Eleanor and Park Themes

Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park

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Eleanor and Park Themes

The Wonder of First Love 

The fundamental theme that seems to underlie almost every aspect of this novel is the wonder experienced as a result of first love. In this book, this theme is ultimately expressed through the young couple, Park and Eleanor. Over the span of several chapters, the two go from being complete strangers sitting next to each other on a school bus, to being each other’s respective first loves. Romance is so new to them that the idea of merely holding hands causes butterflies in their stomachs, a situation that anyone who has been in love can attest to. Eleanor and Park is fundamentally a love story, but it also sets the pureness of Eleanor and Park’s love in stark contrast to the powerful hate that Eleanor’s stepfather Richie exhibits toward everyone around him. At this time in Park and Eleanor’s lives, their relationship is the best thing that’s ever happened to them. Park very quickly tells Eleanor that he loves her, and it is apparent that she feels the same way throughout the second half of the novel, but arguably, she never tells Park that she loves him too until the last chapter of the book. As a result of the book’s tantalizing ending, it is impossible to say whether or not Park and Eleanor have a future together. But what is certain is that they would never forget the excitement they felt at being each other’s first love.


Bullying is a theme that recurs throughout the novel. Park himself is picked on because of his Asian heritage, though the bullying he experiences is relatively mild and does not really bother him. Eleanor, on the other hand, receives much harsher treatment than Park on a more frequent basis. She is large in stature and has red hair, so her peers commonly call her “Big Red.” Eleanor also has tampons plastered all over her locker during gym glass one day, after which she realizes that all of her clothes have been flushed down the toilet. Park cannot stand the treatment Eleanor receives after he falls in love with…

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