Orphan Train

Orphan Train


Christina Baker Kline

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Orphan Train: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Late on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, Vivian and Molly sit together in the living room. Molly begins describing her school project. She explains the concept of “portaging,” saying that it involves choosing what to leave and what to bring as one moves toward “the place you’re always trying to get to.” Vivian says she has trouble with “metaphors.” Molly decides to explain her necklace, which she has always kept, as an example. Molly sees Vivian reach for her claddagh cross, and asks her if it has special meaning. Vivian says that it does. Molly tells Vivian about the “metaphorical” magic her charm necklace has for her. She then begins her interview by asking Vivian if she “believes in ghosts.” Vivian is startled by her question, but confirms that she does. She tells Molly that ghosts are “the ones who have left us behind.”
Molly’s description of portaging as a journey toward “the place you’re always trying to get to” implies that life’s journey involves an imagined destination one is always trying to reach. In Molly and Vivian’s lives, their journeys have involved the same pursuit of a safe, stable home and a sense of family and belonging – although at this point, Molly still doesn’t realize all of the parallels. In this passage, both Vivian and Molly’s necklaces are shown as symbols they have chosen to keep that represent their connection to their cultural heritage, families, and memories.
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon