Imagine you wake up in the middle of the night and hear you parents shouting and you suddenly hear your mother crying underneath all the yelling. When you hear, her crying it almost sounds like she has been crying for hours, you are curious to go out of your room to see what they are shouting about. You have a bunk bed and while climbing down you see two of your siblings on the floor. Once you get down to the ground the instantly climb into your lap and snuggle against you. Out of nowhere you hear you mother screeched, you and your four siblings all jumped together in terror. You don’t remember falling asleep that night and when you wake up the first thing you think of is checking on your mother making sure she is still alive. With Eleanor’s experience in domestic violence must influence how she shows affection towards Park.
Eleanor suffers knowing that her mother goes through domestic violence with her stepdad, “her mom kept squeezing Eleanor’s hand… Eleanor had pretended not to notice her bruises on her mom’s wrist.” (Rowell 26) She would even have to comfort her siblings, “when it was worse than bedsprings, when it was shouting or crying, they’d huddle together, all five of them, on Eleanor’s bed.” (Rowell 27) It was not just Sabrina (Eleanor’s mother) who would go through domestic violence. Eleanor did not feel comfortable around Richie (Eleanor’s stepdad), “she usually took her bath right after school, before Richie got home. It took a lot of the stress out of not having a bathroom door, especially since somebody’d torn down the sheet.” (Rowell 34) Eleanor started noticing disturbing comments written on her school books. She first thought it was a girl she went to school with until she receives a note from Richie that was placed on a lid. He had asked if she thought she could make a fool of him? That this was his house and if she could just whore around his neighborhood right under his own nose, and that he would not find out. He then finishes the note saying he knows what she is and it’s over. (Rowell 278) “Eleanor stared at the lid and struggled to make the letters into words—but she couldn’t get past the familiar spill of lowercase letters” (Rowel 279) That is when she started to piece together that Richie constantly looks at her, knows once there is no one else to destroy, he will go after her, he always waits for her to get home, always keeping track of her, because she pretends he is that there she doesn’t realize he’s always there, while she eats, or even reading, to even brushing her hair. (Rowell 288) She is constantly afraid of her stepdad, she tries to keep her mouth closed and tries to stay out of his way. In her household, you never hear anyone say the words “I love you”. Even before Richie Eleanor still did not know the meaning of love.
Domestic violence was not the only suffering she would battle. She goes through abandonment not only with her father, but her mother as well. It started happening when he would pick them up from Richie’s house. Her father couldn’t stand being with them whether it was for a few hours or for a couple of days. He would just pick them up and immediately take them to his mom’s house, while he went off doing his own thing. (Rowell 95) She even was stunned that a phone discussion they had did not go south. “Conversations with her dad were like whiplash; they didn’t always hurt right away.” (Rowell 85) Eleanor’s father was not the only one guilty of neglecting her. “Eleanor was only supposed to stay with them for a few days, maybe a week.” (Rowell 36) She was only supposed to stay with them until Richie was calm enough to have her back living in the house. She was living at the Hickman’s house, and did not hear from her mother for six months. It was not until a year later of staying with them when her mother contacted her.
With being neglected from both parents and witnessing her mother go through domestic violence is the reason she does not understand the meaning of love. Those who are exposed to domestic violence often will experience physical, mental, or even spiritual shifts, and if they do not get the help they need it can sustain or deteriorate them. “Studies show that 3-4 million children between the ages of 3-17 are at risk of exposure to domestic violence each year.” (domesticviolenceroundtable) At times Eleanor faults herself for what happens to her mother which in studies show that “they may blame themselves for the abuse thinking if they had not done or said a particular thing, the abuse would not have occurred.” (domesticviolenceroundtable) Someone who is constantly blaming themselves or just builds up too much guilt in their hearts they will tend to run away. Either physically or mentally for instance, Eleanor explains to Park why she cannot go home ever again. “You saw what he wrote in my books.” (Rowell 289) then she adds “Would you want me to stay there?” She has a feeling once she goes home he will treat her like he does to his mother, or might be worse. Eleanor knows she needs to leave and never go back, she cannot get help from her mother, and knows her father will not take her, she then realizes that she needs to find a place to go. Since she ends up living with her uncle in Minnesota she deicides to end things with Park. Even through the experiences she goes through in life from her own parents to how her stepdad is to her mother, then moving out of the state she still cannot express love for Park.