The Five People You Meet in Heaven Study Guide

Setting

This story takes place in several different locations in both heaven and on earth. The novel begins at Ruby Pier. Eddie grew up very close to Ruby Pier because his father worked there for a living. Ruby Pier was thus a significant setting in Eddie's childhood; the novel flashes back many times to Eddie's childhood involving incidents at Ruby Pier. Ruby Pier is also where Eddie had his career as a maintenance man and is the very place where he was killed on his birthday.

When Eddie is in heaven, which is the bulk of the novel and also where he learns the five lessons, he visits five different settings: Ruby Pier, the battlegrounds on which he fought in the war, mountains, various wedding receptions and a river.


Eddie meets the Blue Man, in heaven, at Ruby Pier. However, it is not the Ruby Pier where Eddie was killed at the start of the novel; it was the Ruby Pier Eddie remembers from his childhood. When he awakes he notices the primitive, simple, amusements and their crisp white paint. As he runs around the pier he also sees the weight guessers, fortune tellers, and dancing gypsies. This setting is symbolic of Eddie's childhood; as a child Eddie was happy, naive and carefree. He was not yet discouraged, depressed or bitter. The white paint of the rides could represent Eddie's purity as a child; the primitive rides, weight guessers, fortune tellers and dancing gypsies are symbolic of childrens' naivety and love for the simple things in life. As the novel illustrates Eddie's experiences later in his life, we notice that the rides on the pier become more modernized and complicated as Eddie becomes older and depressed.

The second setting in heaven is a war ground in the Philippians, where Eddie fought during World War II. The sky changes from a blue to a dark, charcoal grey. The scene is very dark with fallen trees, blackened rubble and the sound of bombs exploding in the distance. This setting is particularly dark because when Eddie was at war he was older and not quite as limber as he was as a child. The darkness of the setting also signifies how Eddie becomes injured during the War, which plays a large part in the depression he experiences for the rest of his life.

The third place Eddie finds himself, in heaven, is a large mountain range surrounding a huge lake. The mountains have white, snow-capped peaks, rocks and purple slopes. The lake, in the center, was black and reflecting the bright moon. In the snowy field, below the mountains, Eddie sees a diner with neon lights. All of the customers in the diner are from a different decade and most appear to be injured. The diner is there because Ruby wanted to feel as if she had returned to her younger years, when she worked in a diner, and had a simple and secure life. Since the pier had caused her much pain and suffering, she wanted all those who had also suffered at Ruby Pier to be safe and secure as well. She also wanted to remain far from the sea and thus chose the mountains. This setting shows us that, along with Eddie, others have suffered at Ruby Pier: Ruby, Eddie's father and all of the other patrons in the diner.

Before Eddie meets Marguerite in heaven, he finds himself journeying through many wedding receptions of different types and cultures. The weddings all seem more lavish that his and Marguerite's had been. Eddie had never liked weddings very much; he thought them to be "too full of embarrassing moments" (148). He also avoided most receptions because of his injury. In heaven, as he and Marguerite talk they walk through many receptions. Marguerite probably wanted to take Eddie through the different receptions so he would feel comfortable, as he never did on earth during weddings. Also, since Eddie avoided most weddings when he was alive, Marguerite probably missed celebrating weddings with Eddie. Marguerite also chose to be around all of the weddings to emphasize her lesson of the power of love: All of the weddings, no matter the culture, are similar; when the groom lifts the bride's veil or when the two accept the rings, they truly believe in their love. True love is universal and unconditional.

In the last place in heaven, Eddie finds himself by a river with thousands of children placidly playing and laughing together. This scene specifically has only happy, safe children; no adults or authority. It is in this last setting where Eddie finds the meaning of his life and his career: to keep children safe. All of the children in this setting can be representative of all the children Eddie kept safe throughout his life at the pier.

Cite this page:

Radisch, Sharon. "TheBestNotes on The Five People You Meet in Heaven". TheBestNotes.com. . 09 May 2017
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