The novel Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a story about two forbidden lovers that find common ground through sharing music on the bus rides to school. The Walkman is the glue keeping the couple together. Park finds great joy in introducing Eleanor to all of the obscure bands he enjoys listening to. This book covers a multitude of music genres, the most relevant genres being: Punk, Classic Rock, New Wave, and Love songs. The music found in Eleanor and Park represents the struggles and character traits of each character. Eleanor and park are learning each others deepest fears and secrets through music.
Poverty makes people feel worthless and even at times undeserving of nice things. Park struggled with giving Eleanor gifts when they first met because Eleanor didn’t have trust in Park at the start.After parks gift was declined he proceeded to take action..7″He took his Walkman out of the pocket of his trench coat and popped out his Dead Kennedys tape. He slid the new tape in, pressed play, then-carefully put the headphones over her hair.”Rowell page 52 Eleanor refusing to take parks Walkman is symbolic of her poverty. She doesn’t now how to accept gifts and in a way is punishing herself by not allowing herself to accept the Walkman. She doesn’t trust a kind act and refuses. Park not fully understanding puts the head phones over her ears against her will. This shows Parks kind heart, it also shows he doesn’t take no for an answer. For as nice as park is he also has a head strong personality which explains why he likes punk. The Walkman is symbolic of Eleanor and Parks relationship. Its the tool that was used to bond them together and the batteries can be seen as whats fueling the relationship. After establishing their relationship on music park makes a decision to use all his resources to keep the music conversation going with Eleanor.. “He emptied all his handheld video games and Josh’s remote control cars, and called his grandma to tell her all he wanted for his birthday in November was AA batteries.”Rowell page 60 Without the batteries there’s no Walkman, and with out the Walkman there’s less to bond over. Park makes a point to ask for only batteries for his birthday and even takes his brothers batteries. He doesn’t want to stop getting to know Eleanor. He’s also happy he’s found someone who likes his alternative music. Park is a down to earth guy who truly loves to introduce people to new things and share his experiences.
Even after Eleanor is long gone and Park is with a traditionally pretty girl at prom he continues to dress in his punk rock style, wearing a Fugazi shirt with dress pants at prom. (Fugazi is an experimental punk band) Park is a true non conformist, he really loves underground music and misses the way Eleanor would embrace his differences the way park would embrace her differences. Punk Rock music explores the aggression and isolation everyone feels. Eleanor and Park are two misfits from two different worlds. Park comes from a upper middle class home and Eleanor from a broken home. They both feel feelings of isolation but they handle those feelings differently. Eleanor for example hates punk.. “She hated Park’s punk music. I feel like they’re yelling at me.”Rowell page 230 Its very clear that Eleanor is turned off by punk music because she hates to feel yelled at. She deals with Richie always yelling at her and doesn’t need her music to be yelling at her as well. Eleanor prefers more melodic music that gives her an escape from all the yelling. Eleanor’s personality is a bit aggressive but her music is the not. Park is the polar opposite, he has a very kind and gentle personality. However internally he has a lot of teenage angst and punk music is his outlet for his suppressed aggression. Park had given Eleanor all of these amazing bands. In the book Eleanor goes on to say…”She couldn’t repay him. She couldn’t even appropriately thank him. how can you thank someone for the Cure? Or the X-Men? sometimes it felt like she’d always be in his debt. And then she realized that Park didn’t know about the Beatles.”Rowell page 99 Eleanor had the Beatles as her musical taste to offer. The Beatles in themselves are their own genre. The Beatles cover punk sounding songs like “Helter Skelter” to love songs like “I wanna hold your hand.” The Beatles are a perfect representation of their relationship because out of all the topics and genres the band covers. Park likes all these very interesting bands but Eleanor knows the band that paved the music for the bands park liked. At this point in the book we realize Eleanor has something to offer park back.
Park glanced at Eleanor’s book one day and began to say.. “You like the smiths? He was careful not to blow his morning breath on her. She looked up, surprised. Maybe confused. He pointed at her book, where she’d written How Soon Is Now” Rowell page 43 Park went on to discover she had never even heard of the band! What inclined Eleanor to write this song title on her book? She intuitively knew it was music shed enjoy based off the word play. Better yet as park studied her notebook farther he went on to discover something more intriguing. The book goes on to say..”He saw his name written in tiny cursive letters-your own name always stands out- and hidden in the chorus of a Smiths song. He felt himself grin.”Rowell page 174 Music became not only common ground for the couple but also became their secret language. Park even goes on to learn Eleanor’s phone number secretly through song titles.
The Smiths strongly resonated with Eleanor.. “She could still hear that voice in her head-not his- he singer’s. From the The Smiths. You could hear his accent, eve when he was singing. He sounded like he was crying out. I am the sun…And the air…”Rowell page 54 After Eleanor listened to Park’s mix tape she was infatuated with Joy Divisions song “Love will tear us apart”. This songs title is foreshadowing the end of Eleanor and Parks relationship. Their forbidden relationship leads to Eleanor moving away. Ironically in the book they have a fun moment of imitating the songs instruments, bonding over a song that is about two people who have known each other and loved each other so much that they have grown apart.
As the book goes on Parks music taste goes from angry punk to mushy love songs..”Park played Elvis Costello for her and Joe Jackson, and Johnathan Rich man and the Modern lovers. She teased him because it was all so pretty and melodic, and in the same phylum as Hall and Oats.” Rowell page 232-233 Eleanor and park went on a musical journey that parallels whats going on in their relationship. Anywhere from punk to love songs, music is a universal language that brings people closer together.
Works Cited: Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor & Park. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013.