The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train Summary and Analysis of Pages 55 - 112


It is now January 2013 in Megan's narration, six months before her disappearance. It has been raining for weeks and she has generally kept herself inside, spending time alone and with Scott, except for her meetings with Kamal. She has begun talking to Kamal about her relationship with Scott. Megan thinks briefly of a moment in her life just before her brother Ben died. She was fifteen and, while at the beach, an older man invited her to go sailing. Ben, playing the role of the protective big brother, turned the sleazy man down to Megan's fury, saying that they'd "have lots of opportunities like that" (56) - of course, this wasn't the case. Megan hints that there is more to tell about this time in her life, mentioning a person named Mac. However, she says, what holds her back is the feeling that telling Kamal more than she has told Scott about her life would be a betrayal. In the evening, she writes that she has revealed a little to Kamal about her time with Mac - she ran away after Ben's funeral and met him in Ipswitch, soon moving in with him. She talks around the issue of sex, saying they waited until she was sixteen, living together near the train tracks and "smoking a lot" (58), implying that they were doing drugs. She told Kamal that she lived with him until she was nineteen, but instead of giving the underlying reason for their split, she simply said he left her and broke her heart. At home, Megan Google searches "Craig McKenzie" but can't find the one she's looking for.

Megan's narration skips to February, five months before her disappearance. In her head, she recites a folk saying, "One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told" (58), commenting that she's "got a few of those" (58). Megan recounts that she recently told Kamal about what happened after she searched for Mac online; Scott found the searches in her computer's history and they fought. When Kamal asked Megan about whether she is afraid of Scott, she surprised both of them by forcefully saying she isn't. Kamal brought up the subject of emotional abuse, but Megan laughed this idea off, saying it isn't abuse "if you don't mind" (60). At the end of that same meeting, Megan invited Kamal for a drink. When he refused, she kissed him. She says that she loved the experience of "desire and restraint" (60). She gets up early the next morning to walk alone in the cold. On her way back home, she sees Anna with her baby and doesn't smile at them. In the afternoon, Megan takes a nap and then wakes up in a guilty panic. She thinks of "him leaving in the middle of the night, telling me, once again, that this was the last time" (61) but again does not specify who. Feeling paranoid, she checks the doors and wishes for Scott to come home.

Back in July with Rachel as the narrator, she rides the train in the morning, but rather than going to London she plans to get off at Witney station to jog her memory. Megan is still missing and Rachel has been obsessively watching the news and printing articles. Rachel has learned more facts about Megan from these articles and notes that Scott will definitely be under suspicion since the cops always look to "the husband or the boyfriend first" (63) in cases like this. However, Rachel writes, "It could be that I am the only person who knows that the boyfriend exists" (63). She writes herself a list of possibilities: running off with her boyfriend, the boyfriend harming her, Scott harming her, simply running away, or being harmed by someone else. Rachel thinks to herself that at this point, it is most likely that Megan ran away with her boyfriend or by herself. Rachel gets a call from Cathy apologizing and saying she can live at the flat as long as she needs. Rachel notes that she has not had a drink all day, though she wanted one, because she knew she needed to keep a clear head. Even at Witney station she feels like she is trespassing in a place that is not hers anymore but Tom's, Anna's, Scott's, and Megan's. Walking by the entrance to the underpass, she has a flash of recollection - herself lying slumped against a wall, blood on her head and hands. After that shock, she turns around and heads right back to buy a ticket for a return train. She has another flash of memory soon after of someone helping her up some steps onto the platform - the man from the train with ginger hair. On the train, she gets another call from Cathy, telling her to come home because the police are waiting there to speak with her.

The next morning, Rachel narrates her meeting with the police, saying she "lied -- repeatedly" (67). Before getting into the encounter, she talks about blackouts, a problem she has had since her marriage. Tom once gave her a book, she says, written by a doctor specifically about the extremes people can go to while blacked out and their total lack of memory afterwards since their brains are in a state in which it cannot make new memories. She told the police - Detective Inspector Gaskill and another officer she simply calls "Neck Acne" (69) - that on Saturday she went to Witney to see her husband (which they clarify as her ex-husband, even more awkward because she has kept his last name). Trying to narrate around her blackout, she said that she got on the train around 6pm and returned around 7:30 or 8, a lie that Cathy saw through but did not question aloud. When asked what she did during the hour she was in Witney, she said that she walked around and once talked to a man at the station. The Detective said that Anna was the one who called their attention to her presence on Blenheim Road on the night of Megan's disappearance. When asked point-blank if she saw Megan that night, Rachel answered truthfully that she doesn't know. They accused her of being drunk that night, to which she responded that she'd had a few drinks but was not drunk, and they left. On their way out, the Detective asked if she works in public relations at Huntingdon Whitely and she lied again, saying that she did while in truth she was fired months ago. Rachel ends her morning entry vowing that she'll tell the police the truth about things.

