Orphan Train Response

In the Prologue to ‘Orphan Train’, by Christina Baker Kline, the narrator’s very first words state that:  “I believe in ghosts, They’re the ones who haunt us, the ones who have left us behind. . . . Sometimes these spirits have been more real to me than people, more real than God.”  This passage might be spun in interesting ways and made to tie into both of the classes I am teaching this semester.  For my ‘Myth, Tragedy, and Politics’ class, the words of Vivian (the first-person narrator of the above lines) throughout the novel offer some potent ideas about personal history, memory, writing, the “legends” of the past, and the myth-making we all do to order and understand our lives.  For my ‘Power and Society’ class the harrowing story of the orphan Vivian (who endured her ride on the orphan train in 1929 and the harsh events that followed) and her modern-day counterpart Molly (who has a hard time navigating and tolerating the challenges of the U.S. Social Services) speaks to interesting issues of power, such as the authority of the state, the politics of parenting, the dire state of many orphanages and foster-parent arrangements, and the role of schools in adolescent lives.  Bearing in mind such issues, this Blog post is going to be a little different than what we have done so far this semester.  In this case, I want you to carefully respond to the common reading for Stockton freshman (that being ‘Orphan Train’).  Your response may do one of two things:  1)  Offer some commentary in the wake of the author’s lecture at the Freshman Convocation (on Thursday the 25th ).  Tell us, what did Christina Baker Kline say that really touched a nerve with you?  What did you find interesting about her lecture, and what was invigorating about the entire Freshman Convocation event?  Why?  I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts about this talk!  2)  If you aren’t able to attend the lecture or would rather discuss the book, then I’d like you to do just that.  So, choose a particular moment in the book that brings rise to a particular issue, and tell us how/why it ties in with the topics and themes of your Freshman Seminar.  You might quote from the book itself, and then discuss what the book seems to suggest in your chosen moment about the issue (relative to power, on the one hand, or myths/legends/heroes on the other) – what is Baker Kline saying and doing in your selected moment, and why?  Also, what thoughts do YOU have about the subject – how do YOU respond to the issue based on your own knowledge or experience?

54 thoughts on “Orphan Train Response

  1. In Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline brought to light many issues that have happened with Orphan trains in the past. What she did not touch upon was who the real hero was. It can be argued that Miss Larsen was a hero because she offered Vivian/ Dorothy shelter when everything else was in chaos and turmoil. After Mr. Grotes had sexually assaulted Vivian, Miss Larsen took Vivian under her wing and treated her as her own. Although the man from the Children’s Aid Society came to take Vivian and place her into a new home, he was the villain. I do not think that he should have second guessed Vivian because it was hard enough as it is just talking about a bad incident once. Even though Miss Larsen only helped Vivian temporarily, it changed her entire life as we knew it. My views on this is that although a terrible thing happened in order for Miss Larsen to surface as a hero, it was generally a great aspect. I think heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and there were a lot of heroes in this book.

  2. I see that the story of Orphan Train can be related to that of an Greek Epic. The main hero Vivian a.k.a. Dorthy, goes through her entire childhood as a child of the orphanage system. Although Mollie can also be seen as the hero in the story as well, Kline spends more time telling Vivian story and we see all the details of her life as an orphan. Vivian’s story is very much told like an epic because it followers her journey throughout the events that made her who she is. It started at the beginning with her family in Ireland and how they came to America in hope of starting a better life. It then takes a turn for the worse when all her family, but her youngest sister Massie is killed in a fire. We see her get put on the orphan train and is always moving sometimes even for the sake of her life. She’s taken in by the Brynes, then the Grotes and finally the Nielsons. Throughout the journey we see the moments that really shape who Vivian is. We see her hard working and quick learning characteristics at the Brynes when she is forced to knit clothes. Her story goes straight through to when she is reunited with her a the boy, Han, from the train so many years ago. They get married and life a happy life together running a local store, but he is soon drafted to into the military and is K.I.A. After this Vivian also gives birth to a baby girl, but could not bare to raise her so she’s given away to adoption. A few years later she marries Han’s bestfriend and the her story ends there, until Molly’s story ties in to Vivian’s when she is old. We see that throughout Orphan Train the reader follows Vivian just like a Greek Epic.

  3. At first glance, you might not find much in common between the freshman reading “Orphan Train” and our freshman seminar, Myth,Tragedy and Politics. Especially not now, after sitting in class for the past three weeks learning about ancient mythology and the people who’ve studied it. You can relate this book back to Campbell’s theory of separation, initiation and return, a concept that we discovered to be very common in today’s society. To assume that Campbell’s theory had little to no appearance in “Orphan Train” would be naive. Though it is a subtle relation, one can consider both Vivian and Molly to be heroes of their own stories (because obviously they both have two different sides to tell). However, we see how Vivian’s past intertwines with Molly’s present, point for the most part being that Vivian understands what Molly may or may not be feeling as a foster child. Vivian set off on her “journey” (forced life path) at a young age, with no other choice but to go at it alone: being an orphan. Molly faces the same situation, placed in and out of foster homes her whole life feeling unwanted. During the time spent performing community service hours at the house, Vivian and Molly connect through listening to each other’s life stories. Christina Baker Kline used this time they spent together to form a bond between the two characters.I feel that the relationship between the two characters is that of a symbiotic one. In a way Vivian was someone for Molly to look up to, someone who had been through similar difficulties. Either the realization that Molly wasn’t alone or the fact that Vivian made her feel accepted started to change Molly’s character for the better.

    • Although the novel “Orphan Train”, seems like it cannot connect to our class, there are many elements of myth shown throughout the story. Vivian’s character development is particularly where I’ll draw inspiration from. Vivian held all the qualities of a hero from the start; humble beginnings, loss of family and feeling alone. The audience automatically connects with her because she was handed a rough card in life. On top of that she shows that she’s courageous by not behaving like a child when when she isn’t chosen right away on the orphan trains. Also having to deal with the baby most of the journey, she showed that she was responsible and mature years beyond her age. Vivian becomes an even larger hero because she has qualities that other children do not. The story also depicts Vivian’s monomyth. When she’s adopted by Nielsen family, she has to conform to their beliefs, essentially losing her identity because being Catholic was a part of her family’s history (separation). She departs into the world becoming the typical “American girl”. It isn’t until she meets Duchy again that she returns home because he was a part of her past and reminded her that she wasn’t alone. Duchy understood her story and made it clear to her who she was.

  4. The freshman reading, “Orphan Train,” opens our eyes to many social and political issues that we may not have known. It shows the power of sexism, religion, history, family, etc. One of the main topics of power is the power of religion. When Vivian was meeting the Nielsen’s, they asked her what she can do and if she were Protestant. She told them that she was Catholic because of her Irish background. The Nielsen’s responded with this: “You may be a Catholic, child…but we are Protestant. And we will expect you to go to Lutheran services with us on Sundays.” They force her to convert her religion to what they believed in. The Nielsen’s made religion a big deal, and if she wouldn’t comply she may not have been taken in. Vivian is again faced with the decision to be a homeless orphan or give in to the authority. In this case the authority was the Nielsen’s and their want for her to be Protestant. They use the power they have over her to get Vivian to conform to their religion.

  5. I really enjoyed Orphan Train, it was a very moving book and I enjoyed it through and through. (I loved Duchy and how he became a respected piano player and how they fell in love after the years and I was very sad when he didn’t return from war.) Orphan train can be related to a hero’s journey, her entire life Vivian’s fortune keeps getting worse and worse, she endures a lot of suffering bouncing from house to house, being sexually assaulted, losing loved ones, and inevitably giving up her own child out of fear. She doesn’t want to lose another person she loves. At the end of the novel Molly (another orphan doing community service for Vivian who is at this part of the novel living with her) hunts down her daughter and grand children whom are happy and healthy and organizes a family reunion. In a way Vivian gets a noble or happy ending when finally reuniting with her family.

  6. The story “ The Orphan Train” brings up many topics and themes that can be directly related to our Power and Society class but one I believe that really sticks out is the topic of racism. In the story, as a child, Vivian and her family were hugely discriminated for being Irish and also while she was on the orphan train there was many questions of whether or not she would get adopted because of her Irish background and features. In society, racism is still present and it affects the many aspects of everyday life today. For example, orphans now are still adopted by the preference of their guardians which means there are some forms of racism and prejudices when it comes to picking a child. I believe Baker Kline brought up the theme of racism in her story to express the imperfections of society and how we aren’t perfect.

  7. “Orphan Train”, by Christina Baker Kline has many instances throughout the novel where power comes into play amongst different themes. Vivian, whom has lost her entire family, is forced on to what is called the Orphan Train. On here she will have the opportunity to be selected by a family or otherwise return back to New York. Right off the bat, the women says “You’re not allowed to bring keepsakes with you on the train” (Kline 27). This statement involves Vivian’s cross she received in Ireland. If the Children’s Aid society strips her of this item, they are stripping her of the last object she has of her family. The idea of moving onto a new life should not involve banishing the old. Vivian is at the age where she is old enough to recall particular events. This of course, can relate to present day Molly, who too wears a necklace that was given to her as a gift from her dad. Her dad tragically was in an automobile accident. When child services had to place Molly in the foster system, they were not stripping her of her belongings. Who makes that decision? Why should children in foster care have to give up sentimental items when they have already suffered through so much? Keeping with the topic of the foster care system from past to present, I do not see much of a change. In Vivian’s case and many others traveling on the Orphan Train, families were simply taking the children for their benefit. Dutchy says “The only thing I’m good for his hard labor” (Kline 40). It is sad that is he old enough to be aware of the situation. He knows that a family is not picking him to love and nurture him, but for their own benefit, which sadly in present time is still the case. Many families today decide to be foster families because they will be receiving money from the government for aid. I am against the way the system is set up. These children were not asked to be brought into the world under bad circumstances, but why are we as a society continuing to put them through hell? The odds of these children turning out to become well-behaved citizens of society are not high. Of course, there are cases where people are natural born good citizens and do love these children as their own, but not everyone is. In two out of three families Vivian was placed in the idea of love and nurturing was not present. “I will be honest with you. We do not have any children and I have no interest in being surrogate parents. But if you are respectful and hardworking, you will be treated fairly” (Kline 71). Right off the bat, the Byrne’s have the mindset of having no desires of wanting Vivian as their own, they only need her for labor. Which brings me to the thought of who is allowing this? Social workers exist today and existed then, but their job does not necessarily consist of face to face interaction. Relating to the Panopticon is the idea that the people believe they are always being watched so they will behave. On the other hand, they may never be watched, but are brain washed into believing that they are, so good behavior persists. In the foster care systems, the children are supposed to have regular checkups and like the idea of the Panopticon behave. In some cases, the children may be in such bad homes that they act up in hopes of being moved. Unfortunately, this could give them a bad reputation for other families wanting to take them in. Like in Vivian’s case, Mrs. Bryne swore to the social worker that she was destroying the family. “She eats too much! I have to padlock the refrigerator. It’s never enough” (Kline 109-110). When in reality, Vivian had turned to skin and bones. I think Christina Baker Kline, wanted society to know of this missing piece of history because the system is almost just as screwed up today as it was then. It gives people a wakeup call.

  8. One theme which comes into play with both the novel and class (Power and Society) is family history. Family history deals with power and society because it broadens your knowledge about where you come from, what kind of lives your family had, if they were of royalty or not, and so on. When Vivian recalls the tragic event of the day she lost her family, she gives us readers a little bit of a background story about her life. She tells us about her family members and also the members of her parents’ family. She says her mother had brothers in Europe and how her father’s mom lived in Ireland. I think Baker is trying to tell us in this particular moment that we all come from different backgrounds and stories. I also wonder how different Vivian’s life might have turned out if her grandma, uncles or aunt took her in, though I know it would’ve been nearly close to impossible during that time and age for her to find them. I believe, in the orphan system, they should have ran some type of background check on each one of these kids to see if they had any extended family or at least ask the orphans themselves if they did. If the orphans said yes, they should have taken the time to write a letter to the family and reach out to them instead of just throwing the orphans on a train.

  9. There is one particular issue i would like to bring up. Towards the end of the book we see Vivian is finally happy, but how? Well let me me enlighten you. Vivian gets with her DEAD ex husbands friend! In what right of mind would any person on Earth think this is sane? How would you feel if you had a great relationship with a girl that made you so happy how would you feel that in a heart beat she would just be with another man. Now how does that tie in you ask? In most of these stories we read there is one character that can do whatever they please. Usually it is a man, but in this case its female. In some cases the goddesses are the ones that do what the please, and in this case its Vivian.

  10. The freshman convocation lecture was very interesting to me. First before anything I was very surprised at the great number of turnout of students that attended, I wasn’t expecting that many people. What really touched a nerve with me was when she was discussing the children and showing us actual pictures of the young children performing hard labor. All the children were very sad and looked as if they weren’t going to have a future. The kids that didn’t get to ride the trains also grew up and resorted to violence, gangs, and prostitution. I am also very surprised to find out that not many people know about the orphan trains even though there were so many children that rode them. Also how poorly and badly the young Irish children were treated and they have documented accounts of people discriminating against them. Aside from the book I was surprised with how much research Ms. Baker did with researching this not well known topic and the extent she had to find out things, and that she found out about them through a book of her parents.

  11. Orphan Train can be closely related to Joseph Campbell’s qualifications for a hero; separation, initiation, return. Earlier in the novel we learn of the children who have no families riding the orphan train to be taken by families who want children; no necessarily to be parents to them which we saw in many of Vivian’s different “homes”. Vivian meets a trouble making boy; Dutchy on the train, they take care of a baby boy and learn to stick up for each other and become friends, promising to find each other one day; this I identified as the separation. Vivian then goes through many trials as she travels from house to house. Vivian is put through a lot by the age of ten but she survives it all making her stronger in the end. Vivian goes from being a free worker at a household where there are many other women working as clothing menders Vivian then heads down a scarier road. This road takes Vivian to a house where yet again the woman of the household dislikes her. Vivian takes care of the children and deals with a lice epidemic. Then to Vivian’s misfortune the man of the house gets to liking Vivian too much and ends with her getting kicked out and traveling through the snow to her school. Vivian’s teacher than takes her to her home; a women’s boarding house where this woman of the house finally adores Vivian. Then this woman takes Vivian to a family where she gains the name Vivian, she learns to take care of the store and take care of the couple that took her in. Vivian going to school meets two girls that take her to the city to see a film. The girls then take Vivian to a club inside a hotel. Vivian has an uncomfortable feeling going into the club. This entire journey that Vivian has taken is the initiation. Then the return; Dutchy and Vivian magically reunite in that very hotel and end up together for sometime until he is recruited for war. With all that Vivian has been through, a horrific and fateful and intriguing journey that many of us could probably not deal with but Vivian definitely had an impressionable story that changed my views on life.

  12. The freshman lecture was an eye opener for me. It was quite interesting on how the author elaborated so much on such a basic storyline. She showed us that there were several backstories that tied each character into an actual person. I was amazed on how much time and effort she put into this book. It was strange in a way how the story of the Orphan Train’s just basically found its way into her life. She found a piece of history that no one knew about and she thought it would be best to share this story with everyone. It was even more shocking that members of her family were involved and she had no idea whatsoever. What was most shocking to me is that no one talked about this and thought that it only happened to just the members on a specific train car. But in reality it was happening to thousands of children all over the country. And still no one talked about it. That’s just Mind-Blowing to me. Its also strange that we aren’t taught about these events. Its like these events were torn right out of our history books. I found the author of this book a very interesting speaker and loved what she brought us on the background of her work. It was well done on her part.

  13. I feel that power is shown through the book Orphan Train in many ways. One subject of power that stood out to me is power of the Orphan system and the people that took the orphans in their homes showed very prominent in the book. For example, the orphan system had power by default. The children had ultimately two choices to either live on the street or live in a home and be semi taking care of. The child is going to take the second choice of course, rather than the first because on the street they would have to fend for themselves with the possibility of not eating and something happening to them. The Orphan system also had power, because these children were weak mentally. These children lost their families. At that point in time they are lost mentally, without the guidance of there family. Another point, is the caregivers taking in the children had power because the system checked in to see if they were well, but didn’t really take the time to look into if Vivian was going to school. Was that suppose to be a requirement? Yet, Vivian was sewing dresses for quite a while when she was in one of the homes. Also, when Mr. Grotes felt as though he had the power to sexually assault Vivian; why was he not afraid about the being watched by the Orphan system. I feel as though he knew that Vivian had nowhere to go that he could do that to her. Also, I feel that Mr. Grotes felt as though the system wouldn’t check in well enough so he didn’t worry about those consequences, so he had power in that scenario. I feel that Baker Kline is trying to just show us how life was a long time ago and bring some light to the issues back during that time. I was aware of orphans and child services, but I didn’t realize that there was an Orphan Train, that basically auction off children. I also, believe that the book showed that some off the underlining issues that go on in child care today went on back then.

  14. The beginning of ‘Orphan Train’ fits very well into the model of an Aristotelian tragedy. When Neev comes to the United States from Ireland in search of a better life and for a while it does ameliorate her circumstances. The fire itself is Neev’s reversal, which ruins her circumstances just as they were getting better. The epitome of the tragedy in the scene is when she hears her sister crying since the reader knows that the baby can tell that something is wrong. Aristotle mentions that one possible cause of tragedy is the pain of not knowing which is to say that Neev regrets not being able to tell why the baby was crying. She is then thrown into the world of the orphan train hoping to be picked up by strangers and this particularly reminds me of the story of Oedipus because she is put into the hands of complete strangers. The elements of tragedy here rely on the multiple twists and turns of fate manifesting themselves in the different people that she ends up in the care of. Aristotle would not consider ‘Orphan Train’ a tragedy since the story ends well much in the same way the Odyssey does to Aristotle with the author bending to the audience’s desire for the story to end well. In short, the majority of ‘Orphan Train’ contains elements of tragedy, but there is no reason for Klein to make the story a true tragedy.

  15. In the book, the issue that touched a nerve with me the most was the way that the orphanage and social services basically threw away most of the kids. I understand it was in the days before stringent background checks and well-kept criminal records, but the children were treated as a product, not people. Dutchy was basically sold into slavery at the beginning of the book, and with the way they wanted to keep Vivian with the abusive second family you could tell they wanted nothing to do with the children they accepted responsibility over. It was a complete abuse of the children, and reflected the kind of power social services had. Social services answered to nobody, and since they were the highest power over the children they sought fit to abuse it. One can argue that they simply couldn’t keep care over every single child and that they were overworked and therefore had to do what they could to get the children into homes, but I feel like a more just system that was being regulated and watched as stringently as their charges were would have yielded better results for kids. Power has to be checked and balanced or it will be abused.

