The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The Five People You Meet in Heaven Summary and Analysis of The Arrival - The First Person Eddie Meets in Heaven


Chapter 3 - The Arrival:

Eddie awakens in a big teacup with his arms and legs dangling over the edges. He recognizes this cup as part of an old ride at Ruby Pier. As Eddie climbs out of the cup, he notices that the sky is continuing to change colors, from shoe-leather brown to deep scarlet. He suddenly realizes that he can move without the aid of his cane; all of the aches and pains that used to plague his every movement are gone. Meanwhile, he is back at the Ruby Pier from his childhood some seventy- five years ago. Eddie attempts to say something but he cannot yet speak.

Nevertheless, Eddie is thrilled to be mobile once more and runs around the park, effortlessly passing by the landmarks that recall his oldest memories. Eddie stops at the “freak house,” which was shut down fifty years ago. Inside, he strides past the familiar assortment of odd individuals that were once part of this popular carnival act. He remembers feeling sorry for them as a child. Finally, Eddie stops in front of the “Blue Man” whose pale blue complexion was his claim to fame. The Blue Man says, "Hello, Edward. I have been waiting for you."

Chapter 4 - The First Person Eddie Meets in Heaven:

Eddie vaguely remembers the Blue Man from his childhood, but the blueberry-hued person seems to know exactly what Eddie is thinking and feeling. The Blue Man suggests that Eddie has been able to reconnect with his childlike vitality because Eddie was a child when he and the Blue Man first met. Eddie, confused, follows the Blue Man into the empty amusement park which looks just like it was 75 years ago. The Blue Man explains that earthly images do not change in the afterlife.

Eddie asks the Blue Man about the circumstances of his death. The Blue Man answers that Eddie perished in an accident and has been dead for “a minute, an hour, a thousand years” (33). The Blue Man tells Eddie that he is in Heaven, which Eddie finds confounding since he has spent his life trying to find a way out of Ruby Pier. In an attempt to explain what is happening, the Blue Man adds that the journey to Heaven has many steps and this is Eddie's first. The Blue Man, however, is in the second phase of his journey. Eddie tries to ask more questions but still lacks the ability to speak. The Blue Man explains that his vocal cords will adjust, but for now Eddie's silence will allow him to put all of his energy towards listening. The Blue Man describes himself as the first of five people that Eddie will meet in Heaven. God specifically chooses each of these five people in order to help Eddie make sense of his life - and they can either be strangers or loved ones. Eddie asks the Blue Man how he died; The Blue Man smiles and answers that Eddie killed him.

There is another flashback, this time to Eddie’s seventh birthday. Eddie receives a baseball as a gift. Eddie imagines that he is a great baseball hero like the ones on the Cracker Jack cards he collects. Eddie and his brother Joe toss the ball back and forth on the boardwalk of Ruby Pier. When the ball hits one of the sideshow tents, Eddie and Joe catch a glimpse at two of the "sideshow freaks" sitting inside. One is an extremely overweight woman and the other is a shirtless man with blue skin. While the boys are out looking for the ball, the shirtless blue man comes out of the tent to ask about the noise. Joe and Eddie are terrified but manage to retrieve the baseball and run away.

Back in Heaven, Eddie and the Blue Man continue their conversation. Eddie cannot believe that is responsible for the Blue Man's death. In response, the Blue Man tells Eddie his life story. His name is actually Joseph Corvelszchik. He was born in a small town in Poland and in 1894, his parents immigrated to America. Money was tight so when Joe was ten, his father sent him to work in a sweatshop sewing buttons onto coats. Joseph was a nervous child and his shaky hands knocked over piles of buttons, which angered the foreman and humiliated his father. He also wet his bed frequently. Ashamed, Joseph went to a chemist to find something to settle his nerves. He came home with silver nitrate, but was unaware of the toxic side effects of ingesting large quantities of the substance. Nevertheless, Joseph was so eager to cute his anxiety that he exceeded the recommended dose, thus resulting in his permanently blue skin.

