I recently read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, and the book is spectacular! The book is about two peculiar 10th graders, Eleanor Douglas and Park Sheridan, that not only fall in love but endure the hardships of high school and growing up. The teenagers live in Omaha, Nebraska where the citizens are predominately Caucasian. Eleanor is the new girl that recently moves in Park’s neighborhood. However, Eleanor is not the typical 80’s teenage girl, for she is not tiny or a girly girl. Eleanor is chunky, hefty and wears men’s ties and clothes. Eleanor also has wild knotted curly red hair with freckles sprinkled all over her body. Also, Eleanor’s family live is utter chaos. Her family is financially struggling, and her stepfather is abusive. On the other hand, Park’s appearance and home are totally different from Eleanor’s. Park is a thin half-Korean teenage boy who wears eyeliner and dresses in all black. His family is financially stabled, and his parents absolutely adore one another. Both teenagers struggle to fit in their community because their appearances force them as outsiders. Eleanor is frequently bullied because of her weight, and Park is singled out because of his race. At first, the teenagers keep a distance from one another because both parties perceive the other weird. Eventually, Eleanor and Park acquaint with each other through music and comic books. Consequently, Park and Eleanor fall deeply in love with each other. Throughout the book, the couple experiences difficult events that hinder and builds their romance. Eleanor’s family threatens the existence of their relationship while Park’s family unites their love. Eleanor knows it her relationship with Park is numbered; she is aware that her family will tear them apart. Thus, Eleanor and Park attempt to savior anything they do together. Unfortunately, Eleanor’s fear is correct, Eleanor and Park are ripped from each other due to Richie. Eleanor then plans to move away with her uncle to escape her chaotic home. As painful as it is, Park complied to her wishes and drives Eleanor to her uncle’s house in Minnesota. While Eleanor and Park are departing, they kiss and cuddle as much before they say their goodbyes. Park expects Eleanor to constantly write letters to each other; however, Eleanor does not reply for months. Eleanor attempts to start a new life, but she is heartbroken while doing so. After six months of silence from Eleanor, Park finally receives a postcard in the mail. The postcard contains only three words that are not revealed to the audience.
I must commend the author for the character development. Even though the fictional teenagers are in the 80’s, they resemble modern day teenage behavior. One of my favorite characters, Eleanor personally relates to me. Eleanor’s upbringing connect with me, and so I cannot help to observe her attributes. Eleanor is bright, passionate, and expressive through literature. Eleanor does have a caring heart, and her humor is often sarcastic. These qualities flourish her relationship with Park; however, Eleanor does not always display this features. Her other attributes and behavior sometimes create strain in her relationship with Park. Her low-self confidence is somewhat responsible, but it is her overly defensive nature that mainly sprouts trouble between her relationship with Park. It is not entirely Eleanor’s fault why she uses this negative behavior. Unfortunately, Eleanor’s negative qualities are influenced by her environment and build a strain with her relationship with Park.
It is no mystery Eleanor lacks self-esteem since Eleanor’s peers and family negatively influenced her confidence. In the beginning, the book illustrates Eleanor’s thoughts about her body image. This scene is where Eleanor compares her image to her mother’s. Eleanor explains her mother is the definition of beauty and her body structure had a purpose (PDF 34). Eleanor explains she “looked like her mother through a fish tank. Rounder and soft. Slurred” (PDF 33). Eleanor clearly has low self-confidence because she beats her self-image. Eleanor does not mention one positive thing about herself. Though, it is understandable why Eleanor insults her self-image because her low self-esteem is a product from harassment and bullying. For example, in chapter 22 Eleanor and Park ride the school bus to school. During their ride, the children on the bus chant for a sports team. The children repeat, “Go. Big. Red”, but soon shift to Eleanor using the same chant. Eleanor’s “fingertips went cold. She looked around again, and realized that they were all looking at her. . . Go. Big. Red. . .”(PDF 240). The children here obviously do not mean the phrase “Go. Big. Red” as a compliment. They cast her out because she is fat to them and has loud curly red hair. Awful events like these affect Eleanor’s self-worth because multiple people are bullying her based on her looks. It is almost impossible to not believe the children because the majority of children believe it. Basically, this means the majority is truth. If the majority of the people believe something is true, even if it is wrong, it now becomes the truth. Therefore, Eleanor is insecure about her body image due to her peers’ harassment.
