Eleanor and Park


Rainbow Rowell

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Eleanor and Park Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Rainbow Rowell

A writer from Nebraska who got her start in the 1990s as a newspaper columnist at the Omaha World-Herald, Rainbow Rowell is the author of several popular books for young people and adults alike. Her breakthrough novels, Eleanor and Park and Fangirl, were both published in 2013, catapulting Rowell to fame within the YA community. Rowell is active in the online writing community, and regularly participates in both fanfiction communities and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Her most recent projects include writing for the Marvel superhero comic book series Runaways and a “spinoff” series inspired by the Simon Snow novels, the books-within-a-book originated in her novel Fangirl. Her novels for adults include Attachments (2011) and Landline (2014).
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Historical Context of Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park is set in 1986, and is peppered with ample references to major historical and cultural events of the time. Eleanor and Park bond over their shared love of bands like Joy Division and The Smiths, as well as comics like Watchmen, which was first published that year. Rowell also references popular television shows and movies (Happy Days, Star Wars, Back to the Future, Short Circuit) in order to ground Eleanor and Park in the 80s. Racial tensions at Eleanor and Park’s Omaha high school are rife, as the ethnic makeup of the school is altered by busing—the practice of transporting students to schools in other school districts in order to reduce racial segregation in schools. Park’s parents Jamie and Mindy (or Min-dae) met in 1970, when his father was stationed in Seoul, and Park also struggles with his classmates’ casual racism when discussing his heritage.

Other Books Related to Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park could be conceived of as a very loose contemporary take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet—a play Eleanor and Park study in their English class. Just like Romeo and Juliet, Rowell’s novel is a searing look at the total intensity of first love and the power of familial, societal, and economic barriers to stand between a pair of young lovers’ chance at happiness. Similarly to Romeo and Juliet, Eleanor and Park are separated at the end of the novel, though in a divergence from the play there is the chance that they might reunite in the future. Eleanor, an avid reader, finds comfort in novels like The World According to Garp, Watership Down, and Catcher in the Rye; books, like music, are a way for Eleanor to escape the poverty and abuse which have come to define her home life.
Key Facts about Eleanor and Park
  • Full Title: Eleanor and Park
  • When Written: Early 2010s
  • Where Written: Omaha, Nebraska
  • When Published: 2013
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young adult fiction; coming-of-age tale
  • Setting: Omaha, Nebraska
  • Climax: Eleanor realizes that her cruel and predatory stepfather Richie has been the one writing lewd messages on her textbook covers, and enlists Park’s help in escaping Nebraska to go live with relatives in Minnesota.
  • Antagonist: Richie Trout
  • Point of View: Third person limited, alternating between Eleanor and Park’s perspectives

Extra Credit for Eleanor and Park

Resemblances. Rainbow Rowell, herself a red-haired music lover from Omaha, bears many resemblances to one of the book’s two protagonists, Eleanor. Rowell has said in interviews that she, like Eleanor, retreated into music, comics, and books in high school, and even shared some of Eleanor’s favorite reads (The World According to Garp, Watership Down.) The difference between her and Eleanor, Rowell says, is that while she felt like an outsider in high school, when she looks back on her teen years, her “memories are full of friends.”