Study Guide

The Girl on the Train Inertia

By Paula Hawkins

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The weekend stretches out ahead of me, forty-eight empty hours to fill. I lift the can to my mouth again, but there's not a drop left. (1.10)

Instead of making plans to see a movie, or play shuffleboard, or basically do anything, Rachel decides to sit home and drink all weekend. Sure, that's something, but it's something that doesn't take her anywhere except backward.

Just as I'm in no great hurry to get into London in the morning, I'm in no hurry to get back to Ashbury in the evening, either. (1.23)

Would Rachel be in a hurry to get anywhere? She just goes back and forth, like dirty water circling the drain.

I have to do something, and at least this feels like action. […] 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. (2.34)

Megan spends a lot of her time the same way Rachel does, sitting around in her own imagination. Going to see a therapist is her first step out of that rut.

The last thing I need is rest. I need to find something to fill my days. I know what's going to happen if I don't. (4.5)

This thought could come from the brain of any of our protagonists, but in this case, it's Megan that's thinking. Unlike Rachel, who settles into alcoholism when she's idle, Megan falls into a different rut: adultery.

Sometimes, I don't want to go anywhere, I think I'll be happy if I never have to set foot outside the house again. I don't even miss working. (6.1)

Okay, this is Megan again, and she has to be lying here, trying to convince herself that she is perfectly okay staying at home and being a happy housewife, despite the fact that she is anything but happy. She can't even walk near her old art gallery without getting sad.

I got bored around three o'clock […] so I went to the off-licence and bought two bottles of white wine. (15.11)

Uh oh, here's Rachel again, bored and drinking. It's a bad combo. She needs to stock up on crossword puzzle books or travel brochures or something.

Drunk Rachel sees no consequences, she is either excessively expansive and optimistic or wrapped up in hate. She has no past, no future. She exists purely in the moment. (9.49)

Sober Rachel isn't all that different, actually; she also exists purely in the moment. It's even worse, in a way, because she exists in other people's moments. She wallows in Scott and Megan's problems instead of tending to her own.

I am no longer traveling to my imaginary office. I have given up the pretence. I can barely be bothered to get out of bed. I think I last brushed my teeth on Wednesday. (15.34)

About halfway through the book, things get really bad for Rachel. She wasn't really going anywhere when she took the train back and forth each day, but at least she was leaving the house. Now she doesn't even do that.

"We didn't even acknowledge that anything had changed. I got fatter and slower and more tired, we both got irritable and fought all the time, but nothing really changed until she came." (16.44)

We're not sure if Megan means that things changed or they didn't change; she contradicts herself here. But what matters about this confusing statement is that Megan hasn't ever been able to move past this moment when she had a baby and then accidentally killed it. That's not something you easily recover from.

People you have a history with, they won't let you go, and as hard as you might try, you can't disentangle yourself, can't set yourself free. Maybe after a while you just stop trying. (28.3)

Anna would like nothing more than for Tom and Rachel to unstick themselves from each other and move on. That's why she tries to convince Tom to move, but he's too stunted to ever be responsible enough to do that.

The Girl on the Train Inertia Study Group

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