Orphan Train

Orphan Train

Orphan Train Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Molly is meeting with Lori, her social worker. Lori is energetic and direct. She reminds Molly that she’ll “age out” of the foster care system in nine months. She asks about her future plans, but Molly says she has none. Giving short responses to Lori’s questions, Molly says that she almost likes working for the “old lady.” To herself, she thinks about how she’s started to enjoy Vivian’s stories and company. Lori mentions Molly’s good grades and high SAT scores, and asks if she’s considered applying for college. Molly says she hasn’t. She thinks about how her grades fell in previous foster homes where the parents partied and how much calmer things are with the Thibodeaus (Ralph and Dina). Lori tells Molly that there are scholarships available for foster care youth—or Molly can just apply for a job at the grocery store. “It’s up to you,” she says.
The fact that Molly hasn’t thought about her future plans illustrates how focused she is on surviving her immediate situation. The instability of her home life distracts her and consumes her focus. Her past troubles in school when she lived with reckless foster parents show how factors beyond Molly’s control have influenced her academic performance. Perhaps her poor grades in the past affected her self-confidence, and this contributed to her inability to imagine herself going to college. Lori’s words remind Molly that soon her life and her decisions will be in her own hands.
Themes
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
At dinner that night, Ralph and Molly discuss her community service project. He says he’s been to Vivian’s house before to do plumbing work. As the conversation progresses, Molly reveals that Terry is Jack’s mother. Dina then realizes that Jack’s mother is the same Terry Gallant she went to high school with. She describes Terry’s high school popularity and gleefully remarks on how “sad” it is that she became a housekeeper after “some Mexican scrub knocked her up.” Molly clarifies that he was Dominican. Dina responds that, “those illegals are all the same.” Molly’s contempt is obvious but she restrains herself, while Ralph tries to minimize their disagreement. Molly reflects on how often Dina dismisses her opinions, saying things like “The Tribe has spoken” and saying she “takes [her]self too seriously” when she gets offended. Ralph often assumes the role of mediator, telling Molly that Dina doesn’t mean what she says.
Here Dina shows her sense of entitlement to judge others. Her cheerful attitude toward what she sees as Terry’s social decline suggests that thinking about the failures of others makes her feel better about herself. This indicates that underneath her judgments, she may have some problems with her own self-esteem. Her comment about “those illegals” and her disinterest in distinguishing between Mexicans and Dominicans also suggests that she holds racist views toward outsiders. Given this pattern, her use of the phrase “The tribe has spoken” to diminish Molly’s opinions seems to be an underhanded expression of contempt for Molly’s Native American identity.
Themes
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon