The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train Summary and Analysis of Pages 170 - 244


On Saturday, August 3, Rachel wakes to the sound of Cathy doing her ritualistic cleaning and to the buzz of her phone. Her mother has left a message asking her to lunch in London and telling her it's not a good time to live back at home since she has a new “friend” (172). There is also a missed call from Scott. She does not call him back but instead gets into the shower to prepare to meet her mother. At lunch, she does not completely tell her mother about her struggles, but her mother does transfer her 300 pounds. The day is also important for the fact that the body in the woods has been officially identified as Megan, though the news states that nobody has been arrested and that the cause of death may be hard to determine due to the conditions in which the body was found.

Closing her eyes and leaning against the train window, Rachel suddenly smells something familiar; she opens her eyes to find the red-haired man. The red-haired man jokes about that Saturday night, saying that they were both totally drunk, but he seems to remember more than Rachel. Being near him, especially smelling the cigarettes on him, seems to bring forth memories in Rachel - laughter and someone hitting her. Upset by these thoughts, she moves away from him quickly. At the other end of the train, Rachel tries to hold on to the memories and feelings flooding her mind. She at first sees only black, but then an image comes forth of a woman in a blue dress walking away from her - Anna.

The narration shifts to Anna on the same day, August 3rd. Tom is off with his army buddies and Anna is bored at home, trying to take her mind off of Megan. She tells the readers that she spoke to the detectives about Rachel, but they said she was just a rubbernecker.

On August 4, Rachel wakes from a nightmare in which she had done something wrong but she doesn’t know what. She calls Scott and he is short with her over the phone, seemingly because there are people at the house, but after pressing him to talk about Anna he invites Rachel to come over the next day. In the evening, presumably of the next day, Rachel goes again to his house and brings up the possibility that Anna harmed Megan. This raises his suspicions, however, as she has never before mentioned that she was in the area on the night of Megan’s disappearance. Scott attempts to get rid of her before breaking down, saying that Kamal has been cleared as a subject and people think he killed Megan. Rachel tries to comfort him and he briefly settles on the idea that she might be able to clear his name with the police before going back to the fact that she was in the area on the night of Megan’s disappearance and might know something. Rachel again tries hard to remember, attempting to separate dream from reality. On the train home, feeling guilty for her lack of memory, Rachel gets the idea to go see Kamal Abdic herself.

On Tuesday morning, Rachel reports that she has gone through with her plan to schedule an appointment with Kamal. Though expensive to do so, it has given her something new to focus on. She ends her narration of the morning with the strong thought, “I am going to see Kamal Abdic, because unlike all the speculators, I have seen Scott. I've been close enough to touch him, I know what he is, and he isn't a murderer" (187). In the evening on the train, Rachel describes her meeting with Kamal, starting with the fact that it "wasn't what [she] expected" (188). At the appointment, much like Megan experienced her first time, Rachel went in tense and almost antagonistic but soon felt herself soothed and opened up about her blackouts. She described the guilt she feels when she wakes up and has to be told what she did during a blackout, clarifying that she actually wishes she could remember and feel properly guilty. When Tom would tell her the awful things she had done she would often feel a disconnect verging on incredulity that she would do such things. Rachel went as far as to talk about Tom's affair and the breakup of their marriage, which she blames on herself and her drinking, but she refuses to go into the fertility problems that first led her to drink. Rachel remains lulled by Kamal's demeanor throughout the meeting until he smiles and invites her to come back for another appointment; as she describes, "Everything about him is warm--his hands, his eyes, his voice--everything but the smile. You can see the killer in him when he shows his teeth" (192).

On Wednesday, August 7, Rachel wakes again from the same dream in which she has done something wrong and all her loved ones have turned against her. This time, the dream leads her to reveal more about her and Tom's struggles with IVF. They decided that a second round of IVF was too expensive after the first round failed. However, Tom soon after booked an expensive trip to Vegas to watch a big boxing match, and Rachel had to gather the courage to confront him about their goals and choices with money. However, she attempted to gather this courage through drinking, and so only remembers the actual fight through Tom's description. After lying in bed thinking for a while, Rachel decides to go for a walk around Ashbury. Near the end of her walk, while pondering whether Kamal can see through her plan to get information from him, she sees a tabloid headline reading, "WAS MEGAN A CHILD KILLER?" (195).

Skipping to a brief section of narration by Anna, the reader sees her read the same newspaper headline, bursting into tears at Starbucks at the thought that she allowed Megan to take care of her own baby. In the evening, Anna lashes out at Tom about the fact that she's never wanted to live in this house where she feels constantly paranoid about the presence of Megan, Rachel, and the trains. Tom reasons with Anna, saying that they don't have the money to move and can't ask his parents for help due to their estrangement after his divorce from Rachel.