  16. Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline, was a very interesting book. The topic most definitely caught my attention. At the Freshman Convocation with the author, she explained the story to us. I felt that it was helpful to hear the authors point of view, rather then to just go along with solely the book’s content. The way she took time to show pictures and really explain it, showed how much time and effort that went into it. This topic is not common knowledge. If it weren’t for this book I probably would not have know about the topic of the orphan train. I found it interesting that she had such passion for such a once lost topic. Her lecture helped this book tie into my Power and Society class as well. The pictures showed could have demonstrated “punopticon”, which is the notion that one is doing the right thing and following rules as if they are being watched, even though they might not have been watched at that time. The fact that there was an overwhelming amount of freshmen at this even showed the great interest in the book itself. Christina also brought up her children and how we today still discriminate against “red heads”. This lecture was very eye opening and really helpful.

  17. Walking into the PAC I was fully prepared to dread the entire convocation. I didn’t particularly like the ending so was not very willing to hear what she had to say. Christina Baker Kline changed my whole view on her book during the two hours spent there. I loved how much background information she had to share with us. Learning even more about the trains and lack of knowledge throughout the country was very intriguing. Specifically, I loved how she explained why she left the ending at such a cliffhanger. She said that while we do not know exactly what happens at the end, she felt the story was complete. Almost as if the characters had gone through all that was possible and overcame it. That is why in the end when Vivian is saying to get started, it was almost like a new beginning. The convocation was one that was definitely beneficial in the further understanding of the novel and the author’s mind during the time of writing. I am anticipating the story of Molly that she mentioned she would be likely to write.

  18. Within the novel Orphan Train and many other works there have been instances where a individual holds the truth or needs help but is shunned due to bias or prejudice. Dorothy had ran away after being sexually assaulted by Mr. Grote she was trying to convince the social worker Mr. Sorenson about her situation, but this is what he had to say in summary, ” My, My, My… Such a long walk in the cold. You must have been very… Might have you perhaps have misconstrued?” (Kline 158). He then dismisses the truth on the basis that she is a immature young girl and has her go back to the Grote’s home. The actions made by Mr. Sorenson are clearly prejudice of age and a similar story to this in myth would be the Boy Who Cried Wolf. In the folktale the boy does lose trust due to his repeated lying but in Dorothy’s case it is an immediate dismissal of the truth. This issue, disbelief based on prejudice, is a large problem not in just many myths, but in the real world as well, whether it is the police not believing a person based on age or race. Within those few pages Kline demonstrates a major issue in society.

  19. Orphan Train as a novel not only chronicles an often forgotten piece of history, but it also addresses cultures and beliefs and how much they contribute to our level of comfort and understanding of the world around us. As discussed in class previously, myths and tragedies can serve as critically important cultural and political pieces. These tales told more than a story; they told a way to live. Though the Greek tales may have some debauchery and war in them, they also demonstrate the importance of piety, of hospitality, of courage, of respect for elders, and more. The novel Orphan Train deals with it through negatives. Vivian is separated from her original identity and values, and ultimately feels astray in the world; a burden rather than an accepted family member as she previously was. Regarding her transition she recalls: “In Kinarva, poor as we were, and unstable, we at least had family nearby, people who knew us. We shared traditions and a way of looking at the world.” She loses her old name (Niamh), she gets told to convert religious denomination, and she’s rejected for wanting to keep behaviors she learned growing up with her family.
    Vivian struggles an incredible amount through her journeys because she loses just about everything she knew, and has practically nothing but memories. I can’t even guess how difficult it must be to pretend you’ve always been a homegrown American in a Roman Catholic household and that you’ve always been an ignored working child, when it was definitely not the case before hand. It also was quite sad when kids were getting passed up at the stations. I picture that as being the last person chosen for a team, or for a group, but multiplied times a hundred because you count on being a part of one of those teams or else you have nothing to go back to. Then, even if you did get picked, would you even be able to contribute like you hoped? Would you be able to live like you belonged again? That is the key issue at the heart of Orphan Train.

  20. In the novel ‘Orphan Train’, by Christina Baker Kline I find it quite easy to relate it to something such as power and society. In the book,Vivian was a child who lost her entire family. Not only was she dealing with this great lost but she had no power over where she went after that. Moving from home to home, she struggled with the idea of being powerless over her “captures” and was forced to do as she was told being deprived of education, religion and even her identity as a whole. she was given three different names over a short time span as she moved around and she also wasn’t allowed to be the Irish girl she once were because at that time most people despised them. The part of the novel that stood out to me the most was Vivian not having any control over who she was and who she was to become was an issue in itself. It showed how society was at the time, nonchalant about the well being of homeless children and harvesting the idea of using them for their own benefit. The society in “Orphan Train” only craved power because of the poverty they were experiencing. Both men and women were powerless at the moment but having power over the homeless children aided them in gaining an upper hand . Honestly this book has touched me in a way because even in our modern times we still face this same cruel reality when it comes to the orphan system. Children are unknowingly placed in horrible homes like the ones Vivian and Molly experienced and behind closed doors in what is meant to be a sanction, children become powerless to the possibility of being thrust into an unsafe environment.

  21. The freshman convention was very worthwhile and intriguing. What caught my attention the most was the passion in her voice; you could definitely tell that this is something dear to her. That’s what really pulled me in; like the more excited and interested she was, the more that I started to become interested. I loved that she knew her topic; inside and out. When she gave more information about the children and their backgrounds, that’s when I started to realize how serious this topic was and that it’s hard to believe that America has just tucked a major event in so many peoples lives away. Like hearing the hardships of the children who did and did not go on the trains. Hearing about their everyday struggles definitely makes me rethink all the little stuff that I complain about. Also when you realized that children who were orphans had it rough even if they weren’t on the trains; their options were few and the options they were given are viewed negatively in today’s society. This blows my mind when you actually think about what happened and how it impacted all those children; something that needs to be known just for healing of those who suffered. But unfortunately all it will ever be is just one of America’s secrets.

  22. In Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train, Kline touches on how Molly relates to Vivian due to their past experiences. Vivian has been through everything that Molly is going through at that point in time. Molly’s experiences can relate to Zeus and his father. Zeus had to unite with his siblings to over take his father Kronos to live a better life. The same as Molly having to move on with her family to live a better life. Molly had to decide to stay with a step-mother who hated her, or live with Vivian; the clear choice for her was to live with Vivian. The same as Zeus, having to decide to be over taken by his father, or kill his father to lead. Personally that is one of the only connections I can find to Kline’s novel and the Greek gods.

