Me Before You

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin edition of Me Before You published in 2016.
Chapter 1 Quotes

I had never considered that you might miss a job the way you miss a limb – a constant, reflexive thing. I hadn’t thought that as well as the obvious fears about money, and your future, losing your job would make you feel inadequate, and a bit useless.

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker)
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

Louisa loses the job she has had for six years at a café, because her boss worries that the café will be forced out of business by the opening of a bigger café at the village castle. Lou never expected to actually miss her job, but did not realize that her job had provided much of the purpose in Lou’s life. Throughout the novel, Moyes examines many things that give meaning to people’s lives. At this point, Lou’s job is what makes her life worth living. Lou may not have had big ambitions for her life, but she did enjoy the small tasks that she was able to do in the café. Lou explains the loss of this job in terms of losing a limb, foreshadowing the much bigger questions of the purpose of life that Lou must face once she begins working for a quadriplegic man who literally has no use of any limbs. Lou has lost a certain amount of financial freedom and comfort, but she still has the potential to get things back in the future. Lou’s feelings of uselessness and inadequacy are multiplied a hundredfold by Will Traynor, who feels that his life has no point or meaning at all due to the loss of his freedom.

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Chapter 2 Quotes

I am 26 years old and I wasn’t really sure what I was. Up until I lost my job I hadn’t even given it any thought…Apart from an exotic taste in clothes, and the fact that I’m a bit short, there’s not a lot separating me from anyone you might pass in the street. You probably wouldn’t look at me twice. An ordinary girl, leading an ordinary life.

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker)
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

At the beginning of the novel, Lou very much considers herself to be a normal girl with nothing special coming in her future. Lou has no ambitions for her life, even confessing that she never thought about doing anything other than work at a small café in her hometown. Moyes has sympathy for Lou’s situation, but makes it clear that Lou can’t stay ambitionless forever. Lou’s exotic taste in clothes is the first hint that Lou is actually meant for life beyond the norm. The very fact that Lou says she is “an ordinary girl, leading an ordinary life” makes it clear that the events of this book will push Lou far beyond her idea of ordinary. Lou’s journey in the book will help her find out who she really is, and what ambitions she has for her life.

Chapter 3 Quotes

“You were just looking at my photographs. Wondering how awful it must be to live like that and then turn into a cripple.”

Related Characters: Will Traynor (speaker), Louisa (Lou) Clark
Page Number: 42-43
Explanation and Analysis:

The first day that Lou starts to work for Will, she finds the many photographs in Will’s room that display the amazing life he once had. Will, looking handsome and well-off surrounded by his upper class friends, has pictures of himself skiing, bungee-jumping, and generally living the life that most people only dream of. Will catches Lou looking at these photos and displays his bitterness at everything he lost after the accident that left him in a wheelchair. Will expects everyone to pity him, an attitude about his physical situation that damages his mental health. Will struggles with the physical limitations of his new life, but the constant awareness of everything he can no longer do is far more painful. Aside from the constant threat of sickness that might limit Will’s life even more, Will’s depression over the loss the life he used to have is what actually convinces Will that this life is not worth living.

Chapter 4 Quotes

“I know what you’re thinking,” she said, after a pause. “But I did try. I really tried. For months. And he just pushed me away… You know, you can only actually help someone who wants to be helped,” she said.

Related Characters: Alicia Dewar (Lissa) (speaker), Louisa (Lou) Clark, Will Traynor
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Alicia Dewar, Will’s girlfriend when he suffered his accident, comes to visit Will with the news that she is getting married to Will’s former best friend. As Alicia leaves this tense meeting, she runs into Louisa in the hall and admits that she knows that Lou is judging her for choosing to leave Will behind. Though Lou is somewhat justified in her anger at the way that Alicia handled her break up with Will, Alicia is also correct that there is only so much anyone could have done for Will at that time in his life. Will was completely shattered by the accident, both mentally and physically, in ways that love alone would never have been able to fix. Ultimately, it is up to Will to decide if he wants to live and if he wants to be happy. Moyes consistently asserts that Will himself is in control of his life, and Will has the right to choose for himself what he wants his life to be. All of Alicia’s, and later Lou’s, efforts to convince Will that life is still worth living will only help Will as much as he wants to be helped. Alicia recognizes this, and chooses not to sacrifice her own happiness in the pursuit of forcing Will to be happy.

I could well imagine Will pushing her away. But surely if you loved someone it was your job to stick with him? To help him through the depression? In sickness and in health, and all that?

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor, Alicia Dewar (Lissa)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

After Alicia, Will’s ex-girlfriend, visits Will with the news that she is going to marry Will’s former best friend, Lou reflects on what it means to love someone else. Lou sees the failed relationship between Alicia and Will as a sad sign that Alicia did not try hard enough to help Will in the wake of his accident. Moyes considers how much someone should sacrifice for the people they love. Will, given his sarcastic demeanor and dark sense of humor, was most likely horrible to Alicia because of his pain. Alicia deserves to be happy just as much as Will does, and should not necessarily have sacrificed her own happiness in order to be Will’s punching bag. Lou believes that true love also requires true sacrifice, but she will have to consider these questions again when she falls in love with Will and has to decide if that love means that she should force Will to live or if she has to respect Will’s own decisions for his life.

Chapter 6 Quotes

Treena was the reader. It was almost as if by picking up a book I felt like I was invading her patch. I thought about her and Thomas disappearing to the university and realized I still didn’t know whether it made me feel happy or sad – or something a bit complicated in between.

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Katrina (Treena) Clark, Thomas Clark
Page Number: 90-91
Explanation and Analysis:

At Will’s bedside, Lou passes the time by reading a book of short stories. Lou reflects on the last time that she really read a book, realizing that she gave up on reading because she felt that academics was her sister’s territory. The relationship between Lou and Treena is fraught with tension because Lou has always felt that she has to sacrifice some of her ambitions so that Treena can succeed. Lou loