Orphan Train

Orphan Train

Orphan Train Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jack drives Molly to meet Vivian Daly. Molly is surprised to see that Vivian lives in a well-tended mansion overlooking the ocean. Jack tells Molly that Vivian is very serious, and instructs her just to “nod and smile”. Molly is wearing a pink blouse borrowed from Dina, and has toned down her makeup and removed her piercings. When Dina saw Molly before leaving the house, she told her she “looked more like a normal person.” Dina is skeptical that Molly will “last” at Vivian’s, and so is Molly, who anticipates the project of working with a rich elderly woman in her attic to be incredibly dull. Molly wonders whether juvenile detention would have been better. Jack tells her to take the project more seriously because her “ass is on the line”. He informs her that Vivian has no idea of Molly’s probation and thinks the project is just for school.
Dina’s choice of words when she tells Molly she looks “more like a normal person” illustrate her judgmental, superficial way of assessing other people. Dina’s skepticism supports Molly’s perception that Dina doesn’t believe in or want her. In contrast, Jack’s efforts to secure the service project for Molly and his seriousness in preparing her show his faith in Molly. Molly’s casual attitude suggests that she is denial about the consequences of her actions, perhaps as another defense mechanism, but Jack sees what a critical moment Molly is in, showing that he is more in touch with the reality of her situation.
Themes
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
Jack’s mother, Terry, greets Molly. Molly knows that Terry only agreed to arrange the service project for Jack’s sake. In the library, Molly meets Vivian, an elegant 91-year-old woman. Vivian asks about the “skunk effect” of Molly’s dyed hair. She deduces that Molly borrowed the blouse and says it wasn’t necessary. Vivian then asks about Molly’s life, and Molly tells Vivian the “abridged” version – that her father was Penobscot Indian, that she lived on a reservation until he died, and that she landed in foster care because her mother “couldn’t take care of her”. Vivian suggests that Molly’s “tribal makeup” is connected to her Penobscot roots, which appeals to Molly. Molly remembers when she first dyed her hair and got her piercings as a way of forcing a harsh foster family to kick her out. Vivian reveals that she, too, was orphaned as a child, but doesn’t elaborate. She agrees to Molly’s “school project.”
Contrary to Molly’s expectations, Vivian treats her with a curiosity seemingly devoid of judgment. Her intuition that Molly’s outfit was borrowed, along with her curiosity about Molly’s background, suggests that she is trying to understand who Molly really is. In contrast with Molly’s foster families, Vivian seems open to knowing Molly’s actual self. Molly remembers creating her style as a way of escaping an unwanted home, but Vivian’s alternative explanation—if a bit naïve—reframes her choice as a means of connecting to her family of origin. Vivian’s age coupled with her self-identification as an orphan suggest that she is the unnamed narrator from the prologue.
Themes
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon