Study Guide

Eleanor & Park Isolation

By Rainbow Rowell

Isolation

Chapter 2

That girl—all of them—hated Eleanor before they'd even laid eyes on her. Like they'd been hired to kill her in a past life. (2.9)

Immediately, Eleanor's isolated from her peers because of how she looks. They take one look at her and decide they're going to shun her. She doesn't even have a chance, does she?

Chapter 18
Park Sheridan

There were moments—not just today, moments every day since they'd met—when Eleanor made him self-conscious, when he saw people talking and he was sure they were talking about them. Raucous moments on the bus when he was sure that everyone was laughing at them. (18.87)

Park's friendship with Eleanor comes at a cost: It cuts him off from the rest of his class. He can't imagine bringing her to a school dance, or inviting other kids to hang out with them. It's almost like they have to exist in their own separate universe.

Eleanor Douglas

It wouldn't do any good to tell him that she hadn't been that girl at her old school. Yeah, she'd been made fun of before. There were always mean boys—and there were always, always mean girls—but she'd had friends at her old school. (18.49)

Interesting that Eleanor tells us she wasn't always badly bullied—she wasn't "that girl," she says. This school is different. Why do you think Eleanor was immediately singled out? What does that say about the culture at Park's school?

Chapter 19
Park Sheridan

His dad looked at Park like he always did, like he was trying to figure out what the f*** was wrong with him. (19.101)

Do you think Park feels like he fits in, when his dad looks at him like this? No? We didn't think so.

"That's not what I meant, though. I meant… that you're different from the other people in the neighborhood, you know?"

Of course he knew. They'd all been telling him so his whole life. (19.160-161)

Here's another way Park feels isolated: his race. It's kind of amazing, isn't it? Park says he doesn't even know what it means to be Korean. But again, just like Eleanor, Park's set apart by his looks.

Chapter 21
Eleanor Douglas

"I hate meeting new people," she whispered.

"Why?"

"Because they never like me." (21.89-91)

Eleanor's nervous to meet Park's mom—she feels like no one likes her when they first meet her. Based on how she's treated by her family, it's no wonder she approaches the world this way.

She would never belong in Park's living room. She never felt like she belonged anywhere, except for when she was lying on her bed pretending to be somewhere else. (21.124)

Here's the bottom line: Eleanor doesn't feel like she belongs anywhere. She doesn't even really have a physical space that's her own in her family's home. This is another aspect of isolation—feeling like you don't fit in anywhere.

Chapter 31
Park Sheridan

He knew it wasn't Eleanor's fault that she didn't have a phone, and that her house was the Fortress of Solitude, but… Jesus. It made it so easy for her to cut herself off whenever she felt like it. (31.4)

Isolation is kind of a double-edged sword for Eleanor. It seems like sometimes she wants to be isolated, doesn't it? But it sure isn't hard for her to disappear, because her family is completely cut off, too.

Chapter 33
Park Sheridan

"Because I'm interested. It's like you've got all these weird barriers set up, like you only want me to have access to this tiny part of you..."

"Yes," she said, crossing her arms. "Barriers. Caution tape. I'm doing you a favor."

"Don't," he said. "I can handle it." (33.51-53)

So here's one reason Eleanor cuts herself off: She wants to protect Park from the nightmarish truth about her family. Eleanor wants to keep Park as separate from her family as possible, and given Richie's appetite for destruction, we understand why.