  23. The Freshman Convocation was very interesting. I had no idea that Mrs. Kline had done such thorough amounts of research in the making of her book. A point that really hit home for me was the fact that I had no idea that “orphan trains” ever even existed in American history until this summer. An even sadder point for me was that there are little to no survivors of these trains anymore. It’s very sad how we try and repress these important events in our history. Even though these horrible events are an unfortunate part of our nation’s history, they are still significant nonetheless. We can never learn to grow as a country if we just ignore our previous mistakes. I’m glad that Mrs. Kline did her research and was able to uncover this forgotten moment of American history so that we can all have more light shed on these past events and try and grow stronger because of them.

  24. (Class #2: Myth…)
    Since I could not attend the event, I went online and found an interview.

    (Can be accessed here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/loren-kleinman/interview-with-christina-_b_5175099.html Hope the link works).

    In this interview, Kline says, “In Orphan Train, I wanted to write about how traumatic events beyond our control can shape and define our lives……Perhaps the main message of my novel is that shame and secrecy can keep us from becoming our full selves. It’s not until we speak up that we can move past the pain and step forward. And yes — you can learn to love and live again.”

    When I read this, I was struck by the fact of how utterly true that was. People that keep the pain inside and people that do not even try to overcome any obstacles will not be able to move on with their lives. They will be stuck in the past and be considered as victims forever. This can relate to our class in the form of tragedy. Both Vivian and Molly have had tragic things happen to them in the past, but they over came the struggles. Many of our readings were about heroes going through hard, life changing events that caused them great misery. There was lots of death as well, which contributed with the tragedy topic.

  25. At first I had no idea how I would relate the ideas of The Orphan Train to the topics we have discussed in Mythology. Christina Kline’s Orphan Train talks about the rough life the orphans had to go through and the storytelling of Mollie and Vivian’s experiences through orphanage. While they both had similar experiences that they could both relate to, they were also heroic in a way. Joseph Campbell’s “monomyth” suggests that a hero goes through separation, initiation and return. This theory can be related to the book because Vivian has gone through these steps. She meets a boy named Dutchy in the train on her way to one of the stops, and they promise each other that they will once again find one another later on in life. They are seperated, and she goes on her journey that includes many foster families and labor and depression. Vivian’s life was never easy as she was thrown around family after family, never feeling accepted. She later returns and finds Dutchy, who then goes to the military and doesn’t return. But most importantly, she returns as a woman. A wonderful woman who can now relate and help this girl Mollie who is in need of help to get her life together after being such a problematic child. Mollie has obviously gone through a great change of heart after helping Vivian clean her house and learning about how similar their lives have been through endless hours of conversation she thought she would despise. Mollie might not be aware of it, but Vivian was a great hero in her life.

  26. The Convocation with Christina Baker Kline was an amazing experience. She told us the story of her husband’s grandfather, who as a child traveled on an Orphan Train with one of his brothers and his three sisters. His one brother who was only eight years old was sent to The Home for the Feeble-Minded but no one in the family ever talked about it so it went unknown for many years. Mrs. Kline believes that he may have had Down Syndrome and that is why he never made it onto the train. Any child that was considered different was left behind. She told the story about a person that she interviewed who had crossed eyes; the Orphan Train nearly left them behind because they did not believe a child with crossed eyes would be desirable. She also went on to talk about how babies and young males were the most desirable but they did not accept any child with red hair or freckles (a “tell-tale” sign that they were of Irish decent). I love learning about these types of things so the Convocation was an awesome experience for me.
    I was also able to get my book signed by her at the end, which I added to my collection of signed books.

  27. One particular issue that was important to the novel and was also a theme in many myths is that a story must come full circle. Where a story begins and where it must end. This point was illustrated in ancient Greek culture in the epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey. Both of those poems show Odysseus’ journey from his home in Ithaca to Troy and then trying to get back to Ithaca again. The theme of coming full circle is also a point in the Orphan Train. Christina Baker Kline spends a lot of time describing the Claddagh necklace that Vivian’s biological grandmother gave her before Vivian left Ireland and the full circle they have made together. “– those tiny hands clasping a crowned heart: love, loyalty, friendship– a never-ending path that leads away from home and circles back. What a journey Vivian and this necklace have taken, Molly thinks: from a cobblestoned village on the coast of Ireland to a tenement in New York to a train filled with children, steaming westward through farmland, to a lifetime in Minnesota. And now to this moment, nearly a hundred years after it began, on the porch of an old house in Maine.” (p. 273). This idea that everything that begins must come to an end is applied to almost everyone and everything, and in between that beginning and ending we make a journey away and then a journey back.

  28. The part of the lecture that really touched a nerve with me was when Kline was talking about some of the train riders questioning their entire life. Kline interviewed one of the survivors who said she still questioned things at night. She wondered what would her life be like if she was never adopted. Would she still be living at home? Would she be as happy as she is now? She also feels as if even though she’s known her adopted family for most of her life, it still doesn’t feel right. It all make me question whether or not my mom has these same thoughts. My mom was adopted when she was a baby and doesn’t know any of her family members. All she knows is that she was born in California. If this woman still had these thoughts into her nineties, it must mean that my mom still wonders what her life would’ve been like if she was never put up for adoption.

  29. I was able to attend Christine Baker Kline’s lecture this evening, and it was really interesting to see her in person. The fact that so many people are unaware about what an orphan train actually is and all the events that went on in the past is shocking. This information, this history, is vital to our background as Americans and these people that went through all these hardships should be given more recognition than they are. That may possibly be the main reason why she wanted to write a novel about this subject; to raise awareness of the topic. I thought Kline’s story was extremely touching, from the emotions that arose from viewing the pictures to the story about Pat, everything she said to say was informative and intriguing. The thing that was the most invigorating was the fact that I saw the author in person. That is something that seldom happens after reading a novel, the author is usually just a name, and thats it, and the story is told by a protagonist. However, being able to visually connect with the author, especially on a personal level, is an experience I only wish to have with every book.

  30. Thinking of how I could relate Christina Baker Kline’s novel, Orphan Train, to our freshman seminar, Myth, Tragedy, and Politics, seemed like an extremely hard task, however when you look closer, there is one big similarity that sticks out; tragedy. Both the novel and our seminar cover different types of tragedies, one being more tragic than the other, which is the topic of orphans in Orphan Train. Orphan train does a great job in bringing up what it is like to grow up as an orphan and the constant struggles that one faces, which is present in main characters Molly and Vivian. When the two first start talking to each other and begin to relate just how similar their lives are even though they grew up in different times, you can see how serious and emotional their challenges really were. Because of Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train, so much awareness has been raised for the ongoing issue of orphans and orphanages and I am glad to say that I was apart of it.

