The Girl on the Train | Study Guide

Paula Hawkins

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Course Hero. "The Girl on the Train Study Guide." Course Hero. 3 Aug. 2017. Web. 13 Nov. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Girl-on-the-Train/>.

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Course Hero. (2017, August 3). The Girl on the Train Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 13, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Girl-on-the-Train/

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Course Hero. "The Girl on the Train Study Guide." August 3, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Girl-on-the-Train/.

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Course Hero, "The Girl on the Train Study Guide," August 3, 2017, accessed November 13, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Girl-on-the-Train/.

The Girl on the Train | Rachel (Chapter 7) | Summary

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Summary

On Tuesday, July 16, 2013, Rachel is taking the train to Witney, hoping to jumpstart her memory. The newspapers report that Megan has been gone for over 60 hours, that Megan and Scott were overheard arguing that Saturday night, that her friend Tara Epstein has not seen her since Friday afternoon, and that a neighbor saw her walking to Witney Station at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday evening. Rachel assumes that the police suspect Scott, the husband, because they do not know what she knows: that Megan has a lover.

In Witney she feels compelled to stop at the underpass because she can see herself slumped against the wall, blood on her hands and head. Back at the station she remembers stumbling and speaking to the red-haired man who helped her up. The phone rings, and Cathy tells her that the police want to talk to her.

On Wednesday morning July 17, 2013, Rachel admits that she lied to the police. She is worried that she might have done something "terrible" and blacked it out because Inspector Gaskill revealed that Anna had seen her near Megan's house that Saturday.

On her ride home in the evening she recalls talking to Inspector Gaskill and Inspector Riley. She admits that she lost her job months ago and commutes to London so Cathy won't find out. The conversation shifts to an incident in the past, where Rachel took Tom and Anna's baby. She tells Gaskell that she only picked up the baby because the baby was crying and Anna was sleeping. Gaskill suggests that perhaps she hurt Megan thinking she was Anna. Rachel finally tells them that Megan had a lover, but the police don't seem to believe her.

The next day, Thursday, July 18, she rides the train back to Witney. Researching Megan's life in the newspaper coverage, she learns that she ran away from home when her brother died and never reconciled with her parents. She learns about Megan moving in with a boyfriend, then coming to London where she meets Scott. According to friends their marriage was happy. Rachel plans to contact Scott and let him know that Megan had a boyfriend. She spots the red-haired man who helped her that Saturday but does not dare talk to him.

Analysis

The chapter digs more deeply into Rachel's past and present, revealing that she has been living a lie for several months, only pretending to commute to work although she lost her job. This confirms that Rachel has not been able to move on and is living in the past, arrested on that commuter train, watching the life she longs for whisk by. Given that Megan's perspective has begun to chip away at the perfect life Rachel imagined Megan to have, the reader realizes that perhaps more of Rachel's assumptions will come under scrutiny. Researching Megan's life, Rachel realizes that the perfect story she imagined was but a fantasy, that nothing she thought she saw was the way it is. Her trip on the commuter train may be her journey toward accepting the truth.

Rachel's throbbing head is a recurring reminder of the head injury she received on that Saturday night, suggesting that she may know more and that her memories may surface bit by bit. The red-haired man is another memory trigger, suggesting that something of importance happened at the underpass near Witney Station that involved several players, among them Rachel, Megan, and the red-haired man. After all, the timeline suggests that they were at Witney Station at the same time. Although Rachel thinks of herself as a witness with vital information about Megan's lover, the police look at her as a suspect.

The reader has reason to buy into this theory as well, given that Rachel displayed a rather unreasonable level of anger at Megan for having kissed a man who was not her husband. Even Rachel herself is afraid that she might have done something terrible. Rachel's deep-seated frustration at having been cheated on might very well have driven her to take revenge on Megan for something Tom did. Having had so many blackouts over the years of drinking has destabilized Rachel's self-image, and she feels that she cannot trust herself.

Although she blames Megan for leaving Scott, Rachel is far from blaming Tom for their failed marriage. On the contrary: She assumes all the guilt, admitting that depression over her infertility led to her drinking, which led to her erratic behavior, which led to the disintegration of her marriage.

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