The teenage years are the most difficult time of growing up. A person is trying to figure out who they are and assert themselves as being able to make decisions on their own. Self-confidence is a major factor in every decision made during these years because without it ones’ identity never truly gets a chance to form. In the novel Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell the main character Eleanor suffers from a lack of self-confidence. She constantly over thinks her words and actions to impress her friend and is unsure how park sees her. A pinnacle moment that elevates their relationship was when park invited Eleanor to come over and meet his parents. Eleanor’s insecurities of her own household were too much for her to handle when seeing how Park lived. He had a nice house full of furniture and loving family photos. Her house was broken and full of pain. She knew she lived in poverty but tried to hide it from her peers. She left awkwardly and caused tension between her and park. The conversation that took place the next day on the bus shows Eleanor’s lack of self-confidence because she thinks park is too good for her. Rainbow Rowen sets the scene up with Eleanor’s thoughts “Eleanor had been up all night thinking about how he was probably done with her, and now she just wanted to put herself out of her misery.” (p.129) Eleanor shows her vulnerability with the question “Are you over me?” As the conversation continued Eleanor acknowledged the differences between them that she thinks explains her behavior. She didn’t want her insecurities to jeopardize the relationship. “I’m sorry” she said. “ you don’t even know why I’m mad.” He said. “I’m still sorry.” He looked at her and smiled a little. “Do you want to know?” he asked. “No” “Why not?” “because it’s probably for something I can’t help.” Park oblivious about her upbringing asks “Like what?” she answers making sure not to go into any detail that would reveal her living status. “Like for being weird, or …for hyperventilating in your living room.” Eleanor simply stating for being weird downplays the situation. Why is she weird? Because of the way she lives when she is at home. She has to tip toe around her house to not upset her abusive stepfather. She has to go without so her siblings can have food. She has to take a bath as fast as she can because there is no door on her bathroom that she has to share with the rest of the family. Eleanor has no space that she can have for herself. The level of domestic trust and comfort can create intense self-consciousness applied to other relationships. Park had no idea. His house was big, he had his own room. He had many things in his room that were only his. He had both parents that were loving and encouraged him to be successful. Growing up having to monitor your every move has an impact on how a person can have a relationship with someone else. Eleanor felt like she was not worth keeping. She continued in the conversation with statements like “I felt like I shouldn’t be there.” And “I didn’t feel like you wanted me there.” The major turning point in their relationship happens right after this. Park and his friend Steve get into a fight because he is making fun of Eleanor, at the end of it park announces to everyone that she is his girlfriend. (Ch 22 )Eleanor finally had someone who wanted to protect her. Throughout the novel Rowen uses Eleanor’s thoughts to reinforce to the audience that she thought of herself as less than everyone else.
The article Longitudinal Assessment of Autonomy and Relatedness in Adolescent family interactions written by Joseph P. Allen, The University of Virginia, Stuart T. Houser, Harvard Medical School and Kathy L. Bell and Thomas G. O’Connor, University of Virginia examines the sociological development in adolescents biased on the interactions of their families. The research they did showed that If the “fathers’ inhibiting behaviors create or reflect, a stress within the relationship, if this stress occurs in the context of a positive, engaging overall reaction, it may prod the adolescent to develop a higher ego and more firmly grounded positive views in relation to higher self- esteem.” Park had this with his father. Eleanor did not, her dad had abandoned her and now she was stuck with an alcoholic hothead. The article also mentioned that mothers’ behaviors related to self-esteem. Eleanor heard her mother’s self-esteem beaten out of her. How could she instill confidence in her children when she had none of her own. On the opposite side, everyone in Park’s family respected his mother and listened to her and she encouraged park to behave and look presentable. Park was shown a good example of how to treat someone you care about. Eleanor only had negative examples of how a relationship is so she did not know how to accept park wanting to be with her.
A person having low self-esteem shapes the way they interact with other people. In the case of Eleanor, she never allowed park to love her. She couldn’t see why he would want to because she was being raised so differently than him. She didn’t want to acknowledge that she had feelings for him because then it would be real. Her happiness could be taken away like everything else in her life. Self confidence and self-esteem are character traits instilled in you from your family with positive reinforcement. The outcome of a broken family is commonly a broken adult in societies eyes. There are many research studies and statistical facts that can prove it. The way to fix it is to start blending the results just like Park and Eleanor. If they would have stayed together and lived happily ever after Eleanor would have gained self- confidence from Park continually proving that he loved her and was going to support her no matter what. Their children would be the positive outcome. Eleanor would then be able to give her children the reassurance of love and support she never got, to make sure her children had positive self- esteem and self-confidence.
Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor and Park. St. Martin’s Griffin New York, 2013
Joseph P. Allen, university of Virginia, Stuart T. Houser, Harvard Medical School, Kathy L. Bell and Thomas G. O’Connor, University of Virginia. Longitudinal Assessment of Autonomy and Relatedness in Adolescent Family Interactions as predictors of Adolescent Ego Development and Self-esteem. www.people.virginia.edu. 1994