The Ferris Wheel is a recurring image of every version of Ruby Pier that Eddie visits in Heaven. Other rides come and go, but the Ferris Wheel always defines the park's skyline. Eddie marvels at its sparkling magnificence as a child, he and Marguerite ride the the Ferris wheel on their first date, and Eddie fixes its mechanisms when he gets older. The Ferris wheel is a fixture in Eddie's life that symbolizes the essence of the park; it is a ride that represents joy, solace, romance, and adventure. Eventually, Eddie finds his eternal happiness with Marguerite on the Ferris wheel, connecting it to the cyclical nature of life and death, as well.
Eddie's Knee Injury (Symbol)
Although Eddie does not understand the true reason for his shattered knee until he meets his Captain in Heaven, Albom refers to it constantly throughout the story. He suffers the injury during the war - he thinks there is a little girl in a burning tent and tries to save her when a bullet hits him in the leg. Eddie does not find out the fate of this girl until the end of the book, but the pain in his knee is a constant reminder of the possibility that he may have let a young child burn to death. Once Eddie meets Tala and is able to forgive himself for her death, the pain disappears and he can finally ascend to Heaven unencumbered. Therefore, Eddie's knee is a symbol for the burdens he is trying to shed from his earthly life as he makes his way towards eternity.
An Unfulfilled Life (Motif)
Eddie dies having spent his life at a job he swore he would not do in a place he claimed to hate. However, as the novel goes on, it becomes clear both to the reader and to Eddie that Eddie did belong at Ruby Pier. Eddie uses the skills he learned at Ruby Pier to save himself and his fellow soldiers from captivity in the Philippines. He is meticulous about maintaining the rides and keeping them safe for children. It is only when he meets Tala at the end of his journey that Eddie realizes that even if he wasn't always happy at Ruby Pier, his life certainly was meaningful.
Everyday Heroism (Motif)
Albom dismantles popular images of heroes in the novel by depicting ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The entire narrative centers on Eddie is an 83-year old widowed maintenance man who dies in an act of heroism. Eddie learns about other acts of everyday heroism from his "Five People," as well. For example, Eddie's father died as a result of his attempt to save Mickey Shea, his oldest friend - despite Mickey's violent assault on Eddie's mother. Albom therefore shows his readers that heroism comes in many forms - and it may not always be obvious.
The Circle of Life (Allegory)
The structure of the novel represents the cyclical nature of life and death. It starts at the end of Eddie's life, but we later learn that Eddie's death is a new beginning for "Amy or Annie," the girl he dies saving. Additionally, as the Captain later informs him, Eddie's life on earth may be over but his eternity is just beginning. At the end of the novel, Eddie is able to shed all of his earthly burdens and emerge into eternity - as if he has been baptized and reborn. Finally, he spends eternity on a Ferris wheel, a physical symbol that underlines the allegory.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.