A flashback is a sudden and disturbing vivid memory of an event in the past that helps people learn a lesson. In the novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, it uses flashbacks to help the main character, Eddie, learn from his past. Flashbacks bring back memories that teach Eddie lessons and provide insight for the reader about Eddie's past life. Eddie learns his first lesson in heaven from a man who is referred to as the Blue Man. This Blue Man teaches Eddie that there are two sides to every story. The second person that Eddie meets in heaven is the Captain. He is Eddie's old command officer who teaches him the lesson of sacrifice. The third person that Eddie meets in heaven is Ruby who teaches Eddie a lesson on forgiveness.
The first lesson that Eddie learns is from the Blue Man. Firstly, the Blue Man shows Eddie a flashback to when he was younger.
Eddie and his friends are tossing a baseball Eddie got for his birthday nearly a year ago. Take a moment when that ball flies over Eddie's head and out into the street. Eddie, wearing tawny pants and wool cap, chases after it and runs in front if an automobile, a Ford Model A. The car screeches, veers, and just misses him. He shivers, exhales, gets the ball, and races back to his friends. (42-43)
Flashbacks are what make everything make sense. To Eddie this was just a flashback of a scary situation that he would soon forget about. To the Blue Man this was a situation that would end badly. Secondly, Eddie is shown another flashback of the Blue Man driving a Ford Model A car.
A man is behind the wheel of a Ford Model A, which he has borrowed from a friend to practice his driving. The road is wet from the morning rain. Suddenly, a baseball bounces out of nowhere , and a boy comes racing after it. The driver slams on the brakes and yanks the wheel. The car skids, the tires screech. The man somehow regains control... but the man's body is still affected, thinking how he came to a tragedy. The jolt of adrenaline has forced his heart to pump furiously and this heart is not a strong one and the pumping leaves him drained. The man feels dizzy and momentarily drops his head.(43)
The previous quote is the Blue Man showing Eddie the other side of the story. He then brings him to a funeral where a Blue Man lays in a coffin. As Eddie figures out that the man in the car was the Blue Man, he realizes why the Blue Man is one of the five people he will meet in heaven. Finally, the Blue Man teaches Eddie that there are two sides to every story and that one's life is given away to help protect another. The flashbacks that Eddie had seen earlier are the two different views of the same stories. But in the end they resulted in a life being lost. The Blue man explained to Eddie that the reason he died was so Eddie could live. Eddie is taught many lessons throughout the novel, and the Blue Man was one of the most significant.
Eddie continues on through his journey, and ends up meeting his old friend who he called Captain. Eddie is reminded of his past and the Captain teaches Eddie an important lesson about sacrifice. Eddie's first lesson starts off with a flashback to the time when the Captain and him were captured by their enemies. Eddie remembered being locked away for more than 3 weeks. Being captured really impacted Eddie because it changed his life forever. He was shot in the leg so that Captain could save his life. Eddie had bombed a barn and when he was leaving he saw something move inside. He went into the barn as it was bursting into flames and tried to find out what was in there. As the barn started to fall apart, Eddie felt a pain in his leg and then passed out. The Captain had shot him so that he could drag him out of the burning barn. From then on Eddie would walk with a limp. The Captain sacrificed Eddie's leg in order to save his life. The Captain then talks to Eddie about what the Captain had sacrificed. He recounts the story of the time he got out of a vehicle and went to check that the road ahead was safe and ended up being blown up. At first Eddie was confused but then the Captain said to him "I didn't die for nothing, either. That night, we might have all driven over that land mine. Then the four of us would have been gone." (93) The Captain made Eddie understand that everyone sacrifices something in their life and the Captain sacrificed his life to save the others.
Another person Eddie meets is Ruby. Ruby teaches Eddie a valuable lesson about forgiveness. First, Ruby teaches Eddie that anger is a poison and will cause people to do things that they will regret. Eddie looks back to when he would sit on the couch and mourn his life as a soldier and all that he had lost. Eddie also remembered the fight between Eddie and his father about how he needed to do something with his life, which resulted in them never speaking again. This is something Eddie regretted. The second lesson that Ruby taught Eddie is that the harm we do to others, we do to ourselves. In this case, Ruby was referring to Eddie's father. Ruby shows Eddie a flashback of the incident between Eddie's father and his best friend Mickey. Mickey was drunk and came on to Eddie's mother and that is when Eddie's father came into the room. Eddie never really understood why there was such a separation between his two parents. Now that Eddie knew the reason, this really impacted him as he felt badly for all the years that he spent hating his father for not being a good husband to his wife. The last lesson that Ruby taught Eddie is that forgiveness is key when it comes to having a good relationship with other people. For Eddie it meant making amends with his father.
I was angry with you, Dad. I hated you... You beat me. You shut me out. I didn't understand. I still don't understand. Why did you do it? Why?... I didn't know, OK? I didn't know your life, what happened. I didn't know you. But you're my father. I'll let it go now, all right? All right? Can we let it go? (144)
Eddie needed to go to the diner and talk to his father so that way their relationship could end off on the right foot. It was important for Eddie to do this not only to forgive his father but himself as well.
Flashbacks bring back memories that teach Eddie lessons and provide insight for the reader about Eddie's past life. The first lesson that Eddie learns that was taught by the Blue Man is that there are two sides to every story. The second lesson that he learned was about sacrifice, taught by Captain. Finally the third person that Eddie meets, Ruby, teaches him about forgiveness. All of these were valuable lessons. If Eddie had learned these lessons on Earth, he would have had a much better life.