The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train Metaphors and Similes

Holes in Life (Simile)

"The holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mold yourself through the gaps.” (94)

This quote, thought by Megan, could apply either to her experiences or Rachel's. Both women have painful experiences earlier in life - for Megan the birth and death of Libby and for Rachel her inability to get pregnant - that they are trying to get past through therapy and various kinds of self-medication. This quote has a rare tone of acceptance, as Megan often narrates in a restless, frenzied tone, especially when thinking about her past.

Coming Home (Simile)

“It feels like coming home - not just to any home, but a childhood home, a place left behind a lifetime ago; it's the familiarity of walking up stairs and knowing exactly which one is going to creak.” (65)

This simile is interesting because it is not so far from the truth. As Rachel returns to the street where she lived during her marriage just a few years before, she feels a sense of returning home. However, rather than simply feel nostalgia and perhaps emotional pain, she feels a connection to the place as if it was her childhood home. This comparison adds to the sense of her not fitting in, as if her life has gone on too much for her to return to this place, and yet there is a comforting familiarity present as well.

Rachel (Simile)

“You’re like one of those dogs, the unwanted ones that have been mistreated all their lives. You can kick them and kick them, but they’ll still come back to you, cringing and wagging their tails." (316)

Once Tom drops his facade as the perfect husband, revealing himself as a liar and generally callous person, he is especially harsh with his descriptions of women. Tom describes Rachel as a dog that will always return even after being kicked, an unflattering comparison that shames her, though it does not reflect the ways in which he has teased her and allowed her to have hope since their divorce.

Failure (Simile)

“Failure cloaked me like a mantle, it overwhelmed me, dragged me under and I gave up hope.” (78)

In this quote, Rachel describes the way she felt after she and Tom tried unsuccessfully to have a baby naturally and through IVF. Hawkins often uses strong imagery and figurative language to describe the overwhelming nature of negative emotions. As a result of these overwhelming feelings, Rachel began to drink, something that continued to drag her under for the following four to five years.

Having a Child (Simile)

“She has her fingers curled tightly around his forefinger and I have hold of her perfect pink foot, and I feel as though fireworks are going off in my chest." (108)

Anna thinks this quote in her first section of narration regarding her child with Tom. As pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood are major themes in the novel, this simile describes the pleasure of having a child in a way almost painfully joyful since the reader is already aware of Rachel's inability to start a family with the same man.