In the book Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, the two main characters, Eleanor and Park, begin this dysfunctional, yet romantic relationship that ends in the unknown, but it may not even end, depending on how you chose to continue the story. Eleanor is a girl who does not get much love from the people around her, let alone from herself. Park was a boy who loved his music and comics and that was what began their love story. Of course things didn’t go very smooth, as we know most love stories don’t, but for a particular reason this one was more difficult.
Eleanor’s background was rougher than most, she didn’t have her biological father around, her mother wasn’t the most supportive, with little involvement in her daughter’s life and her step father is probably the worst person in her life. Aside all of this, a person who doesn’t feel a purpose with their life or feel loved or cared for by anyone, is going to have an extremely hard time loving themselves. We’ve all heard the quote at least once or have heard something similar to it “no one is going to love you if you don’t love yourself.” This isn’t always true but if someone cant take care of themselves, how will someone else know how to take care of them.
In the beginning Park wasn’t sure how to approach his and Eleanors situations, he noticed the way she didn’t care about how she dressed, pointing out how she wore “giant mens shirts” and that “she looked ridiculous”. He saw all this and he wanted to tell her something but didn’t know how, but it was the little things he did that showed that he cared to have “something” with her. “Park didn’t say anything. He just held his comics open wider and turned the pages more slowly” (Rowell,34).
It takes a lot to truly love another person, and sometimes you don’t even realize you do until it just happens, like for Eleanor and Park, he just felt bad for her so he allowed her to sit with him, innocently. To share with someone, something you love means a lot, whether it be a hobby or music, if you cared enough to share with someone, then there was most likely more meaning behind it. “That night, while he did his homework, Park made a tape with all his favorite Smiths songs, plus a few by Echo & the Bunnymen, and Joy Division”(Rowell, 45-46). Park didn’t have to do this, he didn’t let it go unnoticed that Eleanor cared to listen to the Smiths and he knew he could do something to allow her to finally listen to them.
Still though, the reader knew things were being left unsaid, maybe it was because park was afraid of what type of reaction would come out of Eleanor, seeing that she was very different from everyone else. It was once they finally had a conversation, just about batman that they began noticing little details about each other, “his face completely changed when he laughed. He didn’t have dimples, exactly, but the sides of his face folded in on themselves, and his eyes almost disappeared”(Rowell, 60). Park also noticed something about Eleanor “That morning, in English, Park noticed that Eleanor’s hair came to a soft red point on the back of her neck”(Rowell, 60). These details that they began seeing in each other showed they were observing one another deeper.
Eleanor wasn’t the type to just let someone inside her thoughts, she liked being more closed off, which was most likely because of the life she lived. She’d known her father walked out on her, she couldn’t depend on her mother for much and she only had herself, so why would she allow anyone else to really get to know her? She made it difficult for Park to approach her so he had to do everything indirectly, with music, and comics. That was his only way around Eleanor’s walls she had put up to protect herself from getting hurt. We knew it was love because of how persistent Park was throughout the entire book, it couldn’t have been lust because Eleanor couldn’t have been more modest and that wasn’t what Park was interested in, he truly wanted to get to know who Eleanor was. Eventually he even just wanted to be there for Eleanor, after the night Eleanor heard gunshots, Park was there for her, he didn’t say much just let himself be Eleanors shoulder to cry on and that’s exactly the care she needed.
Most of the book seems as though park is trying to get through to Eleanor but her insecurities get the best of her, but her insecurities aren’t her looks it’s her family. Park has the “perfect” family compared to hers. When he wanted to apologize to Eleanor about the whole dating Tina situation, he couldn’t even go to her house unless he noticed Richie, her step-fathers truck was gone. Eleanor couldn’t have a comfortable relationship, she was always going through something at home, which brought her to a point where Park was like her comfort zone. Park’s father knew about how Eleanor was treated by her stepfather and told her if she feels better staying with them; don’t hesitate to stay as long as she wanted.
What made Eleanor and Parks love so strong was their situation, as much as it seemed as though all odds were against Eleanor she found a sort of foundation in Park and the love he offered her. After finding out who was writing on her notebook and how messed up Richie really was that was it for her and maybe it was Park’s love that finally gave Eleanor the strength and courage to get away from all of that with her family. It’s sad that the two had to be separated physically but the bond that they built and the love they shared could never die out no matter how far apart they were. Whatever the three words were that Eleanor wrote on the post card that she sent to Park, they were written after she left the dark place she was in and when she left, her and her family realized the love they had for each other and now Eleanor could learn to love herself and maybe even Park.