Park

Park pulls Eleanor towards him to kiss her, and they crack some of Park’s cassette boxes, which makes Eleanor embarrassed.

Eleanor

Eleanor feels self-conscious about her weight, but she still wants Park to touch her again.

Summary: Chapter 40

Park tells Eleanor to check her books after gym class to see if Tina has been writing on them. Eleanor is jealous that Tina was the first girl Park kissed. The next day, after gym, there aren’t new messages on her books, but someone has flushed her clothes in the toilet. Eleanor has to walk down the halls in her very tight gym suit. She sees Park, and she ducks into her guidance counselor’s office. That night, she doesn’t go over to Park’s house.

Summary: Chapter 41

Park

Park’s dad finally speaks to him. No one else seems to care that Park is wearing eyeliner. Park can’t stop fantasizing about Eleanor in her tight gym suit.

Summary: Chapter 42

Park

It’s the weekend, and Park decides to stay home all day to see if Eleanor will come over.

Eleanor

Eleanor comes over, and Park starts making out with her.

Park

Park worries that he’s gone too far, but Eleanor touches him, and he knows he’s okay.

Eleanor

Eleanor touches Park softly.

Park

Park relaxes.

Eleanor

They keep touching each other.

Park

They awkwardly move to the couch. Park says that he loves her, and he jokes that she’s the Han Solo in their relationship.

Eleanor

Eleanor makes a mental inventory of all the intimate, physical things she knows about Park. She doesn’t feel shameful at all.

Park

Eleanor tells Park briefly about gym class and asks Park if he wanted to make out with her because of seeing her in her gym suit. Park admits that that influenced him, and Eleanor says, triumphantly, that Tina would be so angry.

Eleanor

Park’s parents actually seem to like her. She wonders if she and Park will ever be alone together again. Richie asks Eleanor what she bought with her Christmas money, and she tells him that she got a necklace.

Analysis

Eleanor and Park seem to have a very healthy relationship, both mentally and physically. When Eleanor and Park take their relationship to any new physical level, it they do so as a joint decision. Neither one of them pressures the other to go farther than he or she wants to go. Eleanor and Park feel physical desire toward each other and they want their relationship to progress physically, but they also don’t feel any pressure to push things too far or too quickly.

Eleanor feels confident in men’s clothing, and she dresses up for their first “date” by wearing a tie. Similarly, Park realizes that he feels more confident when he’s wearing eye makeup, which is a style that is more traditionally gendered female. Park’s dad feels very uncomfortable by Park’s eye makeup, because Park’s dad has more rigid ideas about what it means to be a male. He seems worried throughout the whole book that Park is exhibiting traits that are more typically considered feminine, and he wants to make Park more masculine. However, Park can’t pretend to be something other than what he is. His dad is angry with him, but the eye makeup makes him feel more confident in himself, so it ironically makes him more capable of having the strength to stand up to his dad.

No one other than Park’s dad seems to be bothered by Park’s eye makeup, or to think that he seems effeminate for wearing it. On the contrary, the other kids at school admire Park for expressing himself. Readers might expect that Park will get ridiculed for his unusual choices, especially because the kids at school tease Eleanor so much. But Park’s courage and confidence in himself and his choices override any potential teasing, and he helps set an example for people to express their individuality. Even Park’s dad eventually realizes that Park is searching for some way to make himself feel powerful.

Park and Eleanor both use their gender-neutral fashion choices as ways to make themselves feel more powerful and confident. But these fashion choices do not necessarily have anything at all to do with gender. Park doesn’t feel like a girl when he wears eye makeup. When he looks at himself in the makeup, he feels excited and dangerous, and the makeup gives him courage to do things that he might not normally feel emboldened to do.

Eleanor feels embarrassed to be in her gym suit around Park for several reasons. Even though she feels more confident around Park, she is still self-conscious about her body, and since the gym suit is so short and tight, it highlights all the aspects of her body that make her feel the most uncomfortable. Eleanor is also embarrassed about the very fact that she has to wear her gym suit outside of gym class, which has occurred because some of the other girls flushed her clothes in the toilet. Eleanor wishes she could just throw the clothes away out of shame, but she can’t, because clothing is scarce enough as it is in Eleanor’s house, and wasting things that fit her is not an option. Eleanor is doubly ashamed by the fact that the other girls have flushed her clothes and that she has to salvage clothes that other people clearly consider to be trash. Seeing Park underscores the double indignity of the situation, because even though she trusts Park, she also wants him to see her at her best, not at her lowest.

Park doesn’t get turned off by seeing Eleanor in her gym suit. In fact, the opposite happens. Rather than being embarrassed by the sight of Eleanor in less clothing than usual, Park is attracted to her, and he finds himself fantasizing about her body. Eleanor and Park are physically attracted to each other for their own individual, specific traits, not because of adherence to traditional beauty conventions. Park and Eleanor appreciate each other for who they are, which makes them both feel more confident in their own identities.

When Richie asks Eleanor what she bought with the Christmas money that he gave her, Eleanor doesn’t rock the boat and tell Richie that she gave the money to her mom because she couldn’t stand to spend his money. She also doesn’t become flustered and give away the fact that she has to lie. Instead, she takes the potentially awkward moment and uses it as an opportunity to continue to hide her relationship with Park. Park gave Eleanor a necklace for Christmas, and if Richie saw the necklace, he would immediately become suspicious. But if Eleanor claims that she bought the necklace with the money, then she can wear it openly without Richie guessing that the necklace was a gift from Park. Telling Richie that she bought the necklace is a similar kind of lie to telling her mom that she is spending a lot of time at Tina’s house. Eleanor is keeping her relationship with Park a secret not because she’s ashamed of Park, but out of survival mode. She knows that Richie would destroy the relationship if he found out, because Richie destroys any good thing in her family’s life, so she keeps the relationship protected from her toxic home situation.