Post-reading Discussion:

The Girl on the Train

Riverhead Books, 2015. 323 pages. Paperback version.

Notable Scenes & Passages:

23: “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.” MEGAN.

 

59-60: Dr. Kamal Abidic tries to convince Megan that Scott’s invasion of her privacy and constant monitoring is abnormal and abusive. She however dismisses Scott’s controlling behaviors by remarking that he is merely “jealous” and “possessive.”

 

79: “Let’s be honest: women are still only really valued for two things--their looks and their role as mothers. I’m not beautiful, and I can’t have kids, so what does that make me? Worthless.” RACHEL.

 

217: “Did I, for just the briefest of moments, think she got what was coming for her, too?” Rachel asks this question in regard to Megan--it demonstrates how women can sometimes resent or behave coldly toward female victims of domestic violence. Rachel is recognizing her almost subconscious drive to find fault with the female victim, instead of condemning the male perpetrator.

 

233: “Being the other woman is a huge turn-on, there’s no point in denying it: you’re the one he can’t help but betray his wife for, even though he loves her. That’s just how irresistible you are.” Anna speaking about the power and satisfaction she gains from being Tom’s mistress--her cold and blithe attitude toward adultery is yet another unfortunate symptom of patriarchy. It prevents woman from becoming allies, and instead, they compete with each other for male validation.

 

283: “You know he couldn’t have done this. You couldn’t have loved a man who would do that, could you?” Anna expressing her disbelief that Tom was capable of committing murder and infidelity. She painfully comes to grips with the fact that Tom is not who he appears to be.

 

287-290: Megan’s violent altercation with Scott. He tries to suffocate her and hurls a wedding anniversary picture at her head. Once Megan has had enough and she gets away, he apologizes tearfully--it is a tactic of emotional manipulation.

 

292: “I just enjoyed feeling wanted; I like the feeling of control. It was as simple and stupid as that. I didn’t want him to leave his wife; I just wanted him to want to leave her. To want me that much.” Megan describing the power trip she experiences in inciting Tom to infidelity. Eerily echoes Anna’s thoughts on being the “other woman,” and sheds light on a running theme in the novel of women trying to gain validation through illicit sexual affairs.

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315: “I can feel a sob building in the back of my throat, but I swallow it down. This is what he does--this is what he always does. He’s a master at it, making me feel as though everything is my fault, making me feel worthless.” She notes Tom’s abusive personality, and how his suave and charming facade conceals his dark, perverse craving for power and domination.

 

316: Tom degrades Rachel and compares her to a dog who pines for its owner no matter how badly it is treated. He takes sick, sadistic pleasure in Rachel’s desperation.

Questions (Revisited):
  • 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?