Eleanor and Park | Study Guide

Rainbow Rowell

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Eleanor and Park | Plot Summary

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Summary

Homecoming

In 1986, after a year spent away from her family, teenager Eleanor Douglas has moved to her mom's home in the Flats, an area outside Omaha, Nebraska. There she meets Park Sheridan, a half-Korean teen, who allows her to sit beside him on the bus after everyone else refuses her a seat.

Along with her mom, Sabrina (Douglas) Trout, Eleanor now lives with her four siblings—Ben, Maisie, Mouse, and Little Richie—and her stepfather, Richie Trout. Richie is a physically and verbally abusive controlling alcoholic, and Eleanor is wary of him, to say the least; his anger forced her to leave home once before, and she's just waiting for the next explosion. The family's home verges on squalid: the bathroom has no door, and the children all share one room. None of the kids has enough clothes or food.

School and Park

At school Eleanor stands out because of her peculiar clothing, bright red hair, and full figure. Initially, she and Park don't speak as they sit side by side on the school bus. Eleanor merely reads his comics over his shoulder. But then he begins to lend comics to her and share mixtapes with her, and they find out how much they have in common. Eventually, the two start dating.

Their relationship evolves slowly, in part because Eleanor is bullied at school and Park tries hard not to stand out—a challenging task since he's one of the few Asian American kids at school. Park's brother, Josh, looks more like their Caucasian father, Jamie Sheridan. Park resembles their Korean mom, Mindy Sheridan.

As Park and Eleanor grow closer, Eleanor starts to notice crude sayings on her schoolbooks. She thinks one of the school bullies may be writing them. She knows that the bullies are responsible for throwing her clothes in the toilet while she's in her gym suit. The worst of these bullies is Tina, a popular girl who grew up with Park and "went with" him in sixth grade. Tina may be jealous of Eleanor's blossoming relationship with Park. On the upside, the bullying leads Eleanor to make friends with DeNice and Beebi, two girls who come to her defense.

Despite their various struggles, Eleanor and Park continue to develop a stronger bond. They are outsiders with a shared love of comics and music, and at least one of them (that would be Park) sees echoes of their relationship in the play Romeo and Juliet (1597), by British playwright William Shakespeare (c. 1564–1616), which they study in English class.

Richie

When Park shows up at Eleanor's home to show her a new comic book, Richie isn't pleased. Her mom, who is completely cowed by Richie, tells Eleanor that she's too young for boys.

One day on the school bus, kids start taunting Eleanor again. Even though Eleanor tells Park not to intervene, he does, delivering a martial arts kick to Steve Murphy's face. The fight leads to further Romeo and Juliet parallels when Park's parents ground him and forbid him from seeing Eleanor.

Eleanor's home life continues to be oppressive, but she thinks she can stand it. She's pretty tough. Then one night everything changes. Park, no longer grounded, takes Eleanor on a date. When she returns home, she finds that Richie has destroyed her belongings and left her a threatening note. The handwriting on the note tells her that Richie also wrote the vulgarities on her schoolbooks.

Escape and Separation

Eleanor grabs Park's picture and escapes through the window. She encounters Tina and Steve, who are drinking and smoking and tell her Richie has been driving around looking for her. Tina is kinder when she realizes Eleanor is trying to escape her stepdad; Steve offers to kill Richie. Eleanor says Richie will kill her if he finds her. She realizes she needs to leave town. But she has to tell Park first.

Steve goes to find Park, and then Eleanor tells him everything. Park says he will drive her from Nebraska to Minnesota, where her uncle lives. As Eleanor and Park are about to leave, Park's dad discovers what's going on, but he doesn't stop them. He merely insists that Park take the family's truck; he's determined that Park master manual transmission. He gives Park the keys and some money and suggests they keep hidden as much as possible.

Park drives Eleanor to her uncle's house, and then he heads home.

The novel closes with Eleanor and Park still living in separate states. Both are sad. Park attends prom with "Cat from work." The novel closes the day after prom, when Park receives a postcard from Eleanor. The postcard contains three words. Readers never learns what those words are.

Eleanor and Park Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction

Introduction

1 Eleanor moves to Nebraska.

Rising Action

2 Park lets Eleanor sit beside him on the bus.

3 Eleanor notices crude phrases on her school books.

4 Park is forbidden to see Eleanor after he has a fight.

5 Eleanor's bullies throw her clothes in the toilet.

6 Park gets his driver's license.

Climax

7 Richie destroys Eleanor's things and leaves a menacing note.

Falling Action

8 Park drives Eleanor to Minnesota to stay with her uncle.

Resolution

9 Eleanor sends Park a postcard with three words on it.

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