In the evening, Rachel writes about her second encounter with the police. After taking a while to work up the courage to go to the station, she sat for an hour waiting for Detective Inspector Gaskill and finally saw him and a female detective, Detective Sergeant Riley. Rachel described the red-haired man she saw at the station on Saturday and then revealed to the detectives that she no longer works at Hungtingdon Whitely, something she didn't want to reveal in front of Cathy. She told them about how she takes the train into London every day to keep up appearances, sounding crazier and crazier as they question her about her life. They brought up that Rachel once broke into Tom and Anna's house and "took their child" (76). When she became very upset at this, the Detective Inspector Gaskill told her that she could leave and come back to talk to them again any time. Rachel left to get something to eat, planning to come back and reveal Megan's boyfriend when she returned, and in the meantime she thought of what led her to drinking - her inability to get pregnant while married to Tom. They did one round of IVF, but because it's so expensive, were unable to do another when the first round did not take. Rachel began to pull away from her friends who were all starting families with children, becoming "isolated in [her] misery" (79). This loneliness led to drinking, and she reflected on particular moments that were hard - watching children play at the park and seeing Tom post the status "So this is what all the fuss is about! Never knew love like this!" (80) after the birth of his child with Anna.

Back at the police station, Gaskill and Riley grilled Rachel on breaking into Tom and Anna's house. Rachel continued to tell half-truths, saying that she only picked up the baby because it was crying. As she got more upset, they accused her of intending to hurt the child and of being obsessed with Tom as evidenced by her calling him almost nightly, having kept her married name, and still wearing her wedding ring on a necklace. Finally, Riley got to the point: "The night Megan went missing, we have reports that you -- an unstable woman who had been drinking heavily -- were seen on the street where she lives. Bearing in mind that there are some physical similarities between Megan and Mrs. Watson--" (83). While Rachel vehemently denied this, she felt her head throb significantly. She reminds the reader once again of how deeply black her memory of that night remains. The detectives revealed to Rachel that Megan had been babysitting for Anna, which disturbed her. Indignant at the treatment she received during this meeting, Rachel got up to go and tossed out haughtily, "I take that you've spoken to her lover?" (84). At this, Gaskill stopped her from leaving and pressed her for information; they were receptive to her important information though they caught on to her use of the name "Jess." The meeting ended with Riley forbidding Rachel from going near Blenheim Road or going near Tom, Anna, or their child.

At the end of the meeting with the detectives and in the next few days, Rachel realizes that this drama is making her feel more fulfilled and less like drinking than she has felt in a long time. Through the newspapers Rachel collects, readers get a linear perspective of Megan's life: born in 1983 in Rochester, outgoing and talented as a child, the death of her brother and her subsequent running away, two arrests for theft and soliciting, falling out of touch with her parents, and finally moving to London at twenty-four and marrying Scott at twenty-six. On the train in the morning, Rachel sees many people in Scott's garden. Still wanting desperately to remember Saturday night, Rachel plans her day - research hypnotherapy and get in touch with Scott Hipwell. In the evening, Rachel sits on the train soaked by rain that started so suddenly it makes her laugh ridiculously hard in public, though her mood sobers as she thinks about the news she has just learned: Scott has likely been brought in by the police for questioning.

Rachel emails Scott in the morning, writing that she has information that may help him, though not about his wife’s whereabouts. Rachel sends the message, feeling both desperate for a drink and desperate not to drink, realizing that she hasn’t been sober three days in a row for a long time. Looking up on the train, she sees the red-haired man from Saturday night staring at her, smiling. As he gets off the train at Witney Station, she chides herself suddenly for not following him and asking for information. Her section ends with the revelation she made researching online earlier in the day - hypnotism is not seen as helpful in retrieving memories blacked out from over-drinking.

