Orphan Train Quotes

"So many things have gone wrong for her in her seventeen years that she's come to expect it." (Molly Ayer, Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011, p.3-p.4)

Molly has lived a tumultuous life and does not expect anyone to ever give her understanding or help. She has been convicted of trying to steal a book from the public library, which leads to her being sentenced to fifty hours of community service. She has lived through the horror of losing her father in a car accident, her mother's spiral into drug addiction, and being placed into foster care. She is in her twelfth foster home and is about to be put out of the system upon her eighteenth birthday. She has lost her faith in the system and in other people. What she does not know at this point in the novel is that all of her assumptions are about to be proven wrong. Her boyfriend, Jack, accepts her for who she is, which helps her start to view life differently.

"It is our fervent hope that each of you will find a path out of the depravity of your early lives. And with firm guidance and hard work transform into respectable citizens who can pull your weight in society." (Mrs. Scatcherd, New York Central Train, 1929, p. 36)

This quote is from one of the chaperones for the children on the Orphan Train. Vivian is on this train on her way to, what she hopes is, a better life. At this point in her life it has been only a few weeks since the fire that claimed the lives of her family. Her name is still Niamh Power and she is being taken to Minnesota in the hopes of having a family take her in. Mrs. Scatcherd is telling the children the purpose of the Orphan Train. She really believes it is in the best interests of the children to give them to the families awaiting them at the various stops in Minnesota. She also through her little speech, lets the children know that they are considered the underbelly of society and should be grateful for whatever kindness that comes their way. She is sadly mistaken, because for most of the children, instead of becoming members of a loving family, they are used more as servants.

"Let's make a promise," he says. "To find each other." (Dutchy, The Milwaukee Train, 1929, p. 57)

Dutchy and Niamh have bonded in their common plight on the train, they both are afraid of what awaits them. Dutchy feels that he will be no more than a laborer, who will be forced to sleep with the animals. Niamh is hoping for a nice family that will treat her with more kindness than she is experiencing now. Dutchy knows one thing for sure, which is he does not want to lose touch with Niamh. In the end, after they have grown up the two do see each other again and eventually marry.

"No doubt you'll find this old-fashioned and sentimental, but I want you to have it." (Vivian Daly, Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011, p. 85)

Vivian has just given Molly her copy of Anne of Green Gables. This is the copy Miss Larsen gave Vivian upon her moving to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Nielsen. This book held great sentimental value for Vivian, because Miss Larsen was special to her, and it was the first book she actually owned. Molly is emotional about the gift, because she has received so few gifts in her life. She is also charmed and drawn to this elderly woman, whose life story is so similar to her own.

"Molly's been surprised to find that she looks forward to it. Ninety-one years is a long time to live-there's a lot of history in those boxes, and you never know what you'll find." (Molly, Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011, p. 128)

Molly initially thought going through the boxes with Vivian, would have the same fun factor as watching paint dry. She found out she was wrong, Vivian made each and every item come alive as she told the story that accompanied the item. Of course, some of the boxes held things which because of the years needed to be thrown away, but most of the boxes were full of interesting items. Molly began to appreciate the time she spent with Vivian, who no longer seemed as old as she did on that first meeting. Molly is intrigued and drawn into the story of Vivian's life.

"It would mean a lot to us if you would take Vivian's name." (Mr. Nielsen, Hemingford, Minnesota, 1930-1931, p. 197)

Niamh, whose name had been changed to Dorothy by the first family who took her in, is now living with the Nielsens. They are very kind to her and treat her as if she were their own child. They had a child who died when she was young, her name was Vivian. They now ask Dorothy if she would consider changing her name once again, to Vivian. After some thought Dorothy agrees and becomes Vivian. This is the story of how Niamh became Vivian. The Nielsens adopt Vivian and she becomes their legal daughter, even though she can never bring herself to call them mother and father. It is too painful for her, because she had her own parents, so she called them Mr. and Mrs. Nielsen for the rest of her life.

"I want her out," Dina says. (Dina, Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011, p. 208)

Dina, Molly's foster mother, has just found the book Vivian gave Molly. Inside the book is the name Dorothy Power, which was Vivian's name when she received the book. Dina does not believe Molly's explanation of how she was given the book by Vivian. After having an argument with Molly and finding the book, Dina is at the breaking point. She wants Molly out of her house and life as soon as possible. Molly has no desire to stay in the house either, she leaves that same night. It is very reminiscent of how Vivian was put out of the Grote house in the middle of the night. Molly goes to Vivian's house for refuge and finds a home with Vivian. Molly does confess all to Vivian first, this way Vivian does not have any misconceptions about Molly. Molly is stunned to find Vivian forgiving of the deception involving the community service hours, she thought Molly needed them for a school project and not as punishment. These words spoken by Dina start a whole new life for both Molly and Vivian.

"The Secretary of War regrets to inform you that Luke Maynard was killed in action on February 16, 1943." (Vivian, Hemingford, Minnesota, 1943, p.245)

This is the telegram Vivian read informing her of the death of Dutchy. He was serving in the Navy during World War II. For Vivian it was also the day her life story ended. Dutchy, whose name had been changed to Luke by the family which took him in, was killed by an airplane which crashed into the aircraft carrier he was serving on. Vivian felt if anyone became close to her tragedy would befall them. It was because of this feeling, and a desire to protect herself from more pain, that she gave up the child she was carrying at the time of Dutchy's death.

"For the first time since she can remember, her life is beginning to make sense." (Molly, Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011, p. 272)

Molly is sitting with Vivian waiting for the arrival of the woman, who is the child Vivian gave up after Dutchy died. It was Molly who influenced Vivian and had helped her do the work of connecting with her child. Molly now realizes the trials she went through losing her parents and being placed in multiple foster homes led her to this moment of sitting here with Vivian. She also realizes she has a purpose in the world besides being a defiant teenager. She sees how she and Vivian's stories are alike. She also sees how her struggles have led her to Jack, a person of her own age, who accepts her for who she is.

Related Links:

Orphan Train Summary
Orphan Train Quiz
Hemingford, Minnesota, 1940-1943 - Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011 Summary
Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011 - Union Station, Chicago, 1929 Summary
Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011 - Albans, Minnesota, 1929 Summary
Orphan Train Important Characters
Literature Summaries
Homer Facts

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