  31. One of the main things I took away from the Orphan Train Convocation was her reasoning for the why she wrote the book and how she made certain characters. She said she was strongly inspired to write the book from hearing her husbands lineage and how his grandfather was aboard an orphan train. Although she changed aspects of it like the fact that the Orphan Train is so closely tied to a real life event gives it a stronger feeling. It was obvious that the trains were real but for the events that happened in the book to be real too gave it a stronger feeling of meaning in the story. I also liked her reasons behind the specifics of Vivian’s life and how those things were greatly impact full of her experiences aboard the train. Christina Baker said that she chose for Vivian to be Irish because of how intensely discriminated they were during this time periods. Another detail was simply Vivian’s hair color which was red and how this was also a major factor in her not being adopted because of the stigma since people thought red heads had no sole. With also the challenge of being a girl aboard the train I feel like Baker tried to set up a scenario in which we could see the possible worst case aboard the train.

  32. The words that Vivian says at the beginning of the book really say something to how haunted she is by her past. The ghosts of her past can come back and haunt her; she can still see the ones she lost in her past. Her family, Dutchy, and her husband are a few of her loved ones that may come back for her to see. I don’t think they are there for a bad reason though. They are there to remind her of even though she had a hard past she still ultimately succeeded in her life. No matter how often that the odds are stacked against her she made it. From her house burning down, her family dying, all the adoptions, and Dutchy dying, she still made it. And she is reminded every day because of the voices of her past. She took what god gave her and made it into the best she could. She truly is a hero in the story. She lost her family and was tested with so many bad families but she ultimately found a new family that was perfect for her. That basically explains how she followed Campbell’s traits of a hero.

  33. When I first started thinking about the assignment of relating The Orphan train to power and society I wasn’t sure on how well they would relate. After thinking about it I realized there are many common themes. The one I thought stood out was sexism. While Niamh and Duchy were on the train they were talking about what is going to happen to them when they found a family. Duchy said “You’re a girl. You might be all right, baking pies in the kitchen or taking care of a baby. Not me. I am too old to be taught manners, the only thing I am good for is hard labor. (Kline 40)” Women were thought to be only good for cooking, cleaning, sewing and taking care of babies just as men were thought of as laborers or providers. These stereotypes were used often when people were deciding on which orphan to adopt. People either wanted a baby to raise as their own, a hardworking boy to work the farms or a girl who could mend clothes, cook and take care of younger children. Throughout this novel the idea of women only being good for house hold things comes up a lot. In many of the houses Niamh was in only wanted her for her ability to either sew or take care of a house. The one families sole reason for adopting her was to work as a seam stress, they had no intention on providing a real family for her which they even admitted to as soon as the met her. Sexism is even shown in the readings from class. In all of the stories the males are the rulers and then the females are just supporting them. In Oedipus at Colonus Antigone was suck provide for her father when he brothers got to rule the land. This concept of sexism is something that has always been a fight to stop. Women and men should not have to be stuck in a box of stereotypical things that are expected from them.

  34. In the Orphan Train, when Mr. Groat molests Vivienne, this relates to major issues in society. Both young girls and boys unfortunately have their childhoods ruined far earlier then they should be because of having to go through experiences like this. It’s a major issue that spans time for centuries. Even in mythology, rape and molestation still come into play. Just look at Zeus and Demeter. The only reason she married him is BECAUSE he raped her. It’s a sad and unfortunate reality that real people go through every day.

  35. Even though I was unable to attend the Freshman Convocation lecture I feel that I remember some stuff from the book well enough. I remember that there were an inordinate amount of themes through out the book. One of the main themes is abuse of power and it is extremely rampant in the book. That just leaves you to question how much worse it was actually back In that time. One such case of that power abuse is in the Byrne household. They abuse this power by making her work with no pay and very little food. Mrs. Byrne several times in the story also says that she would like Dorothy/Niamh/Vivian to get rid of her claddagh because she thinks it is offensive and sacrilegious. She says this because she is protestant and Dorothy/Niamh/Vivian is catholic. These cases are sad but no matter what the kids did they were powerless and could do nothing except ride it out or hope an adult noticed. That is how many of these “foster” parents were able to get so many kids to work for them as toned down slaves. In my opinion that is one of the most important themes in Orphan Train

  36. In the book Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline there are many events which happen that can be related back to our myth, tragedy, and politics class. Throughout the book you can relate similar concepts found in Orphan Train with some of the Greek mythology stories we’ve been reading. Similar concepts found are the ideas of power, and struggle. As you can see in most myths there is one main character who always goes through a bunch of obstacles to end up a hero, or as a success in the end. Both myths and Orphan Train are similar because they both contain a climax which changes the outcome of the story. You can relate this same concept to Orphan Train as well. Molly has had a lot of trouble throughout her life, but when she meets Vivian (climax), that all changes. Molly learns who she actually is and where she’s came from. In the end she can finally feel happy. This is how myths and Orphan Train are similar, for they both follow the same format of a storyline.

  37. I attended the Freshman Convocation, and I can honestly say that I was much more interested than i thought i would be. Christina Baker Kline talked about her book and gave much more information on the background of the story. Reading her “Orphan Train” novel, I understood that the situations were very rough on the orphans riding these trains. But sitting in on the lecture, I now have a whole new understanding of it. When she showed us the pictures of the kids in the streets of New York, and all of them sleeping in random spots, that really had an effect on me. It was just crazy to see how those kids just had to deal with those poor, filthy conditions of life. Another thing that was very interesting and that caught my attention was the picture of the little girl holding the baby. Christina said that that little girl was actually taking care of that little baby, much like how Niamph was in the novel. I could never imagine someone so young to be taking care of another life. But it just was what had to be done in that circumstance.

  38. During the lecture of the author of Orphan Train, a couple of things she said really hit home for me. But one in particular was that she had said that the people that had actually been on the orphan trains moved around so much when they were young that once they had control of their own lives, they almost never left the place they settled down in. Sometimes, she said, they didn’t even leave the town, let alone the state. She pointed out that she didn’t want the book or the readers’ response to the book to be sentimental, but that really got me thinking. These people, though they probably were better off going on the orphan trains and living with new families, were so lost to themselves. I almost feel like they were cheated of something in life even though they were all given a second chance, mostly because the second chance could be just as grim as the first. The idea of these people growing old and not wanting to leave because they actually WANT to stay in one place after being pushed and thrown every direction as children made me form a sentimental angle I know I wasn’t supposed to. Mostly, because I’d hate to live out the rest of my life in one place, thinking that I’d done enough and gone to enough places. I know it’s all just wishful thinking, wondering what would have happened to these people if they’re families hadn’t fallen apart or their loved ones hadn’t died, but I can’t help it.
    I’m very appreciative for the amount of research the author went into to develop such a great story that not only brings awareness to the seemingly “lost” orphan train stories, but also awakens a feeling of thankfulness for not having to go through the same thing here in America today.

