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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 282

Eleanor Olyphant is Completely Fine is a novel about loneliness.

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Eleanor's loneliness is the most stark in the novel: not only does she have no personal social life, but she isn't able to make friends at work or even make idle chit chat with a bartender. But there are other characters who also experience loneliness. An example of this is Raymond's mother, whom Eleanor visits with Raymond. While she isn't as isolated as Eleanor, she "doesn't get out much" and begs Eleanor to visit her again, even if it's without Raymond.

The other thing that we can see happening throughout the novel is that people who we wouldn't consider as being "lonely" still make room in their lives for Eleanor despite her oddness: like Raymond, and Sammy and his children. This shows that our experience of isolation, or of friendship, changes from person to person and even from day to day.

Eleanor appears idiosyncratic: she has very specific ways that she likes things to be done and can be incredibly judgemental of others. This is because she was brought up by an abusive and controlling mother, until she entered foster care when her mother and sister died. Eleanor's portrayal in this novel indicates that she has developed a mental illness because of this childhood trauma, most likely complex PTSD.

Eleanor learning that she can make mistakes in her friendships—for example, after she gets drunk at Sammy's wake—teaches her that people are forgiving and that she doesn't need to isolate herself for fear of her mother's disapproval. So at the conclusion of the novel, Eleanor has not become a social butterfly, but she has learned to open up to other people.


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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 235

The irony of the title at first seems humorous, as Eleanor Oliphant is clearly anything but fine. A depressed alcoholic, she manages to hold down a job amidst colleagues who ridicule her. Eleanor lives a vivid fantasy life, especially after she develops a crush on a pop singer. The reader gradually becomes aware that Eleanor’s delusions are far from harmless. For example, she does not initially recognize that her crush is just that; she is convinced she has found her soul mate—although they have never spoken in person. She rapidly deteriorates from weekend drinking binges to planned suicide.

Fortunately, a random encounter with an elderly man in physical distress had brought her into contact with a kind co-worker, Raymond. He not only intervenes in her attempt to take her life but also to get regular psychiatric care. The reader learns that Eleanor has suppressed truly painful memories, including a fire that took her childhood home....

(The entire section contains 660 words.)

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