The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train Summary and Analysis of Pages 112 - 170


When the narration returns to Rachel, it is the morning after her first meeting with Scott. She reports that she dressed up for the visit, took the train, and commenced an emotional meeting. She was immediately put off-guard by the resemblance of Scott and Megan’s house, number fifteen, to her former home with Tom, number twenty-three. She also noticed that he is physically intimidating up close and seems not to be coping well; the house smelled of antiseptic and his clothes were stained with sweat. She quickly told him what she saw: Megan and another man in the garden. He questioned her passionately, spiraling downward as he got himself a beer and began to speak quite vulnerably, even crying in front of her. The conversation began to turn when he started to piece together what Rachel said - that she knew Megan from the gallery, but knew about her affair from a glimpse through her train window. Returning to the subject of Megan’s affair, he pressured Rachel to identify the man, showing her pictures of a friend named Rajesh and then realizing the description might match with Kamal Abdic, though he has never seen him. He had her positively identify Kamal by looking up a photograph online and then dismissed her abruptly. Their meeting ended with him asking, “Have I seen you somewhere before?” (120), and though Rachel thought that he could be thinking of the police station or even Saturday night, she told him no.

In the evening, Rachel obsessively waits for a response from Tom after her drunken email; however, it is Scott who contacts her, thanking her for her information and saying that he has asked the detectives to investigate Kamal without mentioning his meeting with Rachel. He begins to speak as if really speaking to himself. He tosses out that he saw Tom earlier in the day, but again didn’t mention meeting with Rachel. Finally, he begins to quiz Rachel on whether Megan ever talked about him at the art gallery. He gives her his side of the fight with Megan on Saturday night, the last time he saw her. He doesn’t go into why they fought, but focuses on the fact that he didn’t go after her when she left. When he checked at Tara’s the next morning, he found out that she had never gone there. Rachel describes the end of Scott’s call with the ominous narration, “If you didn’t know him, if you hadn’t see how he was with her, as I have, a lot of what he’d said would not ring quite true” (127).

The next day, Rachel sees in the news that someone has been arrested in relation to Megan’s case, reading over a man’s shoulder on the train. Rachel runs off the train at Witney, briefly fixating on a spot of blood on the steps, thinking about Scott’s house - the mixed smells of antiseptic, sweat, and beer. She runs all the way to number fifteen; at the last moment, seeing herself watched from next door, she turns to go. Before she can leave, Scott pulls her inside.

Narration skips back to Megan, later in March. She is thinking furiously about the man she is having an affair with, the way she opened up in the hotel room and how he now isn’t calling or texting. At breakfast, Scott asks her to cancel her therapy session to have dinner with their friend; he does not accept her refusal to do so, and Megan throws a coffee cup against the wall when he leaves. She shows up late and hysterical to her therapy appointment, trying to touch Kamal. He resists her, calling her feelings transference, a phenomenon in which a patient displaces the feelings being brought up by therapy and begins to feel romantically toward the therapist. She begins to yell and he grabs and shakes her; she kisses him roughly, biting his lip until he bleeds. She goes home “plott[ing] revenge” (134) and thinking about how to explain the bruises on her arms.

Returning to Rachel on July 22, she recounts her second meeting with Scott. They discussed the news about Megan and he revealed that his mother is over, looking after him. Scott’s mother firmly saw Rachel to the door, and when forced outside Rachel saw Tom and Anna pushing their baby stroller down the road toward her.

Time skips back briefly to Anna’s morning on the 22nd, describing how she and Tom planned to go around the corner for breakfast and how she thought nostalgically about going to the same place early in their affair. The reader is then shown the news about Megan and the run-in with Rachel outside number fifteen from Anna’s perspective. In the evening, Anna suggests to Tom that they contact the police about Rachel; he tells her that Rachel is harmless, shutting down the idea and attempting to distract Anna with a hand down her pants, but Anna keeps the idea in mind.

