Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.
This quote, which occurs in Chapter 28 and is from Park’s point of view, shows how people can view unusual external appearance in a very positive way. Throughout Eleanor & Park, many characters focus on physical appearance, both their own and that of others. Earlier, Eleanor had snapped at Park for telling her that she looks nice, because even though Park was trying to give her a compliment, Eleanor wasn’t trying to look just “nice.” Park’s mom is a beautician who specializes in giving people makeovers to make them look “nice,” so it would make sense that Park would think that telling Eleanor she looked “nice” was a good thing. Eleanor teaches Park that there are more ways of expressing oneself through appearance than trying to look like everyone else. Eleanor’s decision to wear what she wants to wear helps give Park the confidence to start expressing himself more openly through his physical appearance by wearing eyeliner. Eleanor dresses to give herself confidence and make herself feel comfortable, not to project what the world wants to see.
Another part of the reason why she wears such unusual clothing is so that she feels like she has control over how people react to her. Eleanor is self-conscious about her weight, and she has to make do with what she can find at Goodwill. She knows that they will respond to the fact that she dresses differently, not to what her body looks like. Eleanor doesn’t want to look like everyone else, because she isn’t like everyone else. Instead, Eleanor makes an impression and asserts her identity.