Another month has passed since Megan’s last section; it is now March. In the afternoon, Megan narrates a romantic encounter with, presumably, the same man, perhaps Kamal; they talk of going away to Costa de la Luz, and then he begins to open up more to her. The next morning, when Scott brings her coffee, they discuss the fact that she actually slept the night before, but Megan snaps at him, telling him she needs more time in therapy.

On July 19, Rachel is back on the train. As she writes, “Megan has been missing for around 133 hours, and I feel better than I have in months” (96). Scott has not contacted her, but Detective Inspector Gaskill did, asking her to come back to the station. Megan has continued to think endlessly about the situation, analyzing her theories and contemplating hypnotism. Cathy congratulates her on getting back to normal, but when she leaves for Damien’s for the weekend, Rachel begins to drink again. She describes her visit to the police department in which she was asked to identify Kamal Abdic and saw Scott Hipwell up close on her way out. The next morning, Rachel immediately recognizes the feeling of hangover and anxiety that comes from contacting people while drunk, and she finds that she emailed Tom nastily. She describes the event Anna saw as trying to steal or hurt her child from her own perspective, admitting to herself and the reader that she lied to the police. She remembered the way Tom drove her home to calm her down but then gripped her hand too tightly while telling her that he would kill her if she tried to hurt his daughter again. While contemplating whether to drink herself into oblivion for the remainder of the day, Rachel sees that she has an email from Scott, and that she also emailed him while drunk the night before. Though she is so ashamed that she writes that she wants “to drag knives over [her] skin” (105), Scott has, at least, said that he’d like to talk to her.

That very evening, a week since Megan’s disappearance, she takes the train to Scott and Megan’s house. When she called in response to his email, Scott insisted that they meet in person. Still having to remind herself that Scott is not “Jason” (107), she thinks about the lie she has told him to gain his trust, that she knows Megan from the art gallery.

The narration shifts briefly within the same day to Anna; it is her birthday and she is surrounded by love from Tom and baby Evie. Her happiness is only marred by the sound of trains outside. When she returns from a walk, she finds Tom slightly distressed after reading Rachel’s email, but she pushes these thoughts away until she sees Rachel outside on the street in the evening.


As Rachel becomes more embroiled in Megan's case, many people question why she is involving herself. Is she simply a "rubbernecker"? Is she seeking some kind of catharsis because she has lived through a similar affair and subsequent disappearance in her own failed relationship? Or is she interested because she truly has crucial information hidden in her mind? It is this final possibility that allows her insistence on staying in the case to take on a suspenseful rather than an annoying tone, and the reader commiserates with Rachel as she attempts to provide honest help while feeling the need to lie about other things in her life that damage her credibility.

Hawkins uses Rachel's throbbing head as a signal that she is focusing on her memories from the Saturday night that Megan disappeared. This throbbing may be read both as a result of Rachel's exertion as she tries to no avail to reach for these memories, and as a kind of suspenseful personification as the memories themselves attempt to make themselves known.

Hawkins continues to hint at what the reader does not know about Megan, a reminder that her case may be more complex than it seems. In this section, Megan highlights experiences in her youth, especially living with an older boy named Mac. Of the end of her relationship, she told Kamal Abdic, "Mac left me. He broke my heart" (58) and then narrated "Which is the truth, but also a lie. I'm not ready to tell the whole truth yet" (58). The reader is reminded that characters often lie to one another or tell only partial truths, leading to suspense over both what has happened in Megan's past and what is happening in her present that is not being fully revealed to the reader.

While Hawkins seems to set up a case for Scott as Megan's murderer during her conversations with Kamal Abdic about Scott's overprotectiveness, in the sections that Megan narrates about her affair, still carefully disguising who the affair is with, signs point strongly to her lover as the culprit. In one instance, she goes as far as to say, "He shot me a look... it wasn't anger, exactly, not contempt -- it was a warning" (61).

Anna's sections continue to feel purposefully superficial as the reader understands more and more of Rachel's and Megan's internal dialogues. Anna's sections are rare, quite short, and gloss over her feelings and relationship with Tom. For example, she assures herself that "We are happy" on the evening of July 20, parroting Tom's words to her in the morning and adding on more thoughts that seem too good to be true - "I think about how lucky I am, how I got everything that I wanted... that smile has barely fallen from my lips all day" (110). It is unclear to the reader at this point in the novel whether Hawkins is simply unwilling to give this character depth or will later develop what emotions lie underneath Anna's posturing.