What does Vivian mean when she says” I believe in ghosts” in “Orphan Train”?

Updated 21 March, 2023
In the novel "Orphan Train," Vivian Daly says "I believe in ghosts," which may seem like a simple statement, but it has a deeper meaning. Vivian is referring to the lingering impact of past events, which can haunt a person's present and future. Vivian has experienced trauma and loss throughout her life, and those experiences continue to affect her long after they have occurred. By saying she believes in ghosts, Vivian acknowledges that the past is never truly gone and that its presence can be felt in the present.
Detailed answer:

Vivian's statement, "I believe in ghosts," in "Orphan Train," suggests that she has had experiences that she cannot explain and that she feels the presence of the people who have passed away around her. Vivian's belief in ghosts arises when she is having a conversation with her granddaughter, Molly, and is explaining her past. Vivian's experiences in her past, such as the loss of her family and her suffering as an orphan, have left her with a sense of isolation and loss. She believes in the presence of ghosts as a way of feeling connected to her loved ones who have passed away.

As Vivian explains, "When we lose people we love, we should never disturb their resting place...Sometimes they come back to us anyway. In dreams or in waking moments. In our deep sadness or unexplainable joy." (Orphan Train, p. 181). This statement suggests that Vivian believes that the dead can communicate with the living and that they can find ways to comfort the living. This belief in the presence of ghosts is also a way for Vivian to process her past and come to terms with the loss of her family. She believes that her family is still with her in some form, and this provides her with a sense of comfort and connection.

Furthermore, Vivian's belief in ghosts highlights the theme of loss and the search for belonging that is prevalent throughout the novel. Her experiences as an orphan have left her feeling disconnected and alone, and her belief in the presence of ghosts is a way of finding comfort and belonging. Through her conversations with Molly, Vivian is able to share her experiences and find a sense of connection with her family, both living and dead. Her belief in ghosts is not only a way of understanding her past but also a way of connecting with her granddaughter and sharing her story.

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