Park offers to let Eleanor borrow the Walkman, but instead, she borrows only the batteries and his tape.


At home, Eleanor puts Park’s batteries in her own Walkman and listens to the tape until the batteries die.


In some ways, Eleanor & Park is a very loose contemporary update of Romeo and Juliet. Eleanor and Park are about the same ages as the main characters in Romeo and Juliet. Even though they live very close to each other geographically, their worlds could not be more separate. At first, they only communicate wordlessly. When they do begin a relationship, their families find it very difficult to accept the other person. Indeed, the abuse from Eleanor’s stepdad is what eventually drives Eleanor and Park apart.

In class, Eleanor and Park each interpret Romeo and Juliet based on their own ideas about love. Although they might not know it consciously yet, Eleanor and Park are beginning to fall for each other, but the ideas and feelings that they have about love are very different. Eleanor doesn’t believe in the kind of connection that Shakespeare portrays between the lovers. She has had no role models in her life to show her what true love might mean. Because Eleanor does not have a good sense of what it might mean to fall head over heels in love and enter into a non-abusive relationship, she does not have context to experience Shakespeare’s play without irony. From Eleanor’s perspective at this point in the book, all love curdles into unhappiness and abuse. So Shakespeare’s depiction of Romeo and Juliet’s wide-eyed, idealistic love seems naïve and unrealistic to her. On the other hand, Park is a romantic. He thinks that love is a universal emotion, and he thinks that people can and do fall in love with each other when they’re young.

The maxi pad incident at the gym is one of many events in the novel that seem designed to make Eleanor ashamed of her physicality and her emerging sexuality. Maxi pads are intended to be personal, but they’re plastered all over Eleanor’s physical space. Eleanor doesn’t have a private room at home, and now she doesn’t even have a private locker to call her own. Maxi pads are not a random choice of material for the gym locker room prank. The fact that they’re the largest size of pad is a cruel choice designed to echo Eleanor’s large physique. Eleanor’s gym suit is far too short and tight for her, which emphasizes all her curves and already makes her ashamed of her body. The maxi pads are designed to make Eleanor feel ashamed to ask for help, since they represent a bodily function that makes many people, especially teenage girls who have only recently entered puberty, somewhat embarrassed. The red marker on the pads represents both menstrual blood and Eleanor’s vivid red hair. The red is also reminiscent of Hester Prynne’s red “A” in The Scarlet Letter, a tag that is supposed to be a sign of shame.

Even though Eleanor is still an outsider, and even though many kids still taunt her, slowly but surely she is beginning to find people who are nice to her and who respect her as a person. The central connection that Eleanor is forging is, of course, with Park, but she is also making more friends. The maxi pad incident at the gym has a silver lining to it, because after the incident, DeNice and Beebi help Eleanor out and treat her with kindness. When these girls defend and help Eleanor, she realizes that they must be her friends. She also realizes, after the maxi pad incident, that she really must like Park, because the very thought of him cheers her up and makes her feel more confident.

When Eleanor borrows Park’s batteries but uses her own Walkman, the action foreshadows how interconnected their lives are beginning to become. Park is becoming an integral part of her life. Eleanor and Park are starting to develop a symbiotic relationship with each other, in that each one depends on the other. Thinking about the types of comics and music that Eleanor will like excites Park and gives his favorites new significance. Park introduces new material into Eleanor’s life, and his batteries give her both literally and metaphorically the energy that she needs.