Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 406
The themes of Eleanor and Park include family, personal identification, and love.
Family is a major theme in Eleanor and Park. Eleanor's family live in fear because of her abusive stepfather. He bullies and abuses her, her mother, and her siblings; this causes the house to be quiet and tense. They're also living in poverty. Eleanor was kicked out for a year and only recently returned. Park's family, on the other hand, has some tension. His parents don't completely understand him or Eleanor, as he falls for her. Ultimately, the difference between the abusive family and the loving one is illustrated when Park's family accepts him as he is and cares for Eleanor. Eleanor has to flee her home when she realizes her stepfather is leaving her obscene messages, and she has to leave everyone behind to go live with her extended family for her safety.
Personal identification is another major theme in the book. Park's mother is unable to completely reconcile her Korean identity with her life as the wife and mother of Americans. She goes by Mindy instead of Min-Dae, for example. Park's parents don't completely understand him, and they wish he was more like his brother. As he gets to know Eleanor, however, he's also better able to communicate with his parents about who he is and what he wants. They accept him. Eleanor also suffers from issues with people who don't like the way she presents herself. She's bullied at school and by her stepfather. It still doesn't change who she is, though, because Eleanor accepts herself and what makes her different.
Love is an important theme in the book as well. It's shown in two major relationships: parent-child relationships and the relationship between Park and Eleanor. Park goes as far as to tell Eleanor that he loves her. Though she seems to love him, she can't say it back—possibly because of the abuse she suffers at home. In the end, she sends him a postcard that has three words on it, after a long period of no contact. The parent-child relationships also exhibit the theme of love. Park's relationship with his parents is a healthy and supportive love. They accept him by the end, even if they don't completely understand him. Eleanor, on the other hand, has a mother who loves her but who isn't willing to protect her from her stepfather or move away from him with her children.
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