  39. Christina Baker Kline said that many people who rode on the orphan trains or were descendants of riders did not want to share their experiences and stories about being on the orphan trains. I found this to be interesting because it sheds a lot of light on how our country used to work. Now in the 21st century, talking about things and opening up in therapy is recommended for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you have experienced something traumatic; everything can be discussed in therapy. For something so big and crucial in the development of America, and for none of us to know or have heard about orphan trains is something to be noticed. These experiences shouldn’t have been shameful to share. It’s heartbreaking to know that these poor children, who endured so many terrible situations, then had to hold all of their feelings inside. For Vivian, in “Orphan Train,” she had never shared her story. She was only comfortable opening up to Dutchy, until she met Molly years later. For Molly, it seemed as if she was reserved around everyone except for Vivian. Even to her boyfriend Jack, Molly could never fully be herself. I think the part about communication is severely under appreciated in the novel, but it actually holds a lot of importance.

  40. Orphan Train is a story of two different people from similar backgrounds. Molly and Vivian both come with different baggage, but end up benefiting from each other in the end. Although this book does not really tie into what we’re learning in Myth, Tragedy, and Politics, there are a few connection one can make. Like I said above, Vivian and Molly come from two different worlds, two totally different time periods, and both end up for the better. One can relate this back to the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Enkidu comes into Gilgamesh’s life and changes him for the better, being that he set an example/ had a positive influence on him. Gilgamesh was a smart man, but he made stupid decisions. Enkidu changes him into a more reasonable man. Although the connection is scarce, one can relate this beneficial relationship to Molly and Vivian. Vivian has been through what Molly is facing and understands where she comes from. I think that the author met a perfect medium when tying these two very different, but very similar lives together.

  41. I really enjoyed reading Orphan Train this summer and when I found out that the author,Christina Baker Kline, was coming to talk to us about the book I was excited. Before reading this book I had no idea that orphan trains had even existed and I was really curious as to find out how Kline had discovered such an interesting part of our country’s history. During the Freshman Convocation today she told us the story of when she first discovered about orphan trains. She told us about being at her mother-in-laws house and finding the article about them in an old book that was never opened before on a bookshelf. What I found really interesting was that she also found out that her mother-in-laws father was featured in the article for being a rider of the orphan train. She never knew about this until that day when she just so happened to open that book and come across that article. Had that not had happened she probably never would have had the passion to write about orphan trains. I also found it really interesting to learn where she got her inspiration from for the characters in her book and the process and research she went through to creating the book. It was a pleasant experience being able to go to the lecture and learn what was going through Kline’s head and learning how Orphan Train came to be. I enjoyed going to the Freshman Convocation and am glad that they made that experience available to us.

  42. I am using this blog post to point out the parallel between Orphan Train and the subjects covered in our seminars. I personally will be discussing the idea of the hero monomyth described by Joseph Campbell. I will be using this angle to discuss the story because I find it so fascinating how the monomyth idea works with almost every story, whether intentional or unintentional. I think the best fit of this model is Molly Ayer, the protagonist of the story. The separation I feel is a separation from a comfortable, family setting. This is obviously when she is abandoned by her mother and winds up on the orphan train. All of the events that follow while on the train are combined into her initiation. Finally, her return to the family setting is when she, in the end, goes home with Vivian. Though it is not her blood family, I think the transition from family, alone, to pseudo-family perfectly represents the cycle of the hero given by Campbell. Though its somewhat of a stretch, this is only the connection I can personally think of when trying to connect Orphan Train to the subject matter covered in our seminars thus far.

  43. One thing that Christina Baker Kline said during the convocation that touched a nerve with me was when she was talking about the woman that Vivian’s character resembled even though Christina had never met her, and when Christina was on her way to finally meet her in person, the woman had passed away that same day. One thing this woman had told Christina in an interview was that she had never felt that the family who adopted her and the people she grew up around were her people. During the whole convocation I found it interesting that Christina’s husband’s grandfather and family members were once on an Orphan Train, and no one ever knew until recent years. Another thing i found interesting about the convocation was when Christina was telling us how many families and the children themselves were ashamed to tell other people about where they came from and were reluctant to speak of the trains at all. I am glad that I went to the convocation and got to hear Christina Baker Kine speak about her motives and reasoning and research she did to write the novel “Orphan Train”

  44. The freshman convocation Orphan Train and Joseph Campbell theory of the hero can both be related to our class. Orphan train can be related to the heros separation, initiation, and return. In the beginning Nimah is separated from her family not only when they move from Ireland but when they are killed in a fire at their apartment and is sent to live in an Orphanage. initiation can be considered the various families that she spends her time with such as the groates where she learns about despair and human nature. The heroes return can be considered when niamah is finally reunited with dutchy or when Vivian finally reunites with her daughter after all those years thanks to molly can be related as the heros return. orphan train and things that we have learned in our class can both be applied to anything such as things like joseph Campbells theory of the hero.

  45. From the very first moments of Vivian’s tale we see one of the most famous myths in history, the American Dream. Immigrants from all over the continent of Europe migrated to the famed “promised land”, in hope of a better life for themselves and their families. But what they would soon find out was that the land that had streets paved with gold, and money growing on trees was not what it was hyped up to be. It was a difficult place to start a new life. Just as Vivian’s family initially struggles to keep their apartment, and have enough money to support everyone. The American Dream is what drove many people, including Vivian’s family to migrate to the United States. This myth of the American Dream clouded the judgement of most immigrant. The myth captivated their beliefs, and as a result changed their way of life by arriving in the United States. In this sense you can see how myth directly related to the origins of Vivian’s story.

