Jack picks Molly up from Vivian’s house. When he asks her how the interview went, she expresses reservations about whether the attic project will ultimately work out. Jack encourages her to remain hopeful and try her best. Molly reflects that she often “counters” Jack’s enthusiasm with pessimism and sarcasm. Yet, underneath her performance, she relies on Jack to keep convincing her that she’s a good person. Molly jokes about just going to “juvie” instead, but Jack takes her seriously, reminding her that juvie will give her “a record.”
Despite Vivian’s interest and kindness, Molly remains skeptical. Her reservations and sarcasm appear to be defense mechanisms to help prevent disappointment. This scene shows how much Molly has internalized her past suffering as a reflection of her value and self-worth. It also reveals the extent of her self-awareness; she knows how she depends on Jack to maintain her self-esteem and keep her on track.
At home that night, Dina serves hamburger helper, “refusing to acknowledge” that Molly is vegetarian. Dina is staunchly Republican, which “wouldn’t be a problem” if she didn’t ridicule Molly for her liberal politics. In Molly’s view, Dina associates Molly’s every action and mistake with her liberal views. Molly knows Dina and Ralph got together in a “predictable football player-cheerleader story arc,” but she suspects that Ralph disagrees with Dina’s opinions. Molly knows things could be worse. She recalls previous experiences with strange, neglectful, and physically abusive foster parents. One foster family allowed a close adult friend to give Molly a tattoo, which Molly got in exchange for sex. As she thanks Dina for dinner, Molly knows that her thanks are mostly sincere. Nevertheless, despite her gratitude for food and a safe home, she feels Dina has no right to expect Molly to forego her opinions, values, and identity in order to appease her.
Dina’s insistence on serving Molly meat, even though she is a vegetarian, represents a denial of Molly’s agency and right to define herself and her own values. Molly doesn’t mind that Dina has different political views, but rather, she feels oppressed by the silencing nature of Dina’s unreasonable expectations. Because of the unstable nature of foster care, Molly knows that she must be careful to please Dina in order to keep her place. Molly’s past experiences with foster families show how vulnerable displaced children often are to abuse and exploitation. While Molly feels and expresses gratitude, she knows within herself that she doesn’t owe Dina her agency or autonomy.