The plot is fairly straight-forward; Albom wrote the story in the third person omniscient point of view. The narrator does not participate in the action of the story, but lets us know how Eddie feels. We learn all about the characters through the narrator. The plot mostly takes place in heaven; however, Albom intermittently interjects flashbacks of Eddie’s life on earth. These flashbacks consist mostly of Eddie’s birthdays, which allow us to understand more of Eddie’s life on earth as it pertains to the five lessons he learns in heaven.
The book is divided into five parts, which makes it more convenient to distinguish the important events in the novel and also the traditional plot elements: Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action and Resolution.
In the Exposition, introductory material is presented which gives the reader the setting, creates the tone and presents the characters and other facts necessary to understanding the story. In the first chapter we are introduced to Eddie on his 83rd birthday. We learn that Eddie is the maintenance man at Ruby Pier and that he tests the amusement rides to ensure their safety. We also learn that Eddie dies from a falling amusement cart and journeys to heaven where the remainder of the story takes place. In the first chapter, we are also introduced to the little girl who Eddie tries to save from the falling amusement. At this point it is safe to infer that Eddie will wonder throughout his journey if he did save the little girl’s life.
In the exposition it is also worthy to note how the major theme of the novel is foreshadowed: A young boy named Nicky visited the pier a few months back and his car key fell into the base of Freddy’s Free Fall. Nicky knew nothing of this and never would have suspected that his key was the root for this tragedy at Ruby Pier and Eddie’s death. This irony that such events were intertwined is foreshadowing the major theme of the novel that there are no random acts in life.
The Rising Action is the events that build from the conflict. There are several conflicts in this story occurring simultaneously: Eddie vs. himself and Eddie vs. his father. We learn that throughout Eddie’s life he has constantly been battling to gain his father’s approval. When Eddie and his father stop speaking to each other, this causes the conflict to become more severe. After Eddie’s father dies, Eddie is still angry with him for those things he did to hurt him while he was still alive, and now for making Eddie feel like he had to take over his job at the pier.
Eddie was also in a state of conflict with himself after he returned from the war. His injury caused him great depression and lack of motivation to do much with his life. He continuously questioned his purpose in life and how it would have been different had he left Ruby Pier. The action of the story takes place from Eddie’s death and through his journey in heaven. The action continues to rise as Eddie meets each person, in heaven, and even through the flashbacks to Eddie’s previous birthdays where we see how the conflicts developed through Eddie’s life on earth.
The climax is the high point of the story and also the point at which the outcome can be predicted. The climax of this novel occurs near the end when Eddie meets Tala in heaven. The action of the story continues to rise until Tala tells Eddie that he burned her. From here the action begins to fall and lead to the outcome of the story. We can predict that in the outcome we will learn that Eddie did kill Tala in the fire during the war and also that she will teach him the last lesson, which will solve the major conflict in the novel: the one Eddie has with himself.
The Falling Action is the events occurring after the climax, which close the story and lead to the resolution. After Tala tells Eddie that he burned her, the incident which Eddie questioned his entire life is answered. The action falls as we see that it was Tala who Eddie killed in the fire back in the war.
The resolution is the outcome of all the events in the story. It can be argued that there are two resolutions to this novel, a major and minor resolution. The first occurs in the diner when Eddie tells his father, “It’s fixed” (144). Here we see Eddie resolve the conflict that he’s had with his father for his entire life.
The main resolution of the story takes place as the events of the falling action unfold, after Eddie learns that he burned Tala. Here Eddie realizes that it was not his imagination and he did burn an innocent child in the hut during the war. This instance had haunted Eddie ever since he returned from the war. During the final lesson Tala teaches Eddie that his life did have a purpose. This understanding resolves the major conflict Eddie had with himself.