Eleanor and Park isn’t just about cute teenager’s first love. It is a story about two teenager kids who feel lost because of bullying, because of abuse, because of race, and because of the simple tendency of high school to create a sense of powerless despair in an alarming number of kids. Both Eleanor and Park belong to different family backgrounds. They meet and fall in love, and being loved makes them feel less lost. Eleanor is quiet and tranquil. She always wished to be invisible for most of the people like her abusive step father, Richie, to Tina and the other girls in the gym and to all the students in the school bus except Park. Ironically, her appearance makes everybody look at her. She is chubby. She has bright red curly hair. She dresses in men’s clothes and wears weird hair and hand bands. She lives with her family in the poor neighborhood. They are reasonably poor as she cannot afford toothbrush. She often sleeps half stomach at night; Moreover, she is the target of the bullies. Park is a weird Asian kid to Eleanor. He prefers to listen music or reading comics in the bus rather than hanging around with his noisy friends. Park’s family is nice and wealthy. Park himself faced a lot of bullying even among his friends. They’re both good, smart, kind, dear kids, ones who become so precious to readers like me. Eleanor experienced bullying both at school and at her home, which keeps her from expressing her feelings. She was too shy and she always wanted to be invisible.
The characters in the story gets bullied at school. The book opens with a bus ride. The bus ride symbolized a lot more than just a bus ride. It introduces readers to the main characters Park and Eleanor on their first bus ride. On the first day of bus ride, Eleanor is wearing men’s clothes and she reminded park of a scarecrow or trouble dolls with her outfit. She was considered big and awkward to everybody. She noticed an empty seat and that’s how she got bullied by Tina. Tina called her ‘Bozo’ and everybody started laughing at her. Tina didn’t let her sit on the seat she saw empty. After few moments, out of empathy Park let her sit with him. For Eleanor, it wasn’t a good start on her first day of school. She made fun of herself in few minutes after she stepped on bus. Just like her name, she was bright and shiny. No-matter how much she tried to put herself back, she got into eyes of everybody. Tina said to Eleanor, “‘Watch it, Raghead’ Tina pushed roughly past Eleanor and climbed onto the bus.” (chapter 1) She had everybody else in their gym class calling Eleanor Bozo, but Tina had already moved on to Raghead and Bloody Mary. It made sense that Tina was in Eleanor’s gym class—because gym class was an extension of hell, and Tina was definitely a demon.” (Chapter 6) Eleanor got a target of every bully on the campus. Tina always find new things to make her feel worse. Eleanor wanted to disappear, like being invisible for everyone except Park. But the way she dresses herself up, makes everybody look at her. In the gym class, she got comments like “Red isn’t your color Bozo”. Girls filled her locker with pads with red ink stains on them. She was heartbroken and she dealt with it every day.
Apart from school, She had even bigger bullying problems at home. Her Step dad Richie. He is beyond evil. He’s in straight up monster territory and his presence is so terrifying that it’s felt in Eleanor’s house even when he’s not home, creating an atmosphere of constant fear. Eleanor’s family lives in terror of setting off Richie’s temper, and it doesn’t take a lot to trigger an eruption. Eleanor describes the state of terror as “Diary-of-Anne-Frank crazy” (chapter 6). Richie’s temper is so bad that he threw Eleanor out of the house after an intense shouting match because her typewriter was too loud.
Eleanor said, “‘I hope he falls off a ladder at work’, ‘I hope he gets hit by a truck’, ‘A garbage truck’, ‘Yeah’, Maisie would say, gritting her teeth, ‘and all the garbage will fall on his dead body.’” (chapter 7) Eleanor was feared of him, but she hated him more. When Eleanor returned from her year away, she found her siblings had switched alliances in an almost creepy way. They called Richie Dad now, she was heartbroken. After Eleanor’s return, her family’s clearly given up the fight against Richie. They listen to him assault Eleanor’s mom every night, and grew so accustomed to it that they didn’t even wake up. She used to do all her work before he came. She used to hide in her room. She used to take shower before he comes home. Somedays when she got home late from coming back from Park’s house, she used to try every possible way to avoid him.
In chapter 35, Park’s dad mentioned to Eleanor about Park. Park’s dad knew Richie from his childhood and he could image how cranky and hard that person is. Park’s dad was genuinely kind to Eleanor, and when things reached a crisis point with Richie, Park finds out that he can truly depend on his dad for support. I’m just saying, you know, that if it’s easier to be over here, then you should just be here. That would make Mindy and me feel a lot better, okay? ” (chapter 35).
Eleanor had it bad. A 16-year-old isn’t supposed to be treated that way. Eleanor lived in an unstable environment and often feels thretened by her step-father. Eleanor was not good at relationships because she is afraid of her feelings. Eleanor family doesn’t have a lot of money, which also makes her very self-conscious. She faced every possible problem in the world and she is dealt with it. In the end, she decided to sacrifice her love for Park and her own better future. Yes, its true, it wasn’t any teenager love story as they never stopped loving each other, they just stopped.
The book: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell