The Five People You Meet in Heaven Study Guide

Symbolism / Motifs / Imagery / Symbols

All actions and occurrences are interconnected - This is the predominant motif throughout the novel. Albom references this motif throughout the entire novel in various ways. Although there are many examples throughout the story, the most important are explained in detail below to gain a better understanding of how Albom works this motif into many aspects of the novel.

At the start of the story, the narrator tells us an occurrence that happened a few months prior to Eddie’s death at Ruby Pier. A boy named Nicky, and his friends went to the pier one night. Nicky was a new driver and not yet comfortable carrying a key chain; he therefore took his car key off the chain and put it in his coat pocket, which he then tied around his waist. He and his friends rode all of the rides at Ruby Pier, including Freddy’s Free Fall. After Freddy’s Free Fall breaks, we are told that the object, which jammed one of the pulleys, was a car key. We can infer that the key had fallen out of Nicky’s pocket when he was riding Freddy’s Free Fall a few months earlier. Nicky’s actions indirectly killed Eddie, just as Eddie’s action (running in the street after the ball) indirectly killed the Blue Man.


When Eddie learns this first lesson from the Blue Man, it becomes clearer to us that this is going to be a very important motif throughout the novel. For, the Blue Man is only the first person Eddie meets in heaven, and Albom has already referenced this motif twice.

Two other interesting examples of this motif appear when Ruby shows Eddie how his father died. First, we see that Mickey Shea’s actions were indirectly responsible for the death of Eddie’s father. Several events caused Mickey Shea to be violent toward Eddie’s mother: he had gotten fired from his job that day; this caused him to become very drunk and emotional; he then started to try and touch Eddie’s mother. When Eddie’s father saw this, he became so angry with Mickey Shea that Mickey ran out to the pier and ended up falling into the sea. Since Mickey Shea was an old friend, Eddie’s father jumped in after him and saved his life. The consequence was that Eddie’s father ended up catching pneumonia from saving Mickey Shea, which later killed him.

Secondly, Ruby’s husband, Emile, was very sick and also dying in the hospital bed next to Eddie’s father. Had Emile not been sick and unable to afford his own hospital room, Ruby would have never seen Eddie’s father crawl out of bed and to the window where he called for Eddie, Eddie’s mother and Joe right before his death. Ruby’s role here is important because had she not been in the hospital room, she would not have known how Eddie’s father died; she would then not have been able to share this story with Eddie and convince him to let go of his anger and forgive his father.

Eddie saves the little girl - We find out at the end of the novel that Eddie did save the little girl from the falling amusement cart. It is important to note the symbolism of this child’s rescue. At the end of the story Eddie learns that the meaning and purpose of his work at the pier, was to save and protect the children. Eddie’s life ended with him saving a child, just as he had done for his entire life. Since the child lived, we can see this as a type of reparation for burning Tala. Once Eddie pushed the little girl out of the way of the falling cart, it was Tala who grabbed his hands and pulled him into heaven. Although Eddie had much bitterness and anger in his life, we ultimately see that he was a good person, that he took the meaning of love and sacrifice into his soul and took his own life to save that of the little girl.

Cite this page:

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