On July 23, Rachel wakes to a feeling of dread, sure that the terrible truth about Megan’s disappearance will be revealed soon. She watched the news all the previous day after being cast out of Scott’s house and now boots up her computer to continue her “research” (141). She spends her day continuing to read and watch the news until 3pm when she goes out to buy two bottles of white wine. Back at home, she has already finished the first bottle when it is announced that the suspect in Megan’s case has been released due to insufficient evidence. Later, drunkenly lying in bed, Rachel contemplates throwing out the remaining wine and from somewhere in her mind or memory hears Scott calling Megan’s name. In the morning, Cathy comes into her room, picking up the wine bottle and cautions Rachel ironically that she’ll lose her job if she keeps this up. Turning the news on the downstairs TV once again, Rachel watches Gaskill talk about releasing the suspect without mentioning Kamal’s name. Remembering more drunken phone calls, Rachel rushes upstairs and finds a missed call from Tom the night before and two from Scott, one at night and one just a few minutes earlier in the morning. After a shower and coffee, Rachel calls Scott back; he accuses her of not telling him she is an alcoholic and mentally unstable.

In an unusual move, Rachel’s narration skips an entire day. By Friday, Rachel has almost dropped the pretense of going to work, having stayed home for an entire week and retreated to bed for the past few days. She has insomnia and nightmares, worrying that they will never find Megan. She emails Scott to apologize, telling him that she is getting help for her drinking problem and is not mentally unstable, though she knows the former is a lie and questions the latter. In the evening, at the ATM, seeking money to buy yet more alcohol, she finds that she does not have any money left. She calls Tom and he tells her that he called her office, meaning he embarrassed himself and her and found out about her dismissal. She attempts to find out what he knows about her actions on Saturday night and he begins to rant about her drunkenness. When she asks about the blood she found on her hands and whether Anna may have hurt her, Scott scoffs, but his tone turns concerned when she asks if he saw Megan Hipwell that night. He tells her that he didn’t and she tells him what she knows about Megan’s affair with Kamal Abdic. By the end, his tone is almost friendly, but he gets off the phone quickly to attend to his daughter.

On Monday, Rachel is back on the train to her pretend job. By now, Megan’s story has been almost entirely dropped from the news. She gets off the train at Witney and sits on a bench, thinking about talking to the red-haired man. At 9:15 she decides that it is too late for him to come by on his way to work, but she suddenly sees Scott at the station, grabbing him as he goes by. He faces her angrily in the downpour, but realizing suddenly how wet they are he bursts into laughter. He brings her to his house, making her tea and offering her a towel. He tells her some news she didn’t know about Kamal - that even though there was technically insufficient evidence, they did find her DNA in his house and some blood matching her blood type in his car. However, he says, Kamal told the police that she might have run away because she was unhappy in her marriage. Scott asks Rachel about why her marriage ended and she tells him about Anna and her drinking problem. In the evening, when Rachel returns home to her flat, Cathy confronts Rachel about her job. She says that Damien has done the same as Tom and asked about her at work only to find she hasn’t been employed there for months. Rachel sobs in front of Cathy, telling her that she didn’t admit to being fired because she was ashamed, and Cathy seems to take pity on her, making tea and helping her come up with a plan, though Rachel already knows she needs to do all those things.

On Thursday morning, Rachel wakes up feeling something suffocating her. However, when she sits up, all there is is a growing blackness in the corner and then nothing. She goes downstairs and finds the remains of a bottle of wine; she pours it into a mug so that she can pretend for Cathy that it is tea. Turning on the news, Rachel sees shots of Corly Wood, a nearby area, drenched with rain. In shock, Rachel begins to process what the reporters are saying - a woman’s body has washed up in the rain, having been buried in the woods at some point. Rachel runs upstairs sick and then gets back in bed, staying there for most of the day. In the evening, she creeps back downstairs to watch the news again; the reporters say that the body still hasn’t been confirmed as Megan, but that there doesn’t seem to have been a sexual motive (a thought that Rachel scoffs at, saying that signs of rape do not preclude a sexual motive).

