The Girl on the Train | Study Guide

Paula Hawkins

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The Girl on the Train | Rachel (Chapter 27) | Summary

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Summary

Instead of getting ready for a job interview Cathy arranged, Rachel goes to see Scott on Thursday, August 15, 2013. She has read that the father of Megan's dead baby died four years earlier of a heroin overdose, which rules him out and leaves the usual suspects: Kamal and Scott.

Scott is unkempt. He tells her that the police identified the father of Megan's unborn baby and that it is neither he nor Kamal. He reveals that he knows that she never even met Megan. When Rachel's phone beeps, Scott pours out the contents of her handbag and sees a message from Dr. Abdic's office, confirming an appointment. Furious over what he believes to be a conspiracy against him, Scott drags Rachel upstairs and locks her into the spare bedroom. The room is filled with boxes containing Megan's belongings, among them a broken picture frame, which Rachel cuts her finger on. Scott comes back, tosses her bag at her feet, and chases Rachel out of the house.

The next day Rachel wakes up after a sleepless night. She recalls going by Tom's house, banging at the door unsuccessfully, and leaving a note. She also called the police to tell them about Scott's keeping her hostage, but they just tell her to come to the station to make a statement.

After she's been at the police station to file the report she bumps into the red-haired man, and they go to a bar. He tells her that on the Saturday Megan disappeared they chatted on the train and that he helped her up when she slipped on the stairs. He asked her for a drink but she declined because she had to meet her husband. Half an hour later, he found her at the underpass. She was hurt, and a man was walking away from her, getting into a car with a woman.

Back at home Rachel can't shake the feeling that something is off, although the red-haired man's version of the story coincides with her own memory: She had a fight with Tom in the street, she hurt herself, and he got in his car with Anna. Then it dawns on her: Anna would never leave the baby home alone.

On Saturday Rachel calls Tom and asks him about the night in question. He still claims that Anna was at home with the baby and calls her a filthy drunk, telling her to stay away from them for good.

His demeaning words remind her of similar incidents in the past. She admits that Tom's detailed accounts of her misbehavior never felt real to her, but she gave up asking about them and just apologized. As she falls asleep she remembers that in the underpass somebody hit her with a key.

Analysis

This chapter reveals Scott to be a potentially violent man, confirming the suspicion that he would be capable of killing his wife in a fit of jealousy. At the same time the last few chapters have revealed that Tom is not the perfect husband, neither to Anna nor to Rachel, and that both have reason to distrust his charm. When Scott reveals that Megan's unborn child is neither his nor Kamal's, it is clear that she must have had another lover. Given that Mac has passed away and that the red-haired man does not fit Megan's description of her lover, Tom comes under suspicion. Is he Megan's lover? And if so, does this mean that he killed her? Since Rachel's memory consistently places Anna in the underpass, is it not also plausible that Anna killed Megan?

Clearly the puzzle cannot be solved unless Rachel is able to recover her memories. And yet the novel keeps questioning the validity of her recollections by stressing not only their fragmentation, but also their shifting quality and false facts. Did she really see Anna in the underpass? The blue dress seems to suggest that. If so, whatever happened in the underpass may not have had anything to do with Megan's disappearance. But even Rachel herself doubts that she saw Anna because she cannot imagine that Anna would leave the house without her baby. If she did not see Anna, who was the woman in the blue dress? It cannot have been Megan because she wore jeans and a red T-shirt. Rachel's memories are a disjointed mix that does not make sense.

After years of heavy drinking Rachel is used to a lack of control over her memories and her past. As usual Rachel turns to the authority she has trusted as the keeper of her past: Tom. When he denies that Anna was in the underpass that night and claims that Rachel cut herself rather than having been hit, she contradicts him for the first time. And rightly so because his version of things does not coincide with other people's version of events: the red-haired man confirms that a there was a woman in the underpass and the doctor who examined her head wound after her accident with the cab ruled out that it was caused by a fall.

Tom's angry and demeaning words on the phone trigger her memory of other such rants, completely revising Tom's image. Is it possible that he was not the self-sacrificing and supportive husband of an alcoholic, but instead an emotionally abusive husband? Suddenly the novel's hidden clues about physical and emotional abuse seem to point in a different direction. Rachel's reaction to Tom's accusations after a night of drinking no longer seem like the guilty apologies of a drunk for her misbehavior but like the fearful submission of a woman to an abusive man. In a striking reversal the man least suspicious throughout most of the novel now seems a likely suspect.

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