  46. In the book “Orphan Train,” the book follows two young girls (at different times) through their journey on the Orphan Train. Molly is a teenager who must help an older woman named Vivian during her summer. In this story, myth is prominent because of the culture that the two girls are from. They are Native American of some sort, and were sent on a long journey to different places in order to find homes. In the book, the young woman Molly has a tattoo of a turtle on her hip. The turtle is symbolic to her, and her culture. When Molly is asked what the turtle means, she says, “Turtles carry their homes on their backs, They’re exposed and hidden at the same time. They’re a symbol of strength and perseverance.” Yes, this turtle is a symbol, but it can also represent a myth that was once told in the culture the Molly and Vivian share. Myth and legend are everywhere, and most of them we can even make up ourselves. In “Orphan Train,” the myths and symbols were mostly cultural. They represented a group of people who were both similar and different, and two characters with more commonality. Symbols can represent myth in and of itself, and this is a big parallel between this novel and our seminar this semester.

  47. Although I was not able to attend the lecture by Christine Baker Kline, I am very familiar with the book. Vivian’s Claddagh cross is mentioned multiple times throughout the novel, “And though I rarely take the claddagh off, as I get older I can’t escape the realization that the only remaining part of my blood family comes from a woman who pushed her only son and his family out to sea in a boat, knowing full well she’d probably never see them again,”(Page 199). The symbolism for the cross serves as a connection to Vivian’s birth family. Just as the importance of this symbol, along with the others throughout the book, Christina Baker Kline uses them to weave together the development of the characters of the past and the present. Moreover, through symbolism in Greek mythology, we can clearly see the same development from the past and future. What each and every God and Goddess represent are a symbol of the development of mankind. For example, Zeus is looked upon as the “Father of Gods and men” who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus. Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, and sexuality. Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, medicine, healing and plague, music, poetry, arts, and much more. These are all symbols of change throughout mythology.

  48. The novel, Orphan Train, peruses the lives of fictional characters, with very real and relatable pasts. A major point in the story is when Molly finally discovers the difficult endeavors of Vivian’s childhood (now 91 years old). Vivian went through different families as an orphaned child and was tested with many trials and tribulations that she had kept a secret the remaining of her life. Overall, her bravery is notable and makes her almost heroic. I think Vivian’s past and her effort not to let it get to her could allow her to be described as a modern day hero. She overcame a lot of different abuses both mental and physical starting at a very young age. Even though she felt alone like most of the orphans would have, she grew up to save herself. Almost like an epic hero, Vivian did not give up when times were rough. Although she might have not actually physically done something heroic, her will and perseverance despite a troubled childhood give her heroic qualities; qualities that people can look up to.

  49. Even though I was not able to attend the freshman lecture I remember a lot about the book. There were plenty of themes and a lot of them tied in to power. One of the themes that stood out to me was culture. I know that is a very open topic, but by this I mean in the book you had a very young Irish Catholic called Niamh. She had two options and they were to go on the train or stay on the streets and die. When Niamh is at the first home they want to Americanized Niamh into an American. They want her to change her name to Dorothy and heritage, so she fits in better with everyone around her. Niamh does not have a say and looses the only thing that makes her who she is. Soon you find out that she looses her accent. This part of the books relates all to power because it was being abused by most of the adults throughout this book. Niamh is a very young girl and she is afraid that if she does anything bad she will be kicked out of the house and be sent somewhere else. She is scared and there are not many adults who believe children when something went wrong, so the children have to suck it up. Niamh survived, but that does not mean she was not hurt. Sometimes too much power is not good for anyone. I liked the book and the historical context of the book. I realized that the foster care system today is not much different then it was back then. Children never know where they will end up and there will always be bad people.

  50. Unfortunately, I did not get to attend the Convocation with the author of Orphan Train. However, many ideas and topics strewn throughout Christina Baker Klien’s novel, Orphan Train, directly relate to the topics discussed in Myth, Tragedy, and Politics. There is one major theme that struck me as relating directly to this course: Tragedy. Tragedies will be a huge part of our in-class discussions and our course work once we delve into Shakespeare and even now in Greek epics and mythology. In the novel, many tragedies occur to the main characters Vivian and Molly. In mythology, many tragedies occur that involve Gods and monsters. In relation to Orphan Train , many of the tragedies involve people who Molly and Vivian would consider as monsters, like Mr.. Grotes, who sexually assaulted Vivian when she was a child. Another tragic aspect of the novel is the idea of being an orphan. Both main characters struggled -and are struggling- with the conflicts of finding themselves and learning to trust others. Most mythological stories are stories where a person takes a journey and learns something about themselves. I thought the novel Orphan Train was beautifully written and can definitely be used in relation to this class.

  51. To me,Orphan train greatly follows Joseph Campbells theory of the monomyth. Both Molly and Vivian experience the hero’s journey throughout the story. Molly begins her journey by leaving home to help Vivian clean up the attic; she doesn’t expect an experience that will change her life forever to come out of this community service. She moves into the initiation stage, becoming the hero, when she finds Vivian’s sister and daughter and decides to tell Vivian. She finishes her journey with the return home which is a little altered for Molly. I consider her return as realizing that Vivian’s home is where she belongs. Vivian’s journey is a bit different than Molly’s, she begins her journey on the Orphan Train, heading out west to find a home. I think Vivian becomes the hero early on in her journey when she first protects and looks after the baby on the train. She continues her heroic acts by putting up with Mrs. Byrne’s cruelty and Mr.Grotes abuse. My first thought was that the end of her journey was when she found a home with the Nielsen’s but i soon realized Vivian’s journey didn’t end until she found Molly and her daughter returned to her.

  52. Christina Baker Cline’s Orphan Train is a novel that is riddled with themes of the relationship between those with power and those who are subject to it. Two examples of the power relationship are broadcasted in this novel, the past and the present. The past was a no win situation in which those who are placed into the system have no choice but to obey the commands of those superior to them. This not only includes things such as embarking on the Orphan Trains themselves, but also that they accept the Catholic Faith and behave as members of the faith would and should. They are then forced to accept and assimilate into the lifestyle of whatever family chooses to take them in. The alternatives to following this power structure are bleak, and include fending for yourself on the streets, or giving up on a family and being readmitted into the orphan system.
    The novel also focuses on the present orphan system and its power relation to those who are involved in it. In this system, options are still bleak when it comes to avoiding the system, but there are options. Within the system, more attention is paid to the orphan and ensuring that they end up somewhere that they will be treated correctly.
    In short, the power structure of the Orphan System in the past resembles most the Oligarchy and the Orphan System of the present resembles a democracy.

  53. The Orphan Train was a great book. The author incorporated history in a way where it was easy to understand how the children, mostly Vivian, felt. The power system in this book is a good example of how some things work in society. The children where given two choices: live on the streets or join the others on the train and get shipped out into the country. The children where subjected to those who had power over them, whether it be the adults on the train or the families they where forced to join.

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