What is love and do perfect relationship exist? Eleanor and Park, experience a first love which many times outcomes to be a temporary craze or infatuation. Park’s parents, Jamie and Mindy, are a great example of a healthy relationship, unlike Eleanor’s mom and stepdad, Richie and Sabrina, who are in an abusive relationship. These three couples had distinctive relationships and viewed love differently. Rowell, wrote about different connections a couple has between each other to break the idea of all relationships being perfect and having happy endings.
Eleanor and Parks love was confused for infatuation. Their love story was adolescent and short lived. It was the first time they had felt a deep and strong caring connection towards anyone and it was an illusion of love. Once Park had spent some time with Eleanor, he said “I love you,” after a one night phone call with her. As Park tried to know more about Eleanor, she would respond with sarcasm to avoid answering questions about her life (Chapter 19.) With true love, a person has enough trust with their partner to talk openly about their thoughts, feelings, and struggles. Eleanor feels that Park disintegrates her, and compares the feeling to how “animals paralyze their prey before they eat them… (Rowell 72).” The feeling she describes, “has the passion, but lacks the maturity and depth needed to tackle the realities of life (Stage 1: Infatuation).” Park felt like he loved her because he cared enough to want to be the hero in her life. He was driven by the complexity of her life and her personality. Park wants to protect Eleanor from the troubles she experiences at home and at school. When he finds the inappropriate writings in her textbooks, it angers him and wants to know who had been writing vulgar messages on her books. Park, had also become livid on a bus ride to school when he realized that the chanting of, “Go. Big. Red,” was directed towards Eleanor and led him to get into a fight (Chapter 22). Eleanor confused her feelings for Park as love, because she didn’t have anyone to talk to or care about her and “Park was the sun,” in her eyes. She didn’t want to lose Park, just as much as he didn’t want to lose her. She tried to prove her affection for Park by attempting to have sex with him (Rowell 301-302). “There can be a sense of a desperate attachment — so the joy of having each other is coupled with the fear of losing each other (Pickhardt).”
Sabrina and Richie had an abusive relationship. Richie is a drunk who emotionally, mentally, and physically abuses Sabrina and has a harsh temper. Goldsmith explains that an abused partner stay in the relationship due to feeling “trapped, fear of physical harm toward the children, economic dependence on the abuser and lack of support because abuser is often the victim’s only support system.” For example, when Sabrina told Richie there was no pumpkin pie for dinner on Christmas, he furiously threw the bowl of rice pudding Sabrina had made for the children. When Richie leaves, Sabrina cleans the mess and moves on asking, “Who wants cherry pie?” resilient to what had happened (Rowell 198). Sabrina doesn’t completely lack the awareness of the relationship either. She is aware of Richie’s actions and justifies his violence and doesn’t defend herself or her children. One night, Eleanor heard men cursing outside followed by gunshots leading her to call the police. When the police arrived knocking on her door, Sabrina was anxious and nervous. She told Eleanor to lie and say it was a mistake. Sabrina knew it was Richie who fired gunshots and yet decided to cover for him (Chapter 24). Although Richie is the family’s main source of income, he does a terrible job of providing for the family. As Sabrina does laundry, she finds spare change in Richie’s pockets and buys, “clothes for Eleanor, underwear for Ben and food that could be hidden in the cupboards and drawers (Rowell 138).” Sabrina is also physically abused by Richie multiple times and yells at her. One morning Eleanor woke up, walked towards the kitchen, and noticed bruises on the side of her mother’s face and hickeys on her neck (Rowell 48).
Parks parents, Mindy and Jamie, are an example of a healthy a relationship. Mindy and Jamie know how to communicate with each other because when Mindy became extremely upset about Park fighting with Steve and getting suspended, she grounded Park and forbid him to be around Eleanor. Jamie, later then stepped in and spoke to Mindy in private and found a way to withdraw the punishment (Rowell 144). Park also mentioned how affectionate his parents are with each other. An article on Investing In Affection says, they “viewed affection as a form of relational maintenance…to sustain a relationship in a desired state.” Park admires the relationship his parents have and believed that the “number one thing that had gone wrong with his friends’ lives,” was that their parents were separated. “But Parks parents loved each other. They kissed each other on the mouth, no matter who was watching (Rowell 301).” When Jamie first saw Park walk out with eyeliner on, he was shaken and did not like the fact Park was wearing make-up. Mindy argues with Jamie but he doesn’t respond to her because he’d never raise his voice to her (Rowell 218). This shows that although Jamie was upset and angry about Park wearing make-up, he would never disrespect his wife.
Eleanor and Park, presented these three types of relationship to young readers to view the multiple outcomes of love and relationships and want the readers to know that not all love is good or healthy. Mindy and Jamie are a relationship almost everyone expect a courtship to be like. A supportive, loving partner and get the happy ending. There are many chances of love in life. Eleanor and Park just experienced their “first love,” and it will always be a special part of them but, as they get older they will meet more people and will grow to hopefully build strong and healthy relationships in the future as they learn with experience. Sabrina and Jamie were an example of a toxic relationship. Most abusive relationships are unspoken of because it’s a dark and sensitive topic but needs to be spoken more of to bring to the light. To open the eyes of young adults who are beginning to fall in love and to warn them that not every relationship is picture perfect. It was important for Rowell to write about the diverse connections people make of love and the different views individuals have on love. If I have sex with him, he’ll love me. He yells at me, because he cares. He comforts me, because I’m important to him. These are the thought processes of many couples and in the book of Eleanor and Park, Rowell wanted readers to connect with at least one relationship or wanted a reader to understand what it would be like to be in a relationship and in love.