The Girl on the Train

by

Paula Hawkins

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The Girl on the Train: Rachel: Eight Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tuesday, July 23, 2013. As soon as Rachel wakes up, she opens up her laptop to read the news. She is disappointed when there are no new articles about Megan’s disappearance or about Kamal Abdic. Rachel knows from yesterday’s news that there has been “evidence” discovered at Abdic’s home. She eagerly awaits more news, yet throughout the day, none comes in. Tom calls her multiple times, but she doesn’t pick up. As afternoon rolls around, Rachel’s constant refreshing of the internet pays off: news outlets begin releasing details about Abdic, including his background as a Muslim refugee from Bosnia—and a domestic violence charge from his past. Rachel, excited, heads downstairs to watch the news on TV.
Rachel badly wants to believe that she has been instrumental in the authorities nabbing Megan’s abductor. She feels that if she can pin the crime on someone else, she won’t have to examine her own potential involvement or dig any deeper into the lost memories of that fateful Saturday night. Meanwhile, that Tom calls Rachel several times contradicts his narrative that Rachel is dangerous and obsessed with contacting him—he doesn’t seem afraid of Rachel at all.
Themes
Addiction, Dependency, and Abuse Theme Icon
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
When more news fails to come in fast enough, Rachel gets bored and goes to the liquor store for two bottles of wine. She drinks a whole bottle in front of the TV before more news about Abdic comes in: he has been released without charge due to insufficient evidence. Rachel is shocked. She continues drinking heavily and heads up to bed. She feels ill and doesn’t want to drink anymore—yet she can’t bring herself to pour the rest of the wine down the sink. As Rachel falls into a drowsy sleep, she dreams of Scott angrily calling Megan’s name.
Rachel drinks heavily to distract herself and numb her disappointment when things in the case don’t go the way she hopes. Rachel is clearly consumed by Megan’s case and by all the various players in it. She’s pushing herself down an unhealthy road and failing to protect herself emotionally—or physically. Additionally, her dream about Scott yelling at Megan suggests that on some level, Rachel doubts Scott’s innocence.
Themes
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Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Rachel wakes up to the sound of Cathy entering her bedroom. Cathy assesses the empty wine bottles, warning Rachel that she’ll get fired if she keeps carrying on in such a way. Rachel considers telling Cathy that she’s already been fired, but instead she opts for silence. After Cathy leaves, Rachel goes downstairs and watches a press conference featuring Gaskill and Scott as she eats breakfast. Rachel suddenly remembers calling Scott the day before. She retrieves her phone from bed and sees that she has missed calls from both Scott and Tom. After a shower, Rachel excitedly calls Scott back—but Scott darkly accuses her of lying to him. He says that the detectives have told him that Rachel is a deeply unstable alcoholic. Scott hangs up.
There are people in Rachel’s life who want to help her escape the spiral she’s in—yet she won’t be truthful or open enough with them to get the assistance she truly needs. Instead of telling the truth about her circumstances and seeking a fresh start, Rachel mires herself deeper and deeper into a web of lies. This pattern begins to backfire in this passage as Scott finally calls Rachel out for being dishonest with him in the midst of the investigation.
Themes
Women and Society Theme Icon
Addiction, Dependency, and Abuse Theme Icon
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Friday, July 26, 2013. Rachel has stopped pretending to commute to work and has instead been pretending to be sick all week. The weather is wet and rainy, and Rachel has been plagued by alcohol-fueled nightmares in which she’s trapped beneath the underpass at Blenheim Road. She’s begun to believe Megan will never be found. Earlier this week, Rachel sent a letter to Scott admitting her problem but promising that it is under control; he hasn’t written her back yet.
Rachel was using her connection with Scott and her investigation into Megan’s life to distract herself from the stagnancy of her own life and the severity of her substance abuse problems. Without that outlet, Rachel is floundering. That Rachel’s dreams of being trapped beneath the underpass are couple with her worries about Megan’s disappearance suggests that she feels kinship with her—like Megan, Rachel feels utterly lost, trapped, and overlooked by everyone in her life.
Themes
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After going out for liquor—and finding that her bank account is empty—Rachel wanders the streets of Ashbury in the pouring rain, waiting to sober up enough to call Tom. When she dials him, she tells him that she needs to talk to him about the night of Megan’s disappearance. Tom warns Rachel to stay away from Scott, whom he believes is dangerous—but Rachel insists that Scott isn’t responsible for Megan’s disappearance. Rachel asks Tom what happened Saturday night, and if he knows how she ended up with a cut on her head. Tom accuses Rachel of suspecting Anna of doing something to her. He refutes the idea and insists that when he found Rachel in the street that night, she was already cut up and bruised from falling.
Something is not adding up about what happened to Rachel on Saturday night in Witney. She allegedly went to Blenheim Road to harass Tom and Anna—yet by the time she got there, Tom alleges, she was already beat up and bruised. Rachel’s violent memories from the underpass don’t make any sense, either. Rachel is trying desperately to piece together what happened to her—and how it might relate to what happened to Megan—but it seems she’s more afraid of finding out a painful truth than of living in the dark.
Themes
Gaslighting, Memory, Repression, and the Self  Theme Icon
