The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins Discussion Questions

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

Teaching 'The Girl on the Train' to your high school students can be a thrilling adventure of intrigue, mystery, and suspense. These discussion questions will help you guide students through an analysis of the novel's characters, plot, and themes.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train is a mystery suspense novel by Paula Hawkins that takes the reader on a journey through the eyes of three female characters: Rachel, Anna, and Megan. The book revolves around the intersection of their three separate, yet undeniably linked, lives. These discussion questions will help you guide students through understanding the complexities of the characters, the suspenseful elements of the plot, and the underlying themes of this novel. You may choose to use these questions for a whole-class discussion or place students into teams to chat about the novel. Additionally, asking students to record a written response to one or more of the questions can serve as an effective summative assessment.

  • Note: These questions are appropriate for discussion after students have read the novel.

Questions about Characters

Rachel and Cathy

  • When the story begins, we find Rachel traveling her daily route on the train. What does the train symbolize? How do her train journeys help the story unfold?
  • Rachel becomes obsessed with a couple she names Jason and Jess. What is attractive to her about this couple? Why does she fixate on their relationship over the residents of the other houses on Blenheim Road?
  • Rachel's narrative is told in the present day with some flashbacks to her past. Why is she telling the story in the present rather than the past, as Anna and Megan do? What value do her flashbacks add to the novel's plot?
  • Cathy is a steadfast presence in Rachel's life. How do you think she influences Rachel's decision making? How does she help with Rachel's memory problem? How would Cathy react if she knew Rachel was not taking the train to work each day?

Anna and Tom

  • How does the relationship and perception Anna and Rachel have of each other change throughout the novel?
  • Anna and Tom have a child together. How does her love for their daughter influence her decision at the end of the novel to end Tom's life?
  • Discuss any clues Anna could have found that would help her identify Tom's affairs and true nature.
  • Why does Tom decide to cheat on Anna? Why does he have a falsified life story?

Megan and Scott

  • Megan spends a lot of time grieving the terrible loss of her daughter. What role does her grief play in her actions throughout the novel?
  • Megan has two affairs: one with Kamal and one with Tom. What is the difference in her relationships with these two men? How does each man's action determine her fate?
  • Megan and Scott seem to have a wonderful relationship. What observations could Scott have made throughout the novel that would have clued him in to Megan's unfaithfulness?
  • Megan and her unborn child end up losing their lives at the hands of Tom. What is Megan's goal in telling Tom about the baby? How might she have known beforehand that he was capable of violence?

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