Orphan Train

Orphan Train


Christina Baker Kline

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on Orphan Train makes teaching easy.

Orphan Train: Chapter 29 Summary & Analysis

Mr. Sorenson, Miss Larsen, and Mrs. Murphy are present when the Nielsens arrive a few days later. After some polite conversation, Mr. Sorenson prompts “Dorothy” to describe what she will “bring” to them. The truth is she just wants a safe home and her basic needs met; but she responds by listing her skills. The Nielsens ask about her work ethic and religion. Mrs. Murphy and Miss Larsen vouch for her character and intelligence. She agrees to attend the Lutheran church with them every Sunday. They promise to pay her for working at their store and to send her to a nearby school. Niamh senses that they are good people, but feels no “connection.” She feels that they have no interest in her story, but rather see “the need [she] might fill in their lives.” Miss Larsen hugs Niamh goodbye, giving her her personal copy of Anne of Green Gables to keep.
Mr. Sorenson’s instructions for Niamh to describe what she will “bring” to the Nielsens’ home is a question that would better fit a job interview. This highlights the reality that unlike most children, Niamh is held responsible for making adults want her. The questions the Nielsens ask then revolve around how well her character and habits will fit into their lifestyle and expectations. This supports Niamh’s sense that they aren’t interested in her personal story so much as they are in her ability to fit their needs. Niamh’s identity – her real name, her religious identity and her past – must all be left behind. Here we also see the emotional value of this copy of Anne of Green Gables, which Vivian then passes on to Molly.
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon