Critical Lens Essay The Five People You Meet In Heaven

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The Five People You Meet In Heaven Summary

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The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a 2003  spiritual fiction novel by American author and journalist Mitch Albom. The second book and first novel by Albom, it is a tale of the afterlife, following an elderly man who dies in his job as a carnival maintenance man and finds himself in a heaven where five significant people from the journey of his life greet him one by one. Each of these five people represents a turning point in Eddie’s life, and each brings with them a theme that unfolds over the course of their vignette. The Five People You Meet in Heaven was a worldwide best-seller and remained on The New York Times Best Seller List for 95 weeks. In 2004, it was made into a made-for-TV movie starring Jon Voight, which stayed largely faithful to the original book.

The story begins with an elderly man named Eddie working in his job as the head of maintenance at an amusement park called Ruby Pier. Despite his advanced age – he is turning 83 today – and a crippling leg injury he sustained during his service in World War II, he still performs his job admirably. As he gets to work on his birthday, one of the amusement park rides malfunctions, a cable getting jammed by a car key getting stuck in the gear. After the ride is evacuated, the staff is about to release the mechanism, and Eddie notices that the car will detach. He sees a little girl named Amy or Annie in the spot that the car is about to make impact, races towards her and pushes her out of the way with all the strength he has. He feels a little girl’s hands in his as there’s an exploding impact, and then nothing.

Eddie awakes, finding himself uninjured. He notices he’s much younger, and is greeted by a man known as the Blue Man. This mysterious man with bright blue skin tells Eddie that he’s dead and will now make his way through the five levels of heaven, each time meeting a person who had a significant impact on his life. In each stage, he will feel exactly as he did when he knew the person he is meeting. Eddie doesn’t remember the Blue Man, and the Blue Man – whose real name is Joseph Corvelzchik, a man whose skin was turned blue by silver nitrate poisoning as a child leading him to work in a circus sideshow – reveals that he died when he swerved to avoid a young Eddie in his car. Without the Blue Man’s actions, Eddie never would have lived beyond childhood. The first theme of the Eddie’s journey is revealed to be that there are no random events in life. All experiences and people are connected in some way.

Eddie moves on to the second level, where he meets his former captain from the army. Eddie finds himself back in the forced labor camp where he served a chunk of the war alongside his Captain. Eddie is haunted by his memories of the war, including when the platoon made their escape and burned down the camp in the process. Eddie has always been convinced he saw a shadow of someone in the hut he burned. The Captain confesses that he was the one who shot Eddie in the leg to keep Eddie from running into the fire after the shadow. This saved Eddie’s life, but left him with a lifelong disability that Eddie has always believed kept him from rising above his abusive father’s old position at Ruby Pier. The Captain reveals how he died – scouting out ahead for land mines so the men could escape safely. As the labor camp clears to reveal a beautiful nature landscape, and the Captain is seen for the first time without the dirt and grime of war on his face, Eddie moves on to the third heaven with the Captain’s message: the importance of people’s willingness to make sacrifices for each other, both big and small.

Eddie next finds himself in a snowdrift, although the snow is oddly not cold. He approaches a diner and sees his father inside. His father doesn’t seem to notice him, but a well-dressed woman does. She reveals that she once worked at the diner, and Ruby Pier was named after her by her husband. She’s styled this portion of heaven as a refuge for anyone who’s been hurt by Ruby Pier, which took her husband away from her. Eddie’s father was a cruel and abusive man, and Ruby is here to help Eddie move on from the anger and hatred he has towards his father. She shows him another side of his father, one who would do anything to protect his family, and once risked his own life to save a man’s life even after the man attempted to force himself on Eddie’s mother. This led to the illness that killed him. Ruby tells Eddie that he needs to let go of his anger, because hatred is a deadly weapon that hurts both the hated and the hater. As Eddie takes in the third theme, he moves on to another heaven.

Eddie now wakes up in a room with several doors. Behind each door is a wedding from a different culture, and in one of those doors he finds his late wife Marguerite. The two spend a long time together, reminiscing as Eddie catches her up on all that’s happened since she died. He apologizes for never making more of his life, and she tells him that she loved their life together. Eddie says that all he would have changed is for them to have more time together. They talk about her love for weddings and they reminisce about their own unusual wedding, held on the rented top floor of a Chinese restaurant. Even all these years later, Eddie kept the menu from that restaurant. As Eddie reflects on what Marguerite has taught him, that love is never diminished, even by death itself, he drifts off to sleep.

