The Girl on the Train | Study Guide

Paula Hawkins

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The Girl on the Train | Rachel (Chapter 3) | Summary



On Friday, July 12, 2013, Rachel sees Jess kissing a man other than her husband. Jess's cheating reminds her of Tom cheating on her, and she gets angry.

On that evening's commute Rachel remembers an embarrassing encounter with former colleagues in a coffee shop. She lies to them, claiming that she is in the area for an interview. Instead she goes to the park, sits down on a bench, and retrieves a voice mail from Anna, telling her to stop calling. She keeps drinking and falls asleep.

On Saturday, July 13, 2013, Rachel wakes up as Cathy cleans the house. She goes to a pub, then buys a few cans of gin, and decides to go to Jess and Jason's house to feel closer to them. Instead she gets off at the station that used to be hers.

On Sunday morning, she wakes up with bruises all over her body, marks on her thigh, and a bleeding wound on her head. She dimly remembers that she went to Blenheim Road. She thinks that she fell at the station and that a man helped her up or that there may have been a fight. Looking for her bag and phone, she vomits on the stairs. She retrieves several voice mails from Tom yelling at her for frightening Anna. As she drifts off to sleep, she imagines smashing in Anna's head.

That same evening, Cathy gives her an ultimatum to move out. Rachel listens to another voice mail from Tom, in which he expresses concern for her. Rachel calls back and apologizes, although she has no idea what she might have done to frighten Anna.


Rachel's blackout, a loss of memory generally associated with repeated alcohol consumption, reveals not only that she is a habitual drunk but also an unreliable narrator. Rachel is not revealing her full hand, as her perspective in this chapter raises many more questions than it answers. Why is she lying to her co-workers about having an interview? Why do they feel sorry for her? Why does she spend a workday on a park bench? Didn't she commute to work? In fact, this chapter's very point is to raise these questions in the reader's mind and to suggest that Rachel's perspective does not hold the key to the truth and may withhold information—either willfully because she wants portray herself in a certain light, or inadvertently due to a lack of information. This creates great suspense, leaving the reader wondering what happened that Saturday night to cause her bruises and the bloody gash on her head.

Rachel herself does not know what happened that Saturday night and, as a result, cannot relate the whole truth and nothing but the truth to the reader. Since her bruises and the bloody gash on her head suggest that something did happen, the reader will have to solve the mystery along with her. Since Rachel's fractured memory cannot provide a complete picture of what happened that Saturday night, the different narrative voices take on a new level of meaning: Rachel, and by extension the reader, needs other people's perspectives to complete the puzzle. Not only is memory fractured, but reality itself is, too.

While it is possible that Rachel is responsible for her wounds—she may simply have fallen in her drunken stupor—her dim memory of a fight suggests something else. How was the red-haired man involved? Do the marks on her thigh suggest rape? Did Rachel pick a fight with Anna, as Tom's anger for frightening Anna and her own vision of smashing Anna's head suggest? The reader begins to distrust her, not only because of her drinking and the resulting memory loss but also because of her emotional instability, self-destructive habits, and potentially dangerous behavior toward others. In short, her way of rationalizing what she may or may not have done that night becomes suspect.

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