The narrative returns to Megan, now on June 13, less than a month before her disappearance. Lying next to Scott in bed, she feels too hot, as if bugs are crawling on her and she is suffocating. She mentally rants about feeling bored, about feeling crazy; she says that she feels as if she was getting better a few months ago after beginning her sessions with Kamal, but now she feels childish in the relationship she has created and anxious to tell him about a part of her life she hasn’t told anyone. That evening, she tells Scott she is going to the cinema but instead goes to Kamal’s house. He lets her into his kitchen but firmly says he can no longer continue therapy with her. She asks him just to hear her out as a friend, saying that she needs to talk about something she can’t talk about with her husband. With wine in hand, they move to the living room where she begins to talk about her young romance with Mac. She talks about living together near the ocean and next to a train, revealing that she got pregnant. He did not respond very well to her pregnancy, wanting their life of drugs and freedom to carry on. She, for her part, tried to ignore the pregnancy as well and did not take care of the baby with dietary supplements or doctor visits. She delivered the baby at home, she says, helped by one of Mac’s friends who was a nurse. The baby was delivered, a girl they named Elizabeth and called Libby. One night, after a fight, Mac went out; it was terribly cold in the house during a storm, so Megan drank some wine and then got in the bathtub, resting Libby on her chest. In her exhaustion, she fell asleep, and when she awoke Libby had her face underwater, wedged between Megan’s arm and the side of the tub. Throughout the story, Kamal patiently listens, touching Megan only lightly to reassure her. Having finally told her deepest secret, Megan does not feel all that different but still somewhat relieved. She falls asleep in his arms, waking up later to calls from Scott and Tara. On her way out, she tells Kamal that she doesn’t want to leave and he invites her to come back. She kisses him and this time he does not resist.


In this section, Hawkins repeats a moment of sudden laughter in the rain that first occurred to Rachel alone and now includes Scott, giving the first moment and the symbol of rain greater significance. Rain provides a heightening of emotion in these instances that provides a moment of catharsis or cleansing. However, rain takes on a more sinister tone of revelation when Megan's body washes up in the woods due to heavy rain, generating not emotional release but more questions.

The parallel between Rachel and Megan is heightened in this section through similarities in their thought patterns and their linked feelings of suffocation. On the morning Megan's body is found, Rachel wakes in a panic from a dream in which she was suffocating, perhaps linking to Megan's death or to the posthumous experience of being raised from the grave. Furthermore, Megan thinks, "I feel like I'm suffocating" (162) while lying next to Scott and thinking restlessly about her life. Directly before this, she thinks, "in my head, thoughts go round and round and round" (162), further paralleling the thoughts of Rachel who, in response to Tom interacting with his child, thinks, "The dagger in my heart twists, round and round and round" (151). These linked moments keep the reader engaged in the mystery of how Rachel is linked to Megan.

Hawkins continues to forward the case for Scott as the killer, a dramatic irony once it becomes clear this is not the case. This is largely done through ambiguously suspicious details Rachel notices in his house such as the smell of antiseptic and the lack of pictures of the couple together, while pictures of Megan alone can be found, advancing the idea that Scott valued her at least to some extent for her physical appearance rather than the depth of their relationship.

As Megan's case progresses from days to weeks, Hawkins presents a realistic picture of life moving on for those not immediately linked to Megan. In one section, Hawkins even breaks form to imitate the way in which information on Megan's case is now presented: "the ticker running across the bottom of the screen tells me that the government is facing a challenge to legal aid cuts and that Fernando Torres will be out for up to four weeks with a hamstring strain and that the suspect in the Megan Hipwell disappearance has been released without charge" (143). As Megan's name is removed from headlines and the public consciousness, Rachel continues to involve herself directly with Scott and the police because of the scarcity of information in the news.

As the story progresses, the reader is kept in a constant state of unease by Rachel's living situation, which is mentioned with some frequency as a reminder that part of her involvement in Megan's case comes out of sheer desperation for something to care about. She continues to lie to Cathy and others about being fired, leading to situations of irony such as when Cathy tells her to shape up or she'll lose her job. While her bank account reading zero curbs her alcohol intake momentarily it also serves as a reality check for how unstable Rachel's life has become. Even once Cathy has found out about her joblessness, Rachel continues lying to her mother, requiring her to keep track of who she has lied to and who knows the truth about her life, a feeling similar to Megan comparing what she can tell to Scott and to Kamal.