Returning to Rachel, on the evening of the 7th she gets a call from Scott asking if he can come over to her flat since there are cameras all over his house. They talk about the allegations that Megan killed a child when she was young and then Scott reveals a big piece of news told to him by the detectives - Megan was pregnant when she was killed. Both of them begin to cry; eventually, Rachel makes tea and puts him to sleep in her own bed after more discussion of whose, Scott's or Kamal's, the baby might have been. The next morning, Scott is gone and Rachel sets off for Kamal's office, where she again cries while allowing him to help her through some of her issues. After this meeting, her opinion of Kamal and suspicions about Megan's death seem shift. She writes, "I try to conjure up the killer I saw, but I can't see him any longer... A terrible, shameful image comes to me: Kamal with his delicate hands, his reassuring manner, his sibilant speech, contrasted with Scott, huge and powerful, wild, desperate" (207). On Friday evening, Rachel heads back to Scott's house following the police finding the remains of Megan's baby from when she was living with Mac; as Rachel approaches Scott's house with a new view of Megan as a killer, she even feels somewhat romantically excited to see Scott.

The narration turns to Megan on June 20, two weeks before her disappearance. She is back at Kamal's, wine in hand, ready to tell him about what happened after the death of her first baby. She describes Mac finding her and the baby, their burying the baby near the train tracks, and Mac leaving without telling her where he was going or ever contacting her again. Kamal asks whether Megan ever contacted him, suggesting when she says that she's sure he's dead that she may just feel that way because of him being gone from her life for so long and that perhaps getting in contact with him could help her reach closure. Megan wants to kiss him but doesn't; on her way back from Kamal's, a person bumps into Megan, causing her to cut her hand and smear that blood across her lips as she wipes her mouth.

Rachel wakes up on Saturday snuggling herself against a man in her bed; in her sleepy state she believes this man to be Tom, but she and the reader soon realize that it is Scott. Rachel and Scott both quickly acknowledge that what happened the night before was wrong. Rachel had come over to talk about Megan, and they had, but then they had begun to drink beers and talk of other things, leading to sex. With shame, Rachel remembers her thoughts the night before: “I wanted to be with Jason. I wanted to feel what Jess felt... I ignored the fact that at the very best, Jess was nothing but a figment of my imagination, and at the worst, she is Megan -- she is dead” (217). After Scott comes out of the shower and goes downstairs, Rachel washes her face and then goes looking for signs of Megan in the room. As she realizes she can’t find any, not even a hairbrush or photograph, Scott calls her downstairs for coffee. Rachel leaves shortly after and sees Anna on her way out of the house. Anna swiftly heads toward her house, almost running, which reminds Rachel of when Anna moved into the house Rachel had vacated just two days before.

The narration breaks quickly to Anna, who narrates her day at the gym and then shopping before seeing Rachel coming out of the Hipwell house. When she brings up what she saw to Tom, he assures her that he will talk to Rachel about it.

On Monday morning, Rachel and Tom are at Wilton Lake talking about her being at Scott’s house. Rachel says that Scott called the night before to ask to go for a drive with her, and even while feeling silly, Rachel prepared for it by shaving her legs and putting on makeup. Tom speaks sweetly to Rachel, telling her that he’s worried about her and especially concerned about Scott’s presence in her life since he is a suspect for murder and at least used to fight a good deal with Megan. He asks her about her financial situation, and when he gets a check from the glovebox they end up laughing together about old times, after which he puts his hand on her face and she kisses his palm.

Early Tuesday morning, Rachel has a dream: from the train window, Rachel sees another pile of clothing by the track - a blue dress and black belt. She thinks to herself that she will see Tom waiting to wave to her outside of their house and Jason and Jess outside theirs. Jason and Jess are drinking wine and, besides it being quite early for wine, all seems well until Rachel realizes that Jason is choking Jess. When Rachel tries to bang on the window and scream for help, the red-haired man restrains her, telling her it’s too late. Rachel is shaky from this dream all morning, but it is time for her third appointment with Kamal Abdic. Dr. Abdic seems low spirited and though Rachel wants to discuss her dream, she decides that this is too risky and settles for asking about recovery of memories from blackouts. Dr. Abdic tells her that some therapists believe in hypnosis to recovery memories, but he does not and cannot recommend anyone because of the possibility of warping or implanting false memories. Rachel agrees that she does not want any greater possibility of misremembering. When Kamal encourages her to instead try to remember a specific incident by focusing on senses other than sight, Rachel tells the story of a time she got blackout drunk and supposedly furiously attacked Tom with a golf club, knocking a hole in the wall in the process. However, Rachel tells the doctor, not only could she not remember or connect to the rage that would have caused her to do such a thing, she actually remembers cowering and crying in fear as Tom stood over her with the golf club on the ground by her feet. Based on Kamal’s suggestion to return to the memories and attempt to access them through different senses, Rachel returns to Witney in the evening and attempts to glean more understanding by walking through the underpass. Just when she thinks nothing will come to her, she remembers a woman in a blue dress and black belt walking away from her. Tom’s red car drives up to the woman, who Rachel believes to be Anna, and after a moment of talking she gets into the car. However, Rachel knows that this does not match with the story that the police have released in which Anna was at home while Tom was out driving. Rachel leaves the underpass and walks to where she can look at house number twenty-three, noticing they have painted the door and wondering what else is different on the inside.

