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The Girl on the Train > Question #4 - Motherhood, and the female identity

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

One of Rachel’s deepest disappointments, it turns out, is that she can’t have children. Her ex-husband Tom’s second wife Anna is the mother to a young child, Evie. How does Rachel’s inability to conceive precipitate her breakdown? How does the topic of motherhood drive the plot of the story? What do you think Paula Hawkins was trying to say about the ways motherhood can define women’s lives or what we expect from women’s domestic lives, whether as wives, mothers, or unmarried women in general?


message 2: by Allison (last edited Aug 17, 2015 04:21PM) (new)

Allison | 396 comments Oakville wrote: "One of Rachel’s deepest disappointments, it turns out, is that she can’t have children. Her ex-husband Tom’s second wife Anna is the mother to a young child, Evie. How does Rachel’s inability to co..."

I'd like to talk about Rachel's reaction to Anna's child...she was quite malicious in her references to the little girl, calling her ugly, etc. and evidently Anna was worried that Rachel might actually do harm to the child. This didn't really mesh with Rachel's personality in the end, did it? I mean, how she was absolved of doing other bad things. She was not absolved of this.

How did everyone feel about this? Quite frankly, I was appalled and shocked by Rachel's behavior toward an innocent child. Whether she was drunk or not was irrelevant to me. I'm curious what you all think...did I miss something in the storytelling?


message 3: by Emily (new)

Emily Stillwell | 10 comments Allison, I had the same reaction as well. I understand that she was hurt by Tom, and resentful of Anna, and sad about her own inability to have a child, but Evie is an innocent outcome of the affair. I think perhaps it was to show how irrational, and mentally unstable she had become? That she would feel, and act in such a way?

I also think it was interesting how Hawkins took something a lot of people take for granted - getting married, having children, and ripping it away from Rachel. Her tailspin, I think is a culmination of things, but certainly precipitated by the destruction of the "ideal" life she had built. This "social norm" is so ingrained in the fabric of our being, that if one becomes reliant on this idea of wife, and motherhood, without factoring in the growth of the "self", like Rachel, it can create an identity crisis.


message 4: by Darrell (new)

Darrell | 55 comments Allison wrote: "Oakville wrote: "One of Rachel’s deepest disappointments, it turns out, is that she can’t have children. Her ex-husband Tom’s second wife Anna is the mother to a young child, Evie. How does Rachel..."

I have to admit, I found that bit disturbing. It showed that she was truly flawed, and not a 100% innocent victim in the whole situation. Yes, she was manipulated and made to feel like she was going crazy but she still is responsible for her actions. I definitely felt that bit seemed to jar with the "hero" version of Rachel at the end of the book.


message 5: by Maureen (new)

Maureen B. | 212 comments Rachel was so messed up that it didn't surprise me, although the way she told it, that she was trying to calm the baby, made it seem to me less harmful than it possibly was. What I found alarming was that Anna, Evie's mother, turned out to be much more than a woman who happily broke up a marriage and was quite willing to see serious harm done to others. As the book progressed, I found Rachel a bit more sympathetic but I found Anna terrifying.


message 6: by Susan (new)

Susan (susanopl) | 472 comments Mod
I think the breakdown of Tom and Rachel's marriage after having trouble conceiving a child was very realistic. Couples who undergo fertility treatments are highly likely to separate or divorce from the stress of the treatments. Of course, there was more going on in that marriage all along and we don't find that out until the end.

Rachel's difficulty in seeing Tom with Anna and their child was realistic, too, especially since she was not able to move on with her own life. Tom and Anna had everything that she wanted.


message 7: by Susan (new)

Susan | 130 comments I know this thread is over as it is September but I was away on holiday and didn't get the chance to comment on these quite provocative questions. I was also taken aback by Rachel's animosity towards the little girl but when I thought about it, wasn't surprised. All the way through the book, she is able to project fault on others - a natural defence for someone as deeply disturbed as she is. There is no middle ground for her emotions - and if the situation didn't correspond to the imagined perfection of life, it was always someone else's fault. Think that made her especially menacing.


message 8: by Allison (new)

Allison | 396 comments Susan wrote: "I know this thread is over as it is September but I was away on holiday and didn't get the chance to comment on these quite provocative questions. I was also taken aback by Rachel's animosity towa..."

Menacing is a really good word, Susan. I suppose drunkenness also played a role in her inability to check her true feelings. Glad you responded here, no matter the timing! Your insight into her character makes sense to me. I guess projecting fault onto others might be a natural extension of being in denial, yes?


message 9: by Darrell (new)

Darrell | 55 comments Susan wrote: "I know this thread is over as it is September but I was away on holiday and didn't get the chance to comment on these quite provocative questions. I was also taken aback by Rachel's animosity towa..."

I agree with Allison, you make another great point here, Susan. Rachel does seem to have an unhealthy way of viewing and interacting with the world, and others. Perhaps due to her alcoholism or perhaps the cause of it? She definitely seems to set herself up for failure and then lash out at others when she fails.


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