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Critical Research Essay on the Book – the Girl on the Train

The Author

Paula Hawkins’ 2015 book “The Girl On The Train” is a thriller, mystery, and tension work. Rachel catches the same passenger train to London and back to Ashbury each day. She rumbles along the rail daily, zooms by a row of pleasant suburban houses, and slows at the signaling where she can observe the same people, Jess and Jason, having breakfast on the balcony. Rachel feels as though she now knows Jess and Jason and believes their life is ideal, similar to the life she just lost (Hawkins). In 2016, a movie based on the book was released. The author of the book, Paula Hawkins, is a British writer born on 26th August 1972 in Rhodesia. Hawkins has authored and co-authored nine books since 2006. Still, she is famous for her bestselling psychological thriller The Girl on the Train (2015), which touches on issues including spousal abuse, alcoholism, and drug addiction. The BBC included her on their list of 100 Women in November of 2016.

Hawkins is the daughter of Glynne and Anthony Hawkins, a financial writer and economics teacher. Paula Hawkins attended Arundel School in Rhodesia until she was 17 and moved to Collingham College, West London, to acquire an A-level certificate. After A-levels, Hawkins attended Oxford’s Keble College to undertake a commerce, politics, and philosophy course. Concerning employment, Hawkins worked as a business reporter with “The Times,” where she covered a variety of industries as her primary beat. Hawkins left “The Times” and indulged in freelance work for several media outlets and published a book offering monetary guidance to women under the title “The Money Goddess” in 2006. In 2009, Hawkins started publishing books under the pen name Amy Silver, including the bestselling Confessions of a Reluctant Recessionista, but in 2015 she released a more severe and bleaker narrative. Since 2015, Hawkins has released three successful books, The Girl on the Train (2015), Into the Water (2017), and A Slow Fire Burning (2021). For instance, Paula’s second suspense novel, Into the Water (2017), was released to critical acclaim and quickly rose to the top of the bestseller lists in both the Sunday Times and the New York Times (Paula Hawkins).


Rachel Watson

Rachel is a complex character who may be unlikable and untrustworthy at times. From her point of view, she is a divorcee who is psychologically depressed because of her inability to conceive and her broken marriage. She wishes for comfortable suburban family life since she wants to make a difference in the world and feels that her efforts are worthwhile. She is the novel’s driving force because, when intoxicated, she is destructive but sober; she is tireless in her pursuit of the truth about what happened on that fateful Saturday night. Rachel is an unorthodox investigator who searches for answers in her shattered recollections, although she is labeled a dangerous stalker by the general public. Rachel Watson is the most influential female character in the narrative because she confronts the reality of her terrible marriage to Tom, breaks free from her emotional reliance, and rejects victimhood(Hawkins). Despite her imperfections, she has a solid moral compass and a lot of compassion.

Megan Hipwell

Rachel’s idealized version of Megan is a perfect wife and a stunning beauty. Still, Megan’s tragic past involving the unintentional death of her baby doomed her to a series of shallow relationships. Megan involves in adultery with Scott’s coworker Tom. In the precepts, her pregnancy impels her to be honest and start over(Hawkins). Tom killed her to conceal their affair.

Anna Watson

Anna has a strong sense of identity-based on her physical attractiveness and ability to seduce men. Her husband cheats on her like Rachel, but she has an affair with a married man like Megan. Unlike Megan, who is ashamed of her infidelity, Anna finds Tom quite attractive throughout their fling. Anna considers Rachel a loser, and Megan, a baby killer who pretends to value traditional family life. Although she is driven by self-interest and lacks a moral compass or empathy for people, she fails to put her confidence in her husband, who has come out as a vixen.

Tom Watson

At first glance, Tom seems to be an affectionate spouse to Anna and a devoted parent to their daughter. He also remains concerned about Rachel, although they divorced. Nevertheless, Tom is unfaithful to Anna and Rachel; he has an affair with Megan. He is a pathological liar who has gaslighted Rachel for the whole of their marriage by making her feel guilty for her episodes of violence. Tom is irresponsible, holding the women in his life accountable for his failures, including Megan’s murder, which he claims was caused by Rachel’s anger(Hawkins).

Scott Hipwell

Scott is loving but jealous. Scott’s jealousy and impulsiveness lead him to cross all limits of his wife’s, Megan personal space. Scott is abusive since he cannot control his anger and violent outbursts of envious rage. Scott is aggressive; like Tom, he beats Megan and Rachel after discovering their deceptions about their relationship(Hawkins).

The essence of the Story

In the book “The Girl on the Train,” the author strives to show the obstacles and experiences women endure in contemporary societies. The book maintains a notion that experiences might motivate women to undertake actions that can have far-reaching consequences for their future happiness or misery. Either way, the book utilizes a few different narrators to attempt to offer excitement while simultaneously tackling the genuine challenges that modern women face. The prevalence of topics like infertility, drunkenness, and extramarital affairs in these works indicates the development of a new genre (Ragasatiwi). The novel’s premise is built on Rachel, a commuter train passenger, who spends Monday through Friday relaying her observations of life through the train’s window.

Paula Hawkins builds the first several chapters to establish the novel’s framework, tempo, and general atmosphere. The author uses Rachel, the first-person narrator, to sets the mood with a description of a pile of colorful garments left by the side of the railroad tracks. Just as Rachel does not feel at home in Cathy’s flat, the garments do not belong alongside the train tracks. The book entails multiple connotations of symbolism. To begin, Rachel has not yet fully gotten over their split with her ex-husband, Tom, and the neighbors down the street, Jason and Jess, represent her imagination of a life with Tom. Jason and Jess are the perfect young couple with weekend plans, which is what Rachel still aspires to be. By contrast, neither her morning commute to London nor her nighttime return to Ashbury excites her anymore as she wishes for a different life(Ragasatiwi). When she contacts Tom late one night to tell him she still loves him, she realizes the breakup was not her choice and may have been precipitated partly by her drinking and unpredictable conduct when inebriated.

The Girl on the Train is the epitome of the psychological suspense genre. The perspectives of only three individuals provide the basis for the bulk of the narrative. This was a risky development, considering that at least two characters, Megan and Anna, are unlikeable. Rachel, the protagonist and third central character, is unliked by many readers. Author Paula Hawkins, though, made it work through superb characterization. In this way, the author reveals the motivation behind the character’s actions to allow the audience to develop imaginations beyond the three women’s inherent unlikability. For instance, the author depicts Rachels’s regrets for her behavior, acts under the influence of alcohol, general state of disorganization, and her unkempt appearance and hopeless outlook.

Works Cited

Hawkins, Paula. The girl on the train. Random House, 2015.

Paula Hawkins. Paula Hawkins – #1 New York Times Bestselling Author,

Ragasatiwi, Ghalih. The portrait of patriarchy in the Novel The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. Diss. Universitas Islam Negeri Maulana Malik Ibrahim, 2018.


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