Before Eleanor sits down that afternoon on the bus, Park puts on his headphones, and she doesn’t try to talk to him.
Eleanor returns home from school before all her younger siblings, and she is relieved. The house is so small that all the kids share one room. Eleanor, it seems, has been away from home for a long time, and she came back the previous night. Most of her siblings acted like they didn’t recognize her, and they were being nice to her stepfather Richie, which made Eleanor feel terrible.
Eleanor’s mom is making soup, and the very normalcy of this action makes Eleanor want to cry. Eleanor’s mom gives her a black garbage bag with the few possessions of Eleanor’s that are left. The bag has a few old dolls, some random books, and various papers. In the bottom of the bag, Eleanor finds a Fruit-of-the-Month box with her art supplies, and a Walkman without batteries. She hides the bag on the top shelf of the closet.
The English teacher tells the students to memorize a poem. He suggests that they choose a romantic poem, and that Eleanor memorize “A Dream Deferred.” Park decides to pick a rhyming poem to make the assignment easier.
Eleanor and Park are both the protagonists of Eleanor & Park, and the novel switches back and forth constantly between their points of view. Even though the novel always remains in the third person, the reader gets to experience the events described through both characters’ perspectives. Usually, each character describes different events, and the plot moves forward through this back-and-forth narration. However, as the novel progresses, sometimes Eleanor and Park describe the same events, but through their own perspectives. One person’s perception of how things happened might be very different from what the other person thinks happened.
In the beginning of the novel, Eleanor and Park alternate points of view chapter by chapter. When Eleanor and Park are still getting to know each other, and their lives are not as closely intertwined, the structure of the book also keeps their perspectives very clearly separated from each other.