Addiction, Dependency, and Abuse Theme Icon
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Rachel continues asking Tom for details about the night—but Tom ridicules her for being unable to remember what happened herself. He turns the questions around on Rachel and asks what she’s been doing hanging around the Hipwells’. Rachel tells Tom that she informed Scott about Megan’s affair with her therapist—but that as an unreliable witness, she was unable to convince the authorities of Abdic’s involvement. Tom tells Rachel that she did the right thing in coming forward, and then he hangs up. 
Hawkins has created a novel in which every character’s words, actions, and motivations must be carefully considered. As Tom berates Rachel for her failure to remember her own past—yet applauds her when she reveals that she offered up the name of a suspect in Megan’s disappearance—Hawkins casts a shadow of doubt as to whose side Tom is truly on.
Themes
Gaslighting, Memory, Repression, and the Self  Theme Icon
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Monday, July 29, 2013. Rachel is on the train to London once again. Megan’s disappearance has all but disappeared from the news. When the train stops at Witney, Rachel gets off—she decides to look for the redheaded man. After half an hour of waiting on the platform, however, she still hasn’t spotted him. She begins to give up hope and heads for the opposite platform so she can return home. At the bottom of the steps, however, she sees Scott coming out of a convenience store across the street. She runs after him and stops him—but he is unhappy to see her. When it begins pouring, however, Scott invites Rachel to come over to his house to get dry.
Rachel believes that she has ruined her chances at getting close to Scott of helping him figure out what happened to Megan—but when she spots him at the store, he reacts to her presence not with disgust, fear, or anger, but with sympathy and kindness. Rachel thus feels like she has a second chance at figuring out what was really going on in the lives of her favorite “golden” couple.
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At the house, Scott makes tea while Rachel apologizes again for misleading him and expresses her condolences about Abdic not being charged. Scott insists that while authorities found evidence of Megan’s presence in Abdic’s house, there was not enough evidence to convict him of a crime. Scott is upset, however, because although Abdic swears he and Megan were not having an affair, detectives found a trace of blood in his car matching Megan’s type. Scott also tells Rachel that Abdic told the authorities that Megan was unhappy with Scott.
From the sections narrated by Megan, readers can infer that the blood in the car Scott refers to is Abdic’s—traces from when Megan bit his lip—and that it is just a coincidence that he and Megan share a blood type. Hawkins uses dramatic irony and the withholding of information in order to fill in some blanks while leaving other questions wide open. 
Themes
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Scott asks what happened between Rachel and her ex-husband. Rachel says that Tom cheated on her with Anna while they were still married—and that her drinking started while they were married and struggling to conceive. Scott admits that he and Megan often argued about whether or not to have children. Rachel asks if that is what they were arguing about on the day of her disappearance—but Scott says it wasn’t.
Both the Watsons’ and the Hipwells’ marriages were impacted by questions of whether the wives in each couple were capable of becoming good mothers. This speaks to society’s strong emphasis on women fulfilling their roles in society only through motherhood—and the disastrous consequences that can arise from this pressure.
Themes
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Addiction, Dependency, and Abuse Theme Icon
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Motherhood, Duty, and Care Theme Icon
When Rachel arrives home, Cathy confronts her about having lost her job months ago. Cathy says that her boyfriend, Damien, ran into one of Rachel’s ex-coworkers in London today, and the coworker spilled the beans. Cathy asks why Rachel has been lying to her for months—and what she’s been doing all day in London when she pretends to go into work. Rachel apologizes and begins sobbing. Cathy comforts Rachel, makes her a cup of tea, and tells her that it’s time to stop drinking and look for a new job.
Though Cathy responded to some of Rachel’s earlier infractions with strictness and judgement, she now accepts the news of Rachel hiding her unemployment with compassion and empathy. Cathy genuinely wants to help Rachel get her life back in order—and she knows that being further alienated from a support system will only push her in the opposite direction.
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Related Quotes
Thursday, August 1, 2013. Rachel wakes from a nightmare in which something unseen is covering her face. She jolts upright in bed, crying and gasping for air. Rachel, desperate to calm herself, remembers that she has a little bit of wine stashed in a hall closet: she goes downstairs, pours it into a mug, and hides the bottle again. She sits in front of the TV and flips absentmindedly through the channels until she sees a news report from Corly Wood—a forest near Witney. The body of a young woman has been found submerged in floodwater at the bottom of a field there—less than five miles from the Hipwell home. Rachel runs upstairs to vomit.
In this passage, as Rachel realizes that Megan is dead, her nightmares coincide with reality. Rachel is terrified by things she doesn’t even remember. She is unsure of what her role in all this truly is, yet as the stakes grow higher and higher, she worries that any involvement she may have had some involvement in Megan’s death. Just as Hawkins is readers to second-guess Rachel, Rachel’s circumstances lead her to distrust herself.
Themes
Women and Society Theme Icon
Addiction, Dependency, and Abuse Theme Icon
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon