Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 209
Eleanor & Park is a coming-of-age story about two high school friends in Nebraska. In essence, the novel is about accepting one's identity and the struggle many youths have with self-image, especially in relation to their peers.
Both Eleanor and Park have their respective self-esteem issues. Eleanor is self-conscious about her body size, while Park feels out of place as a biracial (half-Asian, half-white) person in a predominantly white town.
However, the difference is that Park is popular among his peers, whereas Eleanor is bullied by other students at the school. Eleanor represents the bullied youth, which is externally evident, whereas Park represents the "quiet struggle" that many teenagers deal with internally.
The book also touches upon the topics of domestic abuse, broken families, poverty, and social divisions in American high schools, which is a microcosm for American society as a whole.
Richie, Eleanor's alcoholic and abusive stepfather, represents the predatory nature of society for young girls. He writes perverted remarks about her and body shames her—negative experiences that many young girls and women deal with in society. Richie also represents the absence of a true father figure in Eleanor's life. In fact, Richie is the antithesis to Park's father, who illustrates how male family figures should behave.
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