Joe was dismissed from his factory job because the foreman claimed that his appearance scared the other workers. One night, Joe met some carnival workers in a saloon while he was drowning his sorrows. One man from the carnival approached Joe and asked him to join up with them, this giving him a second chance at life. Unexpectedly, Joseph finally found a home among in the sideshow at Ruby Pier. There, he frequently played cards with the workers, including Eddie’s father.

Eddie is still confused about how the Blue Man’s story relates to him. The Blue Man starts narrating the events of one rainy Sunday morning. He was driving his friend’s Model A when a boy (Eddie) suddenly ran into the street, chasing a baseball. The Blue Man swerved to miss the boy. The shock of almost hitting a child rattled him, thus leading to the accident that ended his life.

It is Eddie’s birthday again, and this time he is eight years old. Eddie has received an Erector Set. He is good at putting things together and wants to spend time playing with his new toy. However, he has to attend a funeral with his family. Many workers from Ruby Pier are in attendance; they are burying the Blue Man.


Eddie’s arrival in Heaven is surreal yet familiar. He awakens in a giant teacup; it is a ride that he remembers from his childhood. In these chapters, Albom introduces the relationship between memory and perspective as a recurring motif in The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

The Blue Man tells the first story that Eddie hears in Heaven. His tale is fraught with ample pain and loneliness; he experienced isolation to the greatest possible degree. Yet as Eddie wonders how his version of Heaven could possibly be Ruby Pier, a place he always wanted to escape, we learn that Ruby Pier is not Eddie's version of Heaven - it is the Blue Man's. Despite the fact that the Blue Man was employed in a sideshow, Ruby Pier felt like home. "It may not sound like much," he tells Eddie, "but for me, it was a freedom I had rarely known" (42). In this way, Albom skillfully uses each of Eddie's encounters in Heaven to give him a new perspective on his own life.

Eddie is shocked to learn that the baseball he received for his seventh birthday inadvertently caused the Blue Man's death. In this way, the Blue Man imbues this particular childhood memory with a new level of significance, thus expanding Eddie's understanding of the interconnectedness of life - another one of the novel's pertinent themes. The Blue Man's tale signals to Eddie that this childhood was not merely a stage in his life but rather the thread that unites the tapestry of Eddie's entire existence. For example, the Blue Man's experiences with an abusive father serve to echo Eddie's own troubled paternal ties. Therefore, the Blue Man's story also helps Eddie to realize of how the events of his childhood laid the groundwork for his adult psyche - even though his youthful traumas do not have the same physical markers as his companion's blue skin.

The Blue Man explains that he is in his second stage of Heaven while Eddie is only in his first. Additionally, their chance encounter occurred when the Blue Man was an adult and Eddie was a child. It therefore feels appropriate that the Blue Man's discourse and demeanor convey a sense of wisdom; the Blue Man is the teacher and Eddie is the student. The Blue Man underlines this relationship by commenting that Eddie's inability to speak "helps [him] listen" (35).

Ultimately, this first encounter plays into Albom's overall message that whatever pain one has experienced in his or her lifetime, there is no place for it in Heaven. Like all the people Eddie meets in Heaven, The Blue Man espouses serenity because he has learned to accept his earthly struggles. By example, he shows Eddie that emotional baggage inhibits one's journey into the afterlife and that one must let go of lingering grudges in order to take the next step in God's plan. In Heaven, there is no judgment about one's looks, creed, or color.

Eddie quickly realizes that time does not function in the same way that it did when he was among the living. In fact, Albom uses the concept of time to highlight the different value systems between Heaven and Earth. The first section contains a minute-by-minute countdown to Eddie's final moments on Earth. However, when Eddie arrives in Heaven and asks the Blue Man how long he has been dead, the Blue Man answers,“ A minute. An hour, A thousand years” (33). In eternity, time no longer has any value. Furthermore, Albom uses the novel's structure to debunk the linearity of time altogether by highlighting particular moments in Eddie's life as they pertain to his enlightenment instead of arranging the novel's events in a purely chronological order.