The Five People You Meet in Heaven Study Guide


There are two major conflicts in this story; the first being Eddie vs. himself. When Eddie was young he never had the desire to work at Ruby Pier like his father did. After Eddie returned from the war, he was very depressed and angry at what he had done with the remainder of his life. He never had another career aside from Ruby Pier and he eventually moved back into the same apartment building, where he grew up, to take care of his mother. We can tell that Eddie internally stores a lot of regret, hatred and anger about his life. This conflict is resolved when he meets Tala in heaven. She helps him realize that his life did have a purpose, which was keeping the children safe at the pier.

The second major conflict was between Eddie and his father. Eddie's father had never shown him love, approval or any signs of encouragement. He would often get drunk and violently yell at and beat Eddie. After Eddie returned injured from the war, his father yelled at him and tried to hit him; Eddie blocked his father's attempt and his father never spoke to him again. Eddie feels that his father damaged him in three ways: neglect, violence and silence. This conflict is resolved when Eddie meets Ruby in heaven; she teaches Eddie to let go of his anger and forgive his father.


Eddie is the protagonist of The Five People You Meet in Heaven. We are introduced to Eddie the day of his death, on his 83rd birthday. Through Eddie's journey in heaven, we learn a lot about his life and the people who he had affected. Eddie lived his life as a bitter, depressed man; however, as he meets the five people in heaven, we see Eddie resolve and appreciate his life on earth.


The antagonist of the novel is Eddie's father. We see that Eddie had a very volatile relationship with his father; aside from his war injury, his father caused most of the pain in Eddie's life. He was seldom proud of Eddie, only when he physically fixed a maintenance problem. He was also a belligerent drunk and beat Eddie and Joe; he was neglectful and he ceased talking to Eddie when he came home from the war. Eddie feels his father destroyed him in three ways: neglect, silence and violence. Even after the death of his father, Eddie was still angry with him for becoming trapped in his job at the pier and taking care of his mother. Eddie feels that because of his father, he was never able to become anything he wanted in life and also that his life held no purpose.


The climax happens towards the end of the novel when Eddie meets Tala and she says "You burn me. You make me fire" (188). This is the climax because throughout the novel we see that Eddie has been tormented his entire life, after the war, not knowing if he had killed an innocent child in the burning hut. He has experienced many nightmares and could never seem to get that scene out of his mind. It is here that Eddie sees he did kill an innocent child in the war and that he was not hallucinating as the other soldiers had thought. After Eddie learns this about Tala, he is able to wash her skin of the burns and she leads him to the outcome and resolution of the story.


The resolution of the story unfolds immediately after the climax. Eddie’s worst fear had come true: he had killed an innocent child during the war while burning down the camp. After he learns this, Tala leads Eddie to the resolution in the fifth lesson. The outcome of the novel is that Eddie realizes his life had a purpose which was keeping the children safe at the pier.

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