The Girl on the Train | Study Guide

Paula Hawkins

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The Girl on the Train | Rachel (Chapter 17) | Summary



On August 3, 2013, Rachel wakes up after another nightmare. She has two messages: one is from her mother and the other is from Scott. She listens to her mother's message, and then decides to have a drink before facing both of them.

On her way home from lunch with her mother, during which she took a loan but didn't admit the full extent of her trouble, Rachel wonders if Megan would still be alive had she confronted her after she saw her with Kamal. The red-haired man takes the seat next to her on the train and tells her that on the evening Megan disappeared, he was drunk, too. Rachel flashes back to that night and sees herself ducking from a fist. Suddenly afraid, she runs away from the red-haired man to another car. After she calms down she has a vision of a woman in a blue dress walking away from her: it is Anna.


In her nightmare, Rachel sees herself running away in the woods. Is she imagining Megan's last moments given that her body was found in the woods? Is her imagination at work in her subconscious? Or are her memories trying to surface? The reader must wonder whether her memory flashes in which she sees herself ducking from a fist or her visions in which she sees a woman in a blue dress walking away are memories of things that happened or dreams of things she imagines. After all she does have "an overactive imagination" (p. 2), as the fairy-tale life she created for Megan and Scott shows.

However, her very palpable sense of fear and confusion when she remembers ducking from a fist seems to suggest that something did indeed happen. She runs from the red-haired man because it may have been he who hit her. Given that he was also drunk, he cannot reliably fill in any blanks, either. And even if he wasn't drunk, would he fill in the blanks reliably? What if he does have something to hide?

It becomes increasingly impossible to trust anyone's account of events because whether someone tells the truth or a lie depends on the objective. After all even Rachel has been lying all along to family, friends, and strangers to achieve the results she wanted. She lies to her mother and her friend Cathy to avoid a lecture about her drinking, she lies to Scott about her friendship with Megan so he will listen to her, and she lies to the police about her background and behavior to save face. The ever-present theme of lies and deceit suggests that it is impossible to penetrate the truth of the story at hand, for not only are Rachel's memories fractured, truth itself is, too.

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