The narration turns to Anna also on Tuesday, who provides a much longer passage than usual. She watches Tom prepare for work and envies him for leaving the house rather than watching their child all day, something which she does not usually allow herself to feel. After she feeds Evie she cries briefly and, after looking at her puffy face in the mirror, thinks about what an ego-boost it was to be in an affair with Tom when he was married to Rachel. He met her when she was selling a house; he came in as a surveyor and after that very meeting they had sex. Taking Evie out for a stroll, Anna reclaims her happiness in motherhood, thinking that she would never let someone else watch her child after what happened with Megan. In the evening, in quick succession, Tom calls to say he will be home late and Anna sees Rachel looking up at the house from the street. Anna becomes furious and calls Detective Riley. The next morning, Anna and Tom have sex while fantasizing together about going on a vacation; however, Anna brings up the fact that they could use that money to move houses rather than go on vacation, and the moment is ruined. At breakfast, Tom gets impatient while feeding Evie and tells Anna that she’ll “have to do it” (237). He then becomes enraged when Anna’s angry response is to bring up Rachel having been outside again the day before. In his rant, Tom reveals that he actually talked to Rachel in person, rather than call her like he told Anna. He continues to lie, telling her that they met in a coffee shop and that Rachel suggested it. Anna gives up her side of the argument since she has taken control of the situation by talking to Detective Riley about Rachel and Scott’s apparent relationship. Anna takes Evie out for a walk and, when walking past the house in which she and Tom used to meet during their affair, thinks back with a blush on their routine and the fact that he was so effortless in lying to Rachel. However, for the first time this lying makes Anna uncomfortable as she thinks about how Tom is such a good liar and the fact that she caught him in a lie this morning. She thinks about various phone calls she has overheard late at night. She assumed Tom was calming down Rachel over the phone, but now goes back and forth as to whether she trusts herself to see through all of Tom’s lies. Deciding that she likely does not see through them all, she thinks about something else not really explained in her life with Tom - his explanation that his parents do not want to be involved with Anna and Evie, even though Anna found his mother kind and caring on the two occasions they spoke. In response to all this stressful thinking, Anna does something she herself sees as similar to Rachel - she gets herself a glass of wine and tries to snoop on Tom’s computer. She does not get far, only trying a few passwords before Tom comes home, but she looks at herself oddly in the mirror afterwards, trying to get her bearings.


As the reader collects more and more clues about Megan's killer, the dramatic irony around Tom increases, especially because of Anna's total trust in him. Anna thinks to herself that after finding out Megan killed her child, she is somewhat glad that Megan is dead so that she can never touch her child again, adding that she will never let anyone else care for her child. However, Tom, even more a coldblooded murderer than Megan, who accidentally killed her child, continues to interact with Evie throughout the end of the novel.

Like Megan's conversations with Kamal, Rachel's appointments allow Hawkins a space to further discuss Rachel's past, especially as it relates to her relationship with Tom. Through Rachel's confessions about Tom's treatment of her blackouts, Hawkins reveals Tom's manipulative nature and foreshadows his efforts to keep Rachel in the dark about what she truly saw on the night of Megan's disappearance. Hawkins seems to encourage readers to trust Rachel's gut feelings, such as when she thinks that Tom could be lying to her, even while Rachel pushes this idea away since it would shatter her perception of herself and her relationship.

Hawkins often focuses on lips, especially in Megan's sections, such as when she bites Kamal hard enough to make him bleed. The image of bloody lips is also employed in this section when Megan scrapes herself and then wipes this blood on her lips at some point, a disturbing image in its mix of sensuality and gore, perhaps representative of the spilled blood she feels responsible for in the death of her child.

Dreams continue to provide symbolic insight to the reader, especially because of the book's theme of memory, perception, and truth. In a particularly significant dream, Rachel sits on the train waiting to see Tom, Jason, and Jess from the train window, but is unable to help when she sees Jason strangling Jess. This dream seems to point to Scott as the killer, but the use of Rachel's old names for Megan and Scott shows the disconnect between her perceptions and reality. Rachel herself must contemplate the validity of her dream, attempting to stick to facts as she continues to involve herself in the case.

By this point, Anna's sections have begun to increase in size, giving the reader a more complex look into her mind and her relationship with Tom. Hawkins utilizes the routine time skip from morning to evening to demonstrate Anna's fixation on how much Tom has lied to her throughout their marriage, having her narrate at the end of the morning, "He might be a very good liar, but I know when he's telling the truth. He doesn't fool me" (240), and then immediately after, in the evening, "Only, thinking about it, he did fool me, didn't he?" (240). Around this section, Hawkins also begins to draw parallels between Anna and Rachel, no longer focusing so much on Anna's blissful motherhood but rather describing how she stains her lips with wine while snooping on Tom's computer.