Eleanor & Park

by: Rainbow Rowell

Park

Park is half Korean, and he is one of the very few Asian-American kids in their high school in Omaha. Park’s looks are striking, since he has typically Korean features but green eyes. Unlike Eleanor, who calls attention to her physical appearance as an outsider through her distinctive style, Park’s style is more subtly different than that of the rest of the kids. In addition, since the other students have known him since childhood, and since he is not a confrontational person in general, he blends in just enough to be respected and at worst ignored.

The other part of what insulates Park from being teased so much is that the other kids know and respect his father, an athletic Army veteran. Unlike his brother and his dad, Park doesn’t enjoy traditional masculine activities like sports or hunting. Park does, however, like taekwondo, which gives him a way to communicate with his dad, who wants Park to be more of a jock.

Eleanor gives Park’s life the spark of excitement and originality that he craves. Even though Park initially sees Eleanor as a weird misfit, he finds himself fascinated with her very quickly. Both Park and Eleanor help the other find their own identity and means of self-expression. As the book progresses and Park’s relationship with Eleanor deepens, he gains the confidence to express his individuality and stand up for himself. Much to his dad’s chagrin, Park takes to wearing eyeliner, which complements Eleanor’s gender-neutral style. Park also has the courage to stick up for Eleanor and kick her bully Steve in the face, demonstrating both a physical and emotional strength that he didn’t know he had. Park might think of himself as small and powerless, but he learns throughout the novel that he has much more capacity than he knew.