The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train Quotes and Analysis

Life is not a paragraph, and death is no parenthesis.

Rachel, p. 7

Hawkins refers to e e cummings's poem, "since feeling is first." This quote means that life is not just a short thing. Rather, it is the whole story. Furthermore, death is not a parenthesis in this paragraph, meaning it is essential information very much a part of life. Death does not bring with it further information, but a complete stop to the story. In short, this quote speaks to the importance of life and the finality of death, while drawing a metaphorical, meta-textual connection between life and a written work.

One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl... Three for a girl.

Megan, p. 304

Megan here recalls a nursery song, and in this instance stops on three. By pausing on "a girl," Megan may be thinking of her child, Libby, who she accidentally killed as a baby. As Megan thinks of this nursery song as she dies at the hands of Tom after telling him about her pregnancy, so it may also be the case that she is equating Libby with the child inside her, especially in her altered state. The first two items in the rhyme - sorrow and joy - add to the emotionally charged tone of this section of the story in which the truth about Tom and Megan is revealed.

Hollowness: that I understand. I'm starting to believe that there isn't anything you can do to fix it. That's what I've taken from the therapy sessions: the holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mold yourself through the gaps.

Megan, p. 94

This 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.

I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.

Rachel, p. 31

In this quote, Rachel expresses a sudden fury after seeing "Jess" kiss another man in her backyard. Seeing this takes Rachel back to thoughts of discovering her own husband, Tom, in an affair, foreshadowing a connection between Tom and Megan early in the book, which will become important later in the story when he is revealed to be another romantic partner of hers and her murderer.

There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.

Rachel, p. 2

Early in the novel, Rachel spends much of her narration detailing the ways in which she escapes from her own reality - through alcohol and through observing the lives of others. When she observes others, she often imagines them with perfect lives, which seems to calm her as she can think about their lives instead of her own life which has crumbled from the pressure of infertility and alcoholism.

I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.

Rachel, p. 9

Rachel early in the story reveals her struggles with "control," especially with regard to drinking and involving herself in Megan's case, which creates many conflicts throughout the novel. Indeed, Rachel's inability to control even her own mind makes her an unreliable narrator, creating much of the story's suspense.

I can’t do this, I can’t just be a wife. I don’t understand how anyone does it—there is literally nothing to do but wait. Wait for a man to come home and love you. Either that or look around for something to distract you.

Megan, p. 23

In this quote, Hawkins underscores both the theme of women and gender roles in the novel and Megan’s struggles with her self-identity. Though Megan recently made the choice to quit her job, making her dependent on her husband, she feels trapped in the life she has to lead as a wife. However, her chosen escape from this restlessness is to seek yet more affirmation of her womanhood through an affair, making her not “just a wife” but also not much happier, eventually endangering her greatly.

Let’s be honest: women are still only really valued for two things—their looks and their role as mothers.

Rachel, p. 79

In this quote, Rachel laments the fact that she feels worthless as a woman after having fertility problems and then losing her looks through drinking to escape these problems. Rachel's depression leads to her inordinate interest in the seemingly perfect lives of "Jess" and "Jason" as well as her strong dislike of Anna, who she sees as fulfilling her womanly roles by having a child with Tom.

It's impossible to resist the kindness of strangers.

Rachel, pp. 206-7

Rachel thinks this in response to her sessions with Kamal, during which she had planned to seek more information about him regarding Megan's murder, but ended up enjoying the chance to talk and cry with someone who will listen. While Rachel is often perceived badly by strangers like the people she drinks in front of on the train, in this case she is able to escape her life for a little while and have someone care about her and her feelings, something she is willing to put ahead of her search for information about Megan's case.

There are familiar faces on these trains, people I see every week, going to and fro. I recognize them and they probably recognize me. I don't know whether they see me, though, for what I really am.

Rachel, p. 5

Rachel thinks this early in the novel, when her days’ activities still largely consist of taking the train to and from London. Rachel is able to hold on to a semblance of normalcy by continuing to take the train every day, even once she has been fired. She finds comfort in seeing the same faces and knowing they assume she is leading a stable life. However, the end of this quote reveals the depression Rachel is currently in. By using the words “what I really am,” Hawkins creates a sense of dark mystery before Megan’s case has even been introduced.