In The Girl on the Train, trains are important in many ways. For one, being on a train or within sight of a train provides to the opportunity to see people, but usually only with a fleeting glance and without actual communication between people. Secondly, there is a danger in trains, lending a certain amount of fear and mystery to scenes and locations where trains run. Within a train, there is also a mix of people; Rachel often feels crowded in or stared at by people on the train, but being on the train with others also helps her feel normal.
Rain is a common occurrence in England. However, Hawkins also uses rain to escalate the emotion of many scenes in the novel. During times of prolonged rain, both Megan and Rachel often stay inside yet feel restless, seeking the ability to get out of the house and act. Furthermore, once when Rachel is trapped in a sudden downpour by herself and once when she is caught in the rain with Scott, sudden, raucous laughter ensues, perhaps because of a cathartic or cleansing effect. Finally, Megan's body is washed up from where it is buried by a heavy rain, again pointing to the cleansing or revealing nature of water.
The Pile of Clothing (Symbol)
Early in the book, Rachel sees a pile of clothes besides the train tracks and begins thinking about death by trains. Later in the story, Rachel has a dream that the clothing she believes a woman was wearing when they met up with Tom on the night of Megan's appearance - a blue dress and black belt - is beside the train tracks. Clothing without a body near train tracks lends a sense of danger to the story and the oddness of their existence in such a place reminds the reader that there are many things they may never understand.
Names play an especially important role in Rachel's life. Rachel gives the people she sees from the train window names - Jess and Jason - before discovering that these people are really Scott and Megan. Having created these names and the lives behind them, she must continually remind herself that she doesn't really know them. Furthermore, names take on importance in her life in that she keeps her married name - Watson - meaning that she, Anna, and Tom all have the same last name and causing people to doubt that she has truly coped with her divorce.
The Corkscrew (Symbol)
In attacking and killing Tom with a corkscrew, Rachel at once confronts and overcomes the two major forces holding her back in her life: her attachment to her failed marriage and her drinking problem. This action, though taken in self-defense, sets her up to take control over her life by becoming sober and moving away.
The Girl on the Train Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Girl on the Train is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.