Orphan Train

Orphan Train

Portaging Symbol Icon

As part of her American history class, Molly Ayer learns about the Wabanaki Indian custom of “portaging.” “Portaging” literally refers to carrying a canoe or boat and all its contents from one body of water to another, and in the book, this usually means carrying everything one owns to get to a new home. Like Molly and Vivian/Niamh, the people of the Wabanaki Confederation (of which the Penobscot Nation was part) had to “carry their homes on their backs” whenever they had to migrate. As Mr. Reed, Molly’s history teacher explains, “portaging” then partly refers to the process of choosing what to take and what to leave behind as one makes the journey forward in life. Within the context of the novel, “portaging” symbolizes the life journeys of Molly and Vivian and the balance they must both toggle between letting go of the past and holding onto important memories and connections.

Portaging Quotes in Orphan Train

The Orphan Train quotes below all refer to the symbol of Portaging. 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

Maybe it’ll be a stretch to find drama in Vivian’s portage – a happy, stable life does not an interesting story make, right? But even the rich have their problems, or so Molly’s heard. It will be her task to extract them.

Related Characters: Molly Ayer, Vivian Daly / Niamh Power / “Dorothy”
Related Symbols: Portaging
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proide

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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“Well,” Molly says, “I think the boat represents what you take with you – the essential things – from place to place. And the water – well, I think it’s the place you’re always trying to get to.”

Related Characters: Molly Ayer (speaker), Vivian Daly / Niamh Power / “Dorothy”
Related Symbols: Portaging
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Portaging Symbol Timeline in Orphan Train

The timeline below shows where the symbol Portaging appears in Orphan Train. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 20: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
...they had to carry only what they needed. The class is assigned a project on “portaging” for which they need to interview an older relative or neighbor about their “literal and... (full context)
Chapter 21: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 26: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
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
...tea (which disappoints Molly) because she’s old and “could drop dead any minute.” As Molly’s “portaging” project has progressed, Vivian has gone from being timid to forthcoming about her past. Vivian... (full context)
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
...more time with Vivian and less time with Jack. She hasn’t told Jack about the portaging project because she’s afraid he’ll think she’s “asking too much” of Vivian. Over lunch, Jack... (full context)
Chapter 33: Spruce Harbor, Maine
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
...She gets out at the stop near Vivian’s and lumbers uphill. She thinks of her portaging project and imagines herself as a Penobscot Indian journeying with all her possessions. She wears... (full context)
Chapter 39: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
...from Mr. Reed, stating that he’s nominating her for a national history prize for her portaging project. Lori tells Molly she’s proud of her. Molly responds by joking that she’s just... (full context)