The Girl on the Train

Aisha Rehan

Similarities and Differences

Point of View

In both the novel and film, the story is told in three points of views--Rachel, Megan, and Anna. Rachel's is the main point of view and readers see her point of view the most. Megan, the woman that disappears and ends up being found dead, has the least amount of time telling her point of view, as does Anna, Rachel's ex-husband's new wife. In the film, they all equally get the same amount of time telling their stories.

Characters

Rachel Watson: Novel vs. Film

Novel:

  • The main character, Rachel, is a sad and lonely alcoholic who is unemployed
  • Terrible self-esteem
  • She is made out to be an alcoholic and that's it--readers only think of her as a sad, obsessed, alcoholic who is undetermined until Megan disappears. She also seems extremely mentally unstable.
  • Has lots of blackouts and tries to stop them and remember what happened during those gaps of times.
  • She finds a purpose in life besides drinking--finding out what happened to Megan.
  • She is trying to find herself again and build herself up again.

Film:

  • The main character, Rachel, is a sad and lonely alcoholic who is unemployed
  • Terrible self-esteem
  • Her alcoholism is definitely seen, but she is shown as determined to help solve that problem, and her character is one people can definitely sympathize with. She doesn't seem nearly as crazy as in the novel.
  • Has lots of blackouts and tries to stop them and remember what happened during those gaps of times.
  • She started investigating Megan's disappearance only because she thought she might have killed Megan and she was questioned by a detective.
  • She also tries to find herself, but it isn't as prominent as in the book.
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Megan Hipwell: Novel vs. Film

Novel:

  • Rachel watches Megan and her husband from the train every time she passes their house. She calls Megan "Jess" because she doesn't know who she is. She adores their relationship and believes that it's the perfect kind of love and relationship.
  • Megan actually isn't perfect. She doesn't want a kid with her husband because she lost her baby when she was younger.
  • She cheats on her husband and has no friends.
  • She babysits Anna's child because she's bored with her life and wants to know more about Anna's life.
  • She comes off as just moving through the motions of life.

Film:

  • Rachel watches Megan and her husband from the train every time she passes their house. She doesn't call Megan "Jess." She does adore their relationship and believes that it's the perfect kind of love and relationship.
  • Megan actually isn't perfect. She doesn't want a kid with her husband because she lost her baby when she was younger.
  • She cheats on her husband and has no friends.
  • She babysits Anna's child because she was having an affair with Anna's husband and he wanted her to be around him more.
  • She is crazy and acts weird.
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Anna Watson: Novel vs. Film

Novel:

  • Rachel's ex-husband's mistress that eventually becomes his wife.
  • Homewrecker, and she knows it and is fine with it. It's a "turn-on" for her.
  • Is a good mother towards her and Tom's kid

Film:

  • Rachel's ex-husband's mistress that eventually becomes his wife.
  • Homewrecker, and she knows it and is fine with it and rubs it in Rachel's face.
  • Is a good mother towards her and Tom's kid
  • Doesn't have much of an important role in the movie as in the book.
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The three women both face internal conflicts that cause them to make irrational decisions. Rachel and Megan have faced the biggest struggles in life by having bad things happen to them in the past. Anna is simply effected and involved in those bad decisions that they made. Like Rachel, Megan wants to reinvent herself.

Setting

Novel
  • The story takes place in London
  • Rachel's ex husband, Tom, and his wife Anna live in an upscale suburb, as do Scott and Megan
  • Makes the story seem more foreign--readers imagine every character with a british accent

Film

  • The film takes place in New York
  • Viewers see Rachel getting off at Grand Central Station
  • Rachel's ex husband, Tom, and his wife Anna do still live in a suburb, as do Scott and Megan
  • The change in setting does confuse viewers who read the book at first and the American accents contrasting with the main character, Rachel's british accent is a bit weird
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Tone and Themes

The tone of the novel and film are the same. It's dark, sad, and mysterious. Both explore the darkness of a twisted thriller as Rachel Watson tries to figure out what happened to the missing woman she used to see everyday on the train. Throughout the novel and film, they both deal with themes of betrayal, gender roles, and drugs/alcohol.


  • Betrayal- Tom has an affair with Megan without telling Anna and then leaves Megan when he finds out she is pregnant. Tom loses trust in relationships because of his lies.
  • Gender roles- The role of women is central to this plot, because in the book, the story is told through the perspective of three women. They value their worth based on their physical appearance and ability to have kids.
  • Drugs/alcohol- In this story, alcohol affects memory and ruins lives, especially Rachel's. Alcohol is used as a symbol of the constant bad decisions that are being made by the characters.
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Turning Point

The turning point in the novel versus the film was a big part of the plot for the director, Tate Taylor to change. In order to please movie audiences, the turning point needed to be easier to understand on screen.


Novel:
  • Rachel's memories of her failed marriage with Tom and Megan's disappearance in reality, didn't mostly happen.
  • Tom manipulated those memories into Rachel's mind to make her believe she had done violent and abusive things, specifically on the night Megan goes missing.
  • During a psychological scene, Rachel finally realizes that Tom is the bad guy, not her.

Film:

  • Rachel crosses paths with Martha, the wife of Tom's ex boss, and apologizes for the way she acted at a party. Rachel thought she had acted very drunk and violent.
  • Martha explains that Rachel was only a little tipsy but didn't act poorly.
  • Martha continues to explain that Tom was fired because of his sexual relations with women in the office.
  • With the help of Martha's explanations, Rachel realizes the truth about Tom and how bad he is.

Critical Acclaim

Novel:

Paula Hawkin's book "The Girl on the Train" exploded in popularity among a huge audience of engaged readers. New York Times compared the novel to "Gone Girl", saying that it was chilling and suspenseful, with clever narration and an enticing element of betrayal. Hawkin's writing style was intended to emphasize the role of women. Her writing is very effortless clever, as she stumps readers about characters and facts that were provided but never fully explained.


Film:

Despite the novel's acclaim, the film wasn't portrayed as well as anticipating audiences hoped. Critics say that the script writer, Erin Wilson attempted to weave all 3 narrative perspectives but detracted from Rachel's story. Tate Taylor, the director, tried to solve this issue through character voiceovers and close up shots. Dealing with the topic of psychological issues, the film acts as if they can be easily solved. New York Times says that the movie stays committed to its serious nature. Emily Blunt's portrayal of Rachel is very compelling.

Director's Choices

Director Tate Taylor took on a big challenge to adapt a best selling novel into an anticipated movie mystery. He went through the novel to find out what aspects of the characters and scenes would display well on film. In order to show what was going on in Rachel's head, a lot of the movie was made in the editing room post production. He really wanted to put the audience in her head right from the beginning of the movie. Because there were missing pieces that couldn't be displayed in a film, he created the character Monica to help unravel the truth about Rachel. The change of setting was decided before Tate became director.
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