The Girl on the Train | Study Guide

Paula Hawkins

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The Girl on the Train | Rachel (Chapter 38) | Summary



As Rachel wakes up, Tom blames her for the events that night, claiming that had she not made him mad, none of this would have happened. He berates her for acting like a dog who will always come back and love her master. As he kisses her to prove his point, Rachel gropes for a weapon. She finds one, pushes him away from her, stomps on his foot, and knees him in the face. Then she runs outside where he corners her near the fence as the train rattles by. She waits for her chance, then plunges a corkscrew into his neck.

On Tuesday, September 10, 2013, almost a month later, Rachel is speeding by the usual houses. She is not the only one who looks because now everyone knows what happened there. Anna called the police and the paramedics and told everyone that Rachel killed Tom in self-defense. Since then Rachel read a lot about Tom in the paper and learned that much of what she thought she knew about him wasn't true. She has left London and has driven up north to Norfolk to visit Megan and her daughter's grave. Rachel hasn't had a drink in 21 days. Thinking back to the fateful night, she remembers that Anna came outside and did not, as Rachel said to the police, try to save Tom, but instead twisted the corkscrew in deeper to make sure he was dead. Rachel goes to bed so she can catch the early train.


In a final scene of confrontation Tom berates Rachel for her weakness, comparing her with a dog who will always love her master. In the very moment in which Tom seems to reclaim his control over her by kissing her, Rachel takes charge, looks for a weapon, frees herself, and recovers control over her life. She has realized that true strength lies not in deflecting blame to seem perfect like Tom, but in admitting to and accepting responsibility for one's weaknesses. Killing Tom is tantamount to liberating herself from a false self-image, exposing the past she once longed for as a dysfunctional lie. Rachel's journey can be seen as representative of women's efforts to liberate themselves from the cruel reign of abusive men. Rachel acts instead of and on behalf of all three women, freeing them from Scott, Mac, and Tom and their respective forms of abuse.

Weeks later Rachel admits that she did not really know Tom at all and that she had fallen for the false security of wholesome family life. The novel illustrates the idea that dangers lurk not in the dark shadows, but behind the drawn curtains and closed doors of a neighbor's house. Rachel realizes that it is impossible to know what the facade of another's life might hide, whether people tell the truth about their pasts, and, if so, what story these truths may conceal. Every perspective offers but a fraction of the truth, and the past may be forever shrouded in memories that may never be complete.

After all, riding by her old house now, other travelers will look and spin their own versions of the truth behind the crime that unfolded there. And yet, none of these versions will hit the mark, for nobody knows about the moment of truth Anna and Rachel shared but never told. Covering each other's backs Anna confirmed that Rachel acted in self-defense and Rachel confirmed that Anna tried to save Tom's life, when in fact both were determined to kill him no matter what. Inextricably bound to Anna in the lies they told, Rachel knows that her future will always be tied to a moment hidden in her past.

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