Eddie awakes to the fifth and final scene, where he finds himself by a riverbed where a young Filipina girl named Tala waves to him. As they communicate, Eddie is horrified to discover that she is the little girl who burned to death in the hut he set on fire decades ago. Her skin transforms to reflect the burns she endured, and Eddie breaks down, begging for God’s forgiveness. Tala asks him to wash her skin off with a stone, and as he does, Tala’s skin becomes clear and unscarred again. Eddie asks her if he was able to save the little girl he gave up his life to rescue, and Tala reveals that he did push her out of the way. It was Tala’s hands Eddie felt as he died, not the little girl’s. Tala teaches Eddie that there was a purpose to his life, and he did atone for her unnecessary death. At the end of Eddie’s journey, he is shown a vision of all the many people he saved along the years by his maintenance work, and the future generations that will exist because of him. And it is revealed that a long time down the line, when the little girl who Eddie saved passes on, Eddie will be waiting for her as one of the five people she will meet in heaven.

Mitch Albom rocketed to fame and success with his first book, Tuesdays With Morrie, a non-fiction memoir which chronicled his friendship with his elderly former professor who was dying of ALS at the time. He is also a successful sports journalist, writing an autobiography of football coach Bo Schembelcher and a chronicle of the 1992 University of Michigan Basketball team’s unlikely success in the NCAA tournament. Since breaking into the world of fiction, he has written an additional five novels, most dealing with themes of mortality and spirituality. He is also a sportscaster, playwright (penning the adaptation of Tuesdays With Morrie as well as two original comedies), and songwriter. He is the founder of The Dream Fund, a scholarship that provides arts education to disadvantaged children. His books have sold over 35 million copies worldwide.

Teaching The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The Five People You Meet in Heaven lesson plan contains a variety of teaching materials that cater to all learning styles. Inside you'll find 30 Daily Lessons, 20 Fun Activities, 180 Multiple Choice Questions, 60 Short Essay Questions, 20 Essay Questions, Quizzes/Homework Assignments, Tests, and more. The lessons and activities will help students gain an intimate understanding of the text, while the tests and quizzes will help you evaluate how well the students have grasped the material. View a free sample

Target Grade: 7th-12th (Middle School and High School)

Length of Lesson Plan: Approximately 132 pages. Page count is estimated at 300 words per page. Length will vary depending on format viewed.

Browse The Five People You Meet in Heaven Lesson Plan:

Full Lesson Plan Overview

Completely Customizable!

The Five People You Meet in Heaven lesson plan is downloadable in PDF and Word. The Word file is viewable with any PC or Mac and can be further adjusted if you want to mix questions around and/or add your own headers for things like "Name," "Period," and "Date." The Word file offers unlimited customizing options so that you can teach in the most efficient manner possible. Once you download the file, it is yours to keep and print for your classroom. View a FREE sample

Lesson Plan Calendars

The Lesson Plan Calendars provide daily suggestions about what to teach. They include detailed descriptions of when to assign reading, homework, in-class work, fun activities, quizzes, tests and more. Use the entire The Five People You Meet in Heaven calendar, or supplement it with your own curriculum ideas. Calendars cover one, two, four, and eight week units. Determine how long your The Five People You Meet in Heaven unit will be, then use one of the calendars provided to plan out your entire lesson.

Chapter Abstracts

Chapter abstracts are short descriptions of events that occur in each chapter of The Five People You Meet in Heaven. They highlight major plot events and detail the important relationships and characteristics of important characters. The Chapter Abstracts can be used to review what the students have read, or to prepare the students for what they will read. Hand the abstracts out in class as a study guide, or use them as a "key" for a class discussion. They are relatively brief, but can serve to be an excellent refresher of The Five People You Meet in Heaven for either a student or teacher.

Character and Object Descriptions

Character and Object Descriptions provide descriptions of the significant characters as well as objects and places in The Five People You Meet in Heaven. These can be printed out and used as an individual study guide for students, a "key" for leading a class discussion, a summary review prior to exams, or a refresher for an educator. The character and object descriptions are also used in some of the quizzes and tests in this lesson plan. The longest descriptions run about 200 words. They become shorter as the importance of the character or object declines.

