The Girl on the Train

by Paula Hawkins

“You know he couldn’t have done this. You couldn’t have loved a man who would do that,

could you?”

The Girl on the Train is a thriller surrounding the sudden disappearance of a young woman in the suburbs of London. The story is told through three different female narrators that alternate with each new chapter, making it increasingly difficult to tease out the truth as discrepancies and questions proliferate. Published in 2015, The Girl on the Train depicts myriad forms of relationship abuse and domestic violence, and it piercingly examines the grave consequences of toxic masculinity. Hawkins presents a predicament where women must cooperate with each other against patriarchal abuses that do everything they can to drive them apart.

Questions:
  • How is toxic masculinity represented in the novel and what are some specific moments where it inflicts psychological, emotional, or physical harm on the female characters?

 

  • Both Scott and Tom are upper-middle class, charming, and seemingly successful men who are more or less respected in the public eye. How do they manage to mask their cruel and despotic natures that come out in their relationships with women? Do the women in their lives protect and defend either man’s personal image and continue to see the good in him despite the horrible treatment they receive?

 

  • How do the female characters operate within a patriarchal system? How do they perpetuate or subvert its practices, values, and attitudes? Are they able to empower themselves through their sexuality and the subsequent illicit affairs they have with married men? Or is this just a means of gaining male validation that produces bitterness and jealousy between women, preventing them from forming alliances with each other that could challenge the patriarchy or out a single abusive man?

 

  • Are Paula Hawkins’ fictional depictions of domestic disturbances, infidelity, and relationship abuse consistent with the real experiences of women in violent or toxic relationships? Does she romanticize the violence, degradation, and passivity of women in the novel at all?

 

  • What overlooked or more subtle types of abuse does the novel explore? What are your thoughts or impressions on the excessive monitoring and policing of women’s personal lives and social interactions by their male partners?