The Five People You Meet in Heaven Study Guide

Chapter 5: The First Lesson

Eddie finds himself in some sort of wooded area and notices that some of his limberness is gone. He hears bombs exploding in the distance; he crouches to the ground and finds a dog tag with his name on it.

When Eddie was younger he enlisted in the army. Since he had never fired a rifle he began practicing at the shooting arcade at Ruby Pier. One night while Eddie was practicing, a drunk Mickey Shea approached him and told him not to think while he is at war; he told Eddie that thinking will get him killed and that he should just shoot with out thinking about who he is shooting or why. A few days later Eddie headed to war.

The story returns to Eddie back at a war scene. He finds his former Captain up in a tree.

Eddie recalls when he was in the war and he, and four other soldiers, were taken as prisoners. They were kept in bamboo barracks and barely fed. One morning their captors lead them into a coal mine. Eddie and the other prisoners, including the Captain, are forced to strip coal to help the enemy's war effort. A few months later one of the prisoners, Rabozzo, developed a severe sickness and was unable to work. One of the captures shot him in the head, in front of Eddie and the rest of the prisoners.

Three weeks later Eddie found one of the captors, Crazy Three, trying to juggle rocks. Since Eddie knew how to juggle, he decided to create a diversion for the prisoners to escape. He juggled for Crazy Three who then called in the other captors to watch. Eddie captured their attention with his juggling and then began to throw the rocks into the faces of the captors. Eddie and the other prisoners were successful at killing the four guards, enabling them to escape.

The end of the chapter takes us back to Eddie's birthday right before he goes off to the War. Eddie and Marguerite walk around the pier to spend Eddie's last few moments home, together.

Right after Eddie and the remaining prisoners escape, they steal the enemies’ weapons and decide to destroy the prison they had lived in for almost half a year. As the hut went up in flames Eddie thought he saw an innocent child crawl into the hut. He ran in after it, caught on fire and was shot in the leg. His buddies rolled him around in the dirt until he was no longer on fire. He then remembers being carted away in a transport vehicle.

The Captain tells Eddie that it was he who shot him. He did not want Eddie to burn to death and he knew Eddie would hurt him if he tried to get him out of the hut. Eddie is furious at the Captain for ruining the rest of his life; he beats him furiously, not harming him. Eddie then learns that the Captain died later that night trying to secure a path for the vehicle containing Eddie and the two other soldiers.


We see many clues in this chapter that tell us Eddie had served in World War II. Before Eddie had gone to war, he mentioned that during the Depression, roller coasters had become too expensive for Ruby Pier; they were replaced by a number of new and smaller rides. The Great Depression began on October 29, 1929, with the collapse of the stock prices on the New York Stock Exchange. The Great Depression lasted up until WWII. Eddie also was fighting and taken prisoner on a Philippine island, which is where a lot of fighting took place during WWII.

When Eddie finds the Captain in the tree, he asks Eddie if he can still juggle. This foreshadows that Eddie's juggling must have been significant during some point in the war. We find out towards the end of the chapter that it was Eddie's juggling which allowed him and the other prisoners to kill the guards, which then allowed them to escape to safety.

In this chapter we finally learn more about Eddie and Marguerite’s relationship. Eddie is probably around eighteen or nineteen years old and it is apparent that they are dating. She arrives at Eddie's house and he gets butterflies in his stomach and fills with love for her. Later that night Marguerite tells Eddie that she will wait for him to come back from the war. At that moment Eddie feels that he will never love anyone more than he loves her.

The flashbacks to the war, in this chapter, tell us how Eddie's life has changed afterwards. He thought he saw a child crawling into the burning hut. He became sickened by the war: the murders, captivity and the futility of it all. He merely wanted to salvage something and was convinced that there was an innocent soul inside the burning hut. The Captain shot Eddie in the leg to keep him from running further into the hut and burning to death. When Eddie finds this out he is furious with the Captain. Eddie's life had never been the same after his injury. For the rest of his life Eddie was haunted by that one mistake he had made by running back into the burning hut. After his injury, he could no longer run or dance.

Eddie then learns that the Captain had died that evening trying to help with their escape. He got out of the vehicle to make sure the path was clear and safe; however, he stepped on a land mine, which exploded right under him.

Cite this page:

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