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One of the things we love about Ed is he comes right out with it. He's never afraid to tell us exactly who he is or expose his faults to us, even when they're pretty ugly. Take his first intro to us for example:
My full name's Ed Kennedy. I'm nineteen. I'm an underage cabdriver. I'm typical of many of the young men you see in this suburban outpost of the city— not a whole lot of prospects or possibility. That aside, I read more books than I should, and I'm decidedly crap at sex and doing my taxes. Nice to meet you. (1.1.49)
Um, okay. We probably could have done without some of that info, but hey, it's okay. And isn't that the point? We think Ed's always filling us in on everything about his life so we get it all, without anything left out. In fact, that's what makes Ed such a great narrator—he's brutally honest with us and himself about how not-so-great his life is.
So it comes as a surprise when Ed starts getting the cards in the mail and going to the addresses. By all accounts he's not the most go-getter type of guy out there, but his curiosity gets the best of him—and it's not like he has too much going on to find the time. As he tells us, he's got:
[…] no real career. No respect in the community. Nothing. I'd realized there were people everywhere achieving greatness while I was taking directions from balding businessmen called Derek and being wary of Friday-night drunks who might throw up in my cab or do a runner on me. (1.2.14)
Yikes. At the risk of being judgmental, there's pretty much nothing heroic sounding about this guy. Ed's ho-hum attitude is important to his journey though, because it shows us just how far he's come—in the beginning he's sitting around playing cards and doing nothing, but by the end, he's out there putting it all on the line to help complete strangers. It's a pretty cool transformation if you ask us.
The thing is though, that Ed's not exactly sure why he's going out of his way to help these people. But we think that, as a character, he's a good reminder that even the most ordinary of people can help others. Look at what Ed does for people: he gets Christmas lights, reads Wuthering Heights, buys an ice cream for a mom, and gives a girl no shoes. And while some of the things Ed does are more inconvenient than others, none of them are very expensive—which is exactly the point. Ed helps people out with the simple things, and by doing so, makes a difference in their lives.
Let's get one thing straight, though: Ed's no saint. He is called a saint twice in the book, but he resists it both times. Why do you think that is? Is Ed just being modest, or does he really not think he deserves the title? We'll leave that up to you, Shmoopsters.
Another thing Ed is super upfront about are his feelings for Audrey—he's head-over-heels for that girl, even though she doesn't seem to notice him. In fact, he spends a lot of his time telling us that Audrey isn't in love with this guy or that guy, even though she's inviting them around to her place.
We get it: Audrey is one of those closed-to-the-world types who doesn't want to let anyone in because she's afraid of being hurt. Even Ed thinks it seems rational. He says:
[…] she doesn't want to feel that way about me, and I can accept that, but I wonder if she'll ever know that no one will love her as hard as I do. (2.3.75)
Tear. Too bad matters of the heart are anything but rational.
Ed might tell himself that he gets it, and is happy to leave Audrey alone, but we know better because he never changes his tune when it comes to how he feels about her. Instead it's Audrey who changes her view. It's an important journey for the pair to experience, prompting them both to think about what love really means and how much they want to love each other. In typical young adult lit form, Ed and Audrey both learn a little along the way about relationships.
A mystery man shows up at your house with a folder about your life. What do you do? If you're Ed Kennedy, you just go with it, no questions asked. Okay, okay, so he does ask some questions, but not nearly as many as we would if we were in the same situation. For Ed, learning about the secretive man who sent him all over town on missions via playing cards isn't nearly as important as what's in the folder… and what he discovers about himself.
Ed gets a message of his own at the end when he figures out that his life can be more than what it is. Let's hear him tell us what he discovers:
And that's when I realize. In a sweet, cruel, beautiful moment of clarity, I smile, watch a crack in the cement, and speak to Audrey and the sleeping Doorman. I tell them what I'm telling you: I'm not the messenger at all. I'm the message. (5.the message.21)
Think about it this way: Though Ed's been showing up in people's lives to deliver hope and kindness when it's least expected, he's been missing the point all along. What matters isn't so much what he's been bringing to other people's lives as what his ability to do so represents: Anyone can make a difference, if they just take the time and make the effort—so Ed, by doing just this, has become the message.