The character of Viola Nielsen in Orphan Train from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes
Orphan Train

Orphan Train

Viola Nielson is Vivian/Niamh’s third and only legal adoptive mother. She is descended from Swedish Romani who migrated to the United States. She and her husband, Mr. Nielsen, run a successful general store in the town of Hemingford, Minnesota. They had a biological daughter, Vivian Nielsen, who died as a child from diphtheria. Mr. and Mrs. Nielsen ultimately ask “Dorothy” to take on the name of their late daughter, Vivian. Mrs. Nielsen is kind and provides well for Vivian/Niamh’s needs, but she and Vivian/Niamh never become deeply emotionally connected.

Viola Nielsen Quotes in Orphan Train

The Orphan Train quotes below are all either spoken by Viola Nielsen or refer to Viola Nielsen. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the William Morrow edition of Orphan Train published in 2013.
Chapter 1 Quotes

They don’t seem eager to learn about me, but then again, few people are. I get the sense that my abandonment, and the circumstances that brought me to them, matter little to them, compared to the need I might fill in their lives.

Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:
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Viola Nielsen Character Timeline in Orphan Train

The timeline below shows where the character Viola Nielsen appears in Orphan Train. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 30: Hemingford, Minnesota, 1930-1931
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
...and well maintained. To Niamh, it seems luxurious. Niamh has her own bedroom and bathroom. Mrs. Nielsen observes Niamh’s eating habits and buys things she likes. They attend church every Sunday, and... (full context)
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
As Christmas approaches, Niamh helps to decorate at the store. While she and Mrs. Nielsen prepare the display trees, Mrs. Nielsen tells her about her life. She is Swedish, and... (full context)
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
...described them as a poor family with four children and a baby just born prematurely. Mrs. Nielsen tells Niamh they will prepare a basket for them. Niamh knows Mrs. Nielsen doesn’t know... (full context)
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Every other week, Niamh joins Mrs. Nielsen in a women’s quilting circle. Surrounded by women, Niamh feels “at ease.” Mrs. Nielsen begins... (full context)
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
One evening, Mr. Nielsen and Mrs. Nielsen tell Niamh that they have come to see her as their daughter, and they hope... (full context)
Chapter 31: Hemingford, Minnesota, 1935-1939
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
...of cigarettes in her purse. She can tell as soon as she gets home that Mrs. Nielsen is upset. Vivian explains that she only wanted to “try” them, but as punishment, the... (full context)
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
...Vivian feels no envy for what she considers a “future of washing some man’s clothes.” Mrs. Nielsen tells her she has plenty of “time.” (full context)
Chapter 34: Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1939
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
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Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
...and Emily invite her on a trip to Minneapolis to see The Wizard of Oz. Mrs. Nielsen encourages Vivian to go, because she worries that Vivian spends too much time working and... (full context)
Chapter 36: Hemingford, Minnesota, 1940-1943
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
...are alone. He calls her “Viv” because he thinks it sounds like “Niamh.” Contrary to Mrs. Nielsen ’s fears, Dutchy encourages Vivian to continue her studies and her job at the store.... (full context)
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Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
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...cross. While he is in training in San Diego, Vivian discovers she is pregnant. Despite Mrs. Nielsen ’s concern for her health, Vivian continues to busy herself with work and volunteering to... (full context)
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Self and Identity Theme Icon
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Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
...baby.” As the months go by, Vivian stays busy with her work at the store. Mrs. Nielsen , Mrs. Murphy, Lillian, and Emily keep her company with movies and tea. She gets... (full context)
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Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
One night, Vivian goes into labor, and Mrs. Nielsen takes her to the hospital. During her difficult delivery, Vivian finally weeps for Dutchy. She... (full context)