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The next day, Eleanor feels much better. She gushes to Park about the Joy Division song “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” When the topic of music has been exhausted, Eleanor doesn’t want them to stop talking, so she strikes up an argument about comic books.
During class, Park stares at Eleanor’s neck.
Eleanor thinks that Kim has a crush on Park.
Park makes a tape that plays “Love Will Tear Us Apart” over and over again. He ransacks every electronic item in his house for batteries.
DeNice and Beebi invite Eleanor to eat lunch with them.
During English class, they are comparing Juliet with Ophelia, and Park watches Eleanor.
Now that she and Park have started talking on the bus, they talk about anything and everything.
After taekwondo, Park goes over to Eleanor’s house. When Richie answers the door, he realizes that coming over was a mistake, since Eleanor feels so uncomfortable. They go to the steps of a nearby elementary school and read the latest issue of the new Watchmen comic together. As soon as they finish, Eleanor leaves.
When Eleanor gets back home, Richie accuses her of being a slut. Though Eleanor feels like Richie has punched her, she doesn’t retaliate. When she thinks about Park, she sees Richie’s leering face in her head.
Eleanor tells her mother that Park won’t be coming over anymore. When she sees Park on the bus, she feels like she’s going to cry, but Park holds her hand for the first time, which immediately wipes away all other sensations.
When Park grabs Eleanor’s hand, he immediately wonders why he hasn’t done this before. Before this, he hadn’t really been attracted to girls outside of comic books, but now, he feels electrified.
Eleanor feels as though she’s splitting into a million pieces, and it feels great.
After the bus ride, they say that they’ll see each other in English class and awkwardly break apart.
Eleanor feels nervous but amazing.
Park is nervous that he has overstepped their relationship, but on the bus ride home, Eleanor grabs Park’s hand.
Eleanor hates Saturdays because she won’t see Park until Monday. She saves the batteries that he gives her so she can listen to his tapes, and she fantasizes about holding hands with him. Recently, Park has started touching her hair, which is an exciting new development.
Park also hates Saturdays. His father is trying to teach him how to drive stick shift, but Park isn’t as good at it as his brother is. He fantasizes about Eleanor, too.
On the bus on Monday, Park kisses Eleanor’s hand. Mrs. Dunne, the counselor, tells her that her dad has called the school to try to get in touch with her. When Eleanor calls him back from school, he asks if she wants to babysit his son on Friday night, since he has to go out with his fiancée. Eleanor didn’t know that he had a fiancée.
Cal tries to get Park to ask Kim to the homecoming dance so that Kim will pay attention to Cal, which Park thinks is a confusing and nonsensical idea. Eleanor beams at Park during English class.
The other girls taunt Eleanor during gym, but Eleanor is blissful about Park.
Eleanor’s mom doesn’t want to let her babysit, but finally relents. Eleanor is thrilled about having the opportunity to talk to Park on the phone at her father’s house. Park grabs one of her books to write her number down, but sees a crude phrase that someone has written to tease her, and Eleanor gets embarrassed. Eventually, she relaxes and tells Park about getting to use the phone while babysitting, and she memorizes his number.
The fact that people bully Eleanor is starting to bother Park a lot, and he feels deeply protective of her.
Eleanor is too nervous to eat lunch. On the bus ride home, she tells Park that she feels like they have a date for Friday night.
Eleanor and Park’s relationship develops in distinct stages. First, they communicate wordlessly with each other by reading the same comic book. Then, Park begins making tapes for Eleanor, and they start talking to each other. Even though their initial conversation is awkward, since they’ve gone so long without speaking to each other, they quickly are able to develop their connection by talking about shared interests. However, they take their relationship to the next level when they again move to wordless communication. Park senses that Eleanor is upset, and instead of trying to talk to her, he grabs her hand, pursuing not only a verbal but also a physical connection. The physical connection also cements that the bond between them is not restricted to the fictional realms of comics and music, but that they also care about each other’s lives.
When Park grabs Eleanor’s hand, he breaks two unspoken barriers between them. The first unspoken barrier is that they have not yet had physical contact, so Park’s action forges a new, much deeper level of connection between them. Now, they can’t turn back or pretend that they don’t have feelings for each other when these emotions are so physically palpable. The second unspoken barrier is that Park and Eleanor have not yet had many interactions with each other about their feelings. Park has noticed Eleanor’s discomfort in several situations, but he has felt fairly helpless. However, when he responds to Eleanor’s distress by taking her hand, Park demonstrates to Eleanor that she can trust that he will be there for her emotionally when she needs him to be. Park’s gesture makes Eleanor more aware than ever that she likes him, and the gesture also represents one of the first times that she has had someone reach out to her in support and solidarity, rather than lashing out against her in anger or trying to make her calm down and ignore the situation.
The central location where Eleanor and Park’s relationship develops is on the bus, but their connection also strengthens during English class. Park first admires Eleanor when she reads a poem aloud in class, since it allows him to see beyond her appearance and realize how talented she is. Reading Romeo and Juliet gets Eleanor and Park thinking about young, star-crossed lovers, even if these thoughts are subconscious at first. English class is where they are thinking about characters, stories, and analyzing the world around them. By reading about other people in love, and by thinking about poetry and language, Eleanor and Park can see their story and their lives in the context of other young people in love. Eleanor and Park might feel like outsiders in Omaha, but there are plenty of characters and poems in classic literature that can help them express and process their emotions. If they lack role models for their feelings in their everyday lives, they can find some of these role models in books.
Thinking about Eleanor and Park in relation to other literary characters also helps the reader see how their relationship is developing. Putting them in the context of other literature helps the reader see their story as part of a long literary tradition of young people in love.
As Park and Eleanor’s relationship develops, they have trouble finding a place to be alone together. Even though they act like the bus seat is their own little world, all the other kids in school are around, so they can’t have a private conversation. Eleanor’s house is out of the question because Richie is always present and Eleanor doesn’t feel welcome there. Having the opportunity to talk on the phone, just the two of them, is the closest thing that they can get to a first real date. Eleanor and Park have developed many different ways of communicating with each other and creating private spaces in public, but they can only go so far without being able to get to know each other in an actual private setting. Since they’re always somewhat out in the open, they haven’t yet had the opportunity to be truly vulnerable with each other.
Eleanor’s dad has abandoned her family, and she feels betrayed by him, but she chooses to look past the fact that he’s started a new life so that she can benefit from the gift of a temporary haven that his house offers. Eleanor’s father, unbeknownst to him, provides Eleanor with the only opportunity she can find to assert some independence. Getting out of her own house for a few hours on a Friday night is the first reward, since she can breathe much easier without the threat of Richie around. And she realizes that since her dad has a working phone, without anyone else around beyond a sleeping baby, she’ll have a kind of privacy she never gets to have in her daily routine. Eleanor doesn’t necessarily forgive her father, but she accepts his olive branch because she craves the independence the situation will allow.