiority of men over women.

Secondly, female characters are shown as caring, loving and devoted wives and mothers, yet male characters are shown preoccupied with their professions and actions.

Lastly, throughout the novel, we see that the female characters tend to be the victims of violence while the male is the source. Tala, Marguerite are the victims of Eddie’s unintentional actions; Eddie’s mother is a victim of his father reckless behavior.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven Critical Analysis:

The Novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, is a story of an elderly, bitter man Eddie who works as maintenance at the amusement park named Ruby Pier. Through his life, he believes that he wasted his life working at a low-pay at the park. The novel begins with his death that results from saving the life of a little girl. Afterward, he is in heaven where he meets different people who teach him the lessons of his life and help him understand life.

Throughout the novel, time is used as a significant element that shows mutability between life and death. By telling the story in out-of-order sequential, Albom makes the logic that time is not necessarily linear.

The novel belongs to the genre of Adult fiction, metaphysical fiction, and Magic realism. There are two sets of the novel. First, it is set into the Ruby pier and second, in the Philippines, where the incidents of World War II occurs.

The novel is third person omniscient point of view narration and has a reflective, introspective, nostalgic, and cathartic tone.

We see the biblical context of the novel, however, Albom didn’t mention it explicitly. For instance, there are many allusions to the Bible. The terms God, Adam, Eve and Heaven are used by Albom which shows the Biblical context.