Daily Lessons

This section of the lesson plan contains 30 Daily Lessons. Daily Lessons each have a specific objective and offer at least three (often more) ways to teach that objective. Lessons include classroom discussions, group and partner activities, in-class handouts, individual writing assignments, at least one homework assignment, class participation exercises and other ways to teach students about The Five People You Meet in Heaven in a classroom setting. You can combine daily lessons or use the ideas within them to create your own unique curriculum. They vary greatly from day to day and offer an array of creative ideas that provide many options for an educator.

Fun Classroom Activities

Fun Classroom Activities differ from Daily Lessons because they make "fun" a priority. The 20 enjoyable, interactive classroom activities that are included will help students understand The Five People You Meet in Heaven in fun and entertaining ways. Fun Classroom Activities include group projects, games, critical thinking activities, brainstorming sessions, writing poems, drawing or sketching, and countless other creative exercises. Many of the activities encourage students to interact with each other, be creative and think "outside of the box," and ultimately grasp key concepts from the text by "doing" rather than simply studying. Fun activities are a great way to keep students interested and engaged while still providing a deeper understanding of The Five People You Meet in Heaven and its themes.

Essay Questions/Writing Assignments

These 20 Essay Questions/Writing Assignments can be used as essay questions on a test, or as stand-alone essay topics for a take-home or in-class writing assignment on The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Students should have a full understanding of the unit material in order to answer these questions. They often include multiple parts of the work and ask for a thorough analysis of the overall text. They nearly always require a substantial response. Essay responses are typically expected to be one (or more) page(s) and consist of multiple paragraphs, although it is possible to write answers more briefly. These essays are designed to challenge a student's understanding of the broad points in a work, interactions among the characters, and main points and themes of the text. But, they also cover many of the other issues specific to the work and to the world today.

Short Essay Questions

The 60 Short Essay Questions listed in this section require a one to two sentence answer. They ask students to demonstrate a deeper understanding of The Five People You Meet in Heaven by describing what they've read, rather than just recalling it. The short essay questions evaluate not only whether students have read the material, but also how well they understand and can apply it. They require more thought than multiple choice questions, but are shorter than the essay questions.

Multiple Choice Questions

The 180 Multiple Choice Questions in this lesson plan will test a student's recall and understanding of The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Use these questions for quizzes, homework assignments or tests. The questions are broken out into sections, so they focus on specific chapters within The Five People You Meet in Heaven. This allows you to test and review the book as you proceed through the unit. Typically, there are 5-15 questions per chapter, act or section.

Evaluation Forms

Use the Oral Reading Evaluation Form when students are reading aloud in class. Pass the forms out before you assign reading, so students will know what to expect. You can use the forms to provide general feedback on audibility, pronunciation, articulation, expression and rate of speech. You can use this form to grade students, or simply comment on their progress.

Use the Writing Evaluation Form when you're grading student essays. This will help you establish uniform criteria for grading essays even though students may be writing about different aspects of the material. By following this form you will be able to evaluate the thesis, organization, supporting arguments, paragraph transitions, grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. of each student's essay.

Quizzes/Homework Assignments

The Quizzes/Homework Assignments are worksheets that can be used in a variety of ways. They pull questions from the multiple choice and short essay sections, the character and object descriptions, and the chapter abstracts to create worksheets that can be used for pop quizzes, in-class assignments and homework. Periodic homework assignments and quizzes are a great way to encourage students to stay on top of their assigned reading. They can also help you determine which concepts and ideas your class grasps and which they need more guidance on. By pulling from the different sections of the lesson plan, quizzes and homework assignments offer a comprehensive review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven in manageable increments that are less substantial than a full blown test.


Use the Test Summary page to determine which pre-made test is most relevant to your students' learning styles. This lesson plan provides both full unit tests and mid-unit tests. You can choose from several tests that include differing combinations of multiple choice questions, short answer questions, short essay questions, full essay questions, character and object matching, etc. Some of the tests are designed to be more difficult than others. Some have essay questions, while others are limited to short-response questions, like multiple choice, matching and short answer questions. If you don't find the combination of questions that best suits your class, you can also create your own test on The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

Create Your Own Quiz or Test

You have the option to Create Your Own Quiz or Test. If you want to integrate questions you've developed for your curriculum with the questions in this lesson plan, or you simply want to create a unique test or quiz from the questions this lesson plan offers, it's easy to do. Cut and paste the information from the Create Your Own Quiz or Test page into a Word document to get started. Scroll through the sections of the lesson plan that most interest you and cut and paste the exact questions you want to use into your new, personalized The Five People You Meet in Heaven lesson plan.

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