Perhaps the reason why Eleanor is so hesitant to open up to Park is because she doesn’t want to become vulnerable and get hurt because of what she has witnessed her mom go through with her dad and Richie. She could’ve also thought that maybe Park would’ve ended getting tired of her and leaving her. There are many scenes from the book where she states if “he finds out all her secrets about her life that he’ll get freaked out and would no longer want to be with her” (Rowell Ch 19). She sometimes acted very distant when she was with him, this could’ve been a way for her to protect herself from Park.
Eleanor has had a very traumatic childhood, she has seen her mom go through hardships and she has been bullied at school, and it seems as if she has carried the effects of her experiences with her into her young adult life. When she was a younger girl, Eleanor’s dad divorced her mom and left her to take care of Eleanor and her siblings all by herself. The effect of that kind of experience can leave a deep imprint on a child, especially if the child’s brain is still developing. A situation like that could shape the way a child perceives the environment around them, in Eleanor’s case being very cautious about who she allows to get close to her. For example, Park is always trying to get to know her better by asking her questions about her personal life and whenever he does, Eleanor tries to dodge his questions by changing the subject. She doesn’t want park to know her too well because he’ll end up finding out how messed up her life really is, and she feels that it’ll scare him off.
“The kind of childhood you had, past traumas, recent experiences of failure or rejection, loneliness, social anxiety, negative beliefs about yourself, perfectionism, or having a critical parent or partner can all contribute to insecurity” (Greenberg 1). The way Eleanor is treated at home is a huge factor that contributes to the way she feels about herself, she is very insecure. Richie is always mistreating her by calling her harsh names that are very hurtful, it is especially hurtful coming from someone who is supposed to support you but is constantly bringing you down. When Richie first hears about Park he tells Eleanor that she’s “…nothing but a bitch in heat.” (Rowell Ch 15) That had to be the most disrespectful and inappropriate thing a “parent” could tell a child. That’s only one example of what kind of things Richie tells Eleanor, now imagine how many times he said something like that to her, it’s not a doubt that it had taken a huge toll on Eleanor’s self-esteem. Eleanor is also bullied at school, which does not help her self-esteem at all. Many of the bullying came from guys at her school that ride the same bus as her, mainly from Steve. One day he said something way out of line and it made Park snap and he jumped to kick Steve in the face. When park did that Eleanor got mad at him because he said he was tired of people embarrassing her, and she said that it was Park that was embarrassed, not her and that he did that for himself. That seemed like a very insecure thing to do.
Park is always being affectionate towards Eleanor, he would say “I love you” several times and every time he did she would say things like, “Don’t say that!” or would completely disregard the fact that he even said that. She could’ve acted like this because she thought if she would say it back it would make her vulnerable. Maybe she thought something would happen like what happened to her mom with her dad leaving, that part in her life could have left traumatized her since it happened when she was so young. The thought of Park running off away from her made her terrified. She thought once he knew the truth about her life and how horrible it was, he would definitely head for the hills. Even though Park makes it very clear that he does not intend to leave her whatsoever Eleanor still doesn’t believe him, and her thinking that could either be influenced by her lack of self-esteem or her experience from witnessing her dad leave her mom. All the negative experiences she’s had have left a deep impact on her and really shaped the way she lives her life.
If Eleanor didn’t go through so many hardships throughout her young life, she might have ended up having a completely different personality and outlook on how open she could be with Park. She wouldn’t try so hard to shut him out every time he made an attempt to get close to her, she would have had a much easier time pouring herself to him. Eleanor is a very emotionally and mentally damaged girl and it’s due to all her negative experiences, but with Park’s help I believe that he could help fix her if she allows him to help her. Whenever they’re Eleanor and Park are together it seems as if Eleanor forgets that she has a terrible life and she could just be happy, although she forgets about her life, she still possesses traits that have her constantly worrying about what people think about her and that only makes it more difficult for Park to help her get better.
Eleanor would have a much better life if Richie wasn’t around and if the fact that her parents didn’t get a divorce she could have been a much more happier girl. If she felt she was being supported rather than constantly being put down, she would not have such low self-esteem. Her and Park would have an easier time communicating with each other, without having to keep so many secrets from one another, their relationship would be a lot more healthier.
Greenberg, Melanie. “The 3 Most Common causes of Insecurity and How to Beat Them.” Psychology Today, 06 Dec. 2015, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201512/the-3-most-common-causes-insecurity-and-how-beat-them. Accessed 8 April, 2017.
Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor and Park. St. Martin’s Press 2013.