Eleanor not only lacks self-worth, but she is an overly guarded and secretive girl for multiple reasons. Eleanor accepts she is an outcast; but simultaneously, she tries to salvage whatever normal image she has. In chapter 12, Eleanor and Park slowly start to befriend on another. Park left comics and tapes on the bus seat for Eleanor to read and listen to. Park insist Eleanor accept his gift, but Eleanor repeatedly denies his offer. Eleanor finally explains she does not have a tape player, so there is not possible way for her to listen to the music. Park does a kind deed and tells Eleanor he will allow her to borrow his tape player. Later, Eleanor regrets telling Park she has no tape player. “She didn’t need to be telling everybody what she had and didn’t have” (PDF 93). At the end of this scene, Eleanor regrets her action because she simply does not want anyone to know about her financial crisis. She is already bullied by her appearance.Eleanor must guard her personal information. Eleanor does not want any other sort of weakness used against her. Additionally, Eleanor is secretive to protect her family from separating. In chapter 12, the book introduces Eleanor is lacking personal hygiene items. Eleanor explains she needs a toothbrush, and maybe if she tells her counselor, then her counselor will provide her one. Except, Eleanor is not sure where that conversation will lead. Eleanor fears it will most likely reveal Eleanor lives in an abusive and child neglect household. If she chirps anything about her family life, then there is a great chance CPS will get involve. CPS will definitely place Eleanor and her sibling in foster homes, and her mother will be charged neglect. Eleanor simply does not want her siblings to lose each other and their mother.
Eleanor may have successfully protect some of her image and family’s dark secrets; however, Eleanor’s guarded behavior negatively affects her relationship with Park. When Eleanor and Park speak over the phone for the first time, Park simply wants to know more about his lover. When Park ask her why they cannot see each other, Eleanor emotionally explodes. She yells, “Stop asking that” then continues to angrily sob,”Not everybody has your life. . . or your family. . . But that’s not my life. Nobody in my life makes sense …”(PDF 202). Here, Eleanor is overly guarded. This leads to defensive actions and influences an individual to be on edge during conversations. Since conversations can be unpredictable, the individual will be on edge. There is a possibility a conversation threatens their boundaries. This type of defense mechanism Eleanor expresses is displacement. Displacement is the shift of actions from a desired target to a substitute target when the first target is not present. In other words, Eleanor takes out her stress on Park even though he is not the cause of her family stress. As a result, Park’s and Eleanor’s relationship hinders their bonding process. Park is hurt and he feels like she is always mad at him; Park felt like she was “so far away”(PDF282). With all that said, Eleanor still does not comprehend how her defense mechanism pushes Park away.
Like Park, Eleanor attempts to secure Park through her own methods even if Park disagrees with her. Eleanor even acknowledges she puts up barriers to protect Park. In this scene, Eleanor and Park are alone on their school grounds. They were sitting against the back door of the school in a small alcove snuggling each other. She states, “Yes. . .Barriers. Caution tape. I’m doing you a favor.”(33.51-53). Park is against Eleanor keeping secrets. He claims he can handle any ugly truth she reveals, but Eleanor is still against informing Park. Eleanor deliberately places boundaries between her and Park because she wants to shield him from the ugly truth about her family. She fears getting Park involve family matters will endanger Park and their relationship. If Park decides to confront her step-father, then Richie will not only terminate Park’s access to Eleanor, but Richie may even physically harm Park. Eleanor will not gamble her romance by providing every dark secret to Park.
Despite the obstacles that formed Eleanor’s insecurities, Eleanor does not completely allow these obstacles to dictate her attitude. Eleanor teaches readers a valuable lesson. Individuals have the power to decide their actions even if their childhoods were challenging. Upbringings contribute majorly to a person’s life, but he still possesses the opportunity to be a loving person. Eleanor is bullied countless of times through the book, but she still is an empathetic person. Eleanor is part stone and part flesh. Her heart is harden through the events in her life, but she is still capable of love and laughter.
“Being Too Guarded And Secretive – Having Problems With Self-Disclosure.” Being Too Guarded And Secretive – Having Problems With Self-Disclosure. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.
Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor & Park. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013. N. page. Print.