Course Hero. "The Girl on the Train Study Guide." Course Hero. 3 Aug. 2017. Web. 17 Jan. 2019. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Girl-on-the-Train/>.
Course Hero. (2017, August 3). The Girl on the Train Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Girl-on-the-Train/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "The Girl on the Train Study Guide." August 3, 2017. Accessed January 17, 2019. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Girl-on-the-Train/.
Course Hero, "The Girl on the Train Study Guide," August 3, 2017, accessed January 17, 2019, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Girl-on-the-Train/.
My mother used to tell me that I had an overactive imagination.
Referring to herself, Rachel points out on the very first page that many of the things she is about to share may be but the fruit of her imagination. Together with her fractured memories from excessive drinking, she is not only an unreliable witness but also an unreliable narrator. The reader is bound to wonder which version of reality presented in the three different points of view is true.
There's something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.
Rachel's comment refers to the couples she watches on her commute, imagining their perfect and happy lives to escape her own, which has disintegrated after her marriage failed because of her drinking. Demonstrating a case of situational irony, the novel will reveal that the supposed safety of the suburban homes hides deceit and betrayal, abuse and murder.
Referring to e.e. cumming's poem "since feeling is first," Hawkins stresses both the importance of life and the finality of death. Rachel's life, however, is at a low point. She is simply biding time on a pointless commute, living a life without significance or purpose, watching other people's lives to escape her own. Noticing the graffiti on a wall as she rides by makes her realize that she has arrived at a dead end.
Haunted by her past and overwhelmed by a sense of guilt over her baby's death, Megan cannot bear her memories and therefore does not share them with anyone. In the end this isolates her from others and condemns her to a string of superficial relationships. Although Rachel is also tormented by her past—her infertility and a failed marriage—she wants to recover her memories to finally confront them and be able to move forward.
I can't just be a wife ... there is literally nothing to do but wait ... for a man to come home and love you.
Gender roles play a significant role in the novel. Megan has just quit her job, essentially confining herself to being just a wife. She feels stuck, imprisoned by her financial and emotional dependence on her husband. Her escape into an affair with Tom leads to yet another emotional dependence. Megan is stuck in two traditional female roles: that of a wife and that of a lover, defining her not as an independent woman, but in relation to a man.
This could be a quote from any of the three first-person-narrators, yet it is Megan who says it about her life as Scott's stay-at-home wife. Megan, Rachel, and Anna live lives that are guided by society's notion of gender roles. Megan plays the perfect wife and Anna the perfect mother while Rachel feels she has failed in both roles. All three women feel that their lives have not turned out the way they imagined they would, yet they keep up appearances: Rachel commutes to a job she lost; Megan plays a dutiful wife while she has an affair; and Anna carefully preserves the facade of a happy home, although her husband turns out to be a cheater and a murderer.
Let's be honest: women are still only really valued for two things—their looks and their roles as mothers.
Rachel also comments on the traditional gender roles that define women either as sexual partners or as mothers. As a result Rachel feels worthless because she cannot have children, and because she feels unattractive due to the physical effects of her drinking. Her depression leads to more drinking and her desire to escape her life by imagining the seemingly perfect lives of strangers rolling by as she commutes to nowhere.
Rachel admits that she is mourning the dream of becoming a mother, which never became a reality because of her infertility. The death of this dream led to her depression, which led to her drinking, which in turn led to a deterioration of her marriage because her husband never understood how profoundly she was affected by the loss of her dream.
Drunk Rachel sees no consequences ... She has no past, no future. She exists purely in the moment.
Rachel does not recognize herself when she is drunk, and not only because she cannot remember what she did when under the influence. Her behavior seems so different and contrary to her sober self. While on the one hand this describes the effects of alcohol—impulsive and irresponsible behavior and mood swings—it also points to the fact that what Rachel knows about her drunken behavior are the lies her husband Tom told her in a systematic attempt to make her question her own sense of self and reality.
Rachel refers to Kamal Abdic, who, unlike most everyone else around her, did not discard her as an unreliable drunk, but listened to her side of the story, taking her seriously. His understanding and empathy empowers her to open up and to feel worthy as a human being. Although she originally wanted to expose Kamal as Megan's lover and possible murderer, his kindness convinces her that he cannot possibly have committed a violent act. On the one hand, this illustrates that Rachel's first impressions of a person prove wrong, and on the other, that Rachel's opinions are easily swayed, making her an easy victim of manipulation.
I just waited for him, for someone to come. He didn't come back. He never came back.
Referring to Mac, her first serious boyfriend and the father of the baby who drowned, Megan expresses the sense of loss and abandonment that permeates the novel. Mac abandoned her after the death of their child, at the time she was most vulnerable. Similarly, Tom abandoned Rachel after infertility drove her into depression, also at a time she was vulnerable. Megan escapes her loneliness through sexual relationships with men, while Rachel escapes loneliness with alcohol and the imaginary world of strangers.
Referring back to the time when Anna and Tom had an affair behind Rachel's back, Anna reveals her lack of remorse over breaking up a marriage and her lack of empathy for Rachel. Now, as Tom's second wife, having found out that he is lying to her as well, she still does not see the parallels between Rachel's and her own situation. She still believes that her allure to Tom is stronger than Rachel's ever was, essentially blaming Rachel as the less desirable woman.
I'm a good liar ... the thing with Rachel is that she won't remember what happened tomorrow anyway.
Talking to Anna at a time when he was still married to Rachel, Tom admits that he lies to his wife, using her alcoholic blackouts as cover for his affair with Anna. As it turns out, his lies were more than that: they were a systematic strategy to make her believe that she is a violent drunk to create a cover for his own violent outbursts, gaslighting her into distrusting her own sense of reality. Tom, the supposedly perfect husband, turns out to be an abusive man.
I can't move, I can't breathe. I play it again, and again. My throat is closed.
Listening to the outgoing message of the phone she found in Tom's gym bag, Anna knows that Tom is cheating on her. This puts her on a par with Rachel, her nemesis, the woman she's always felt superior to, ruining her self-image and destroying the facade of the happy family she so carefully created. In this moment Anna's world comes tumbling down. At the same time this is one of the most suspenseful moments in the novel. Anna recognizes the voice on the phone, yet does not disclose her name to the reader. While the reader assumes it is Megan's voice, which means that Tom likely killed her, it could also be Rachel's voice, which might mean that she killed Megan. It is a perfect cliffhanger.
Referring to Tom after she realized how many things she thought she knew about him were actually lies he told, Rachel understands that she did not really know her husband at all. This suggests that the person we think we know the best, the person we trust the most, might betray us the worst illustrates the theme of domestic noir, which shows that the supposed safe haven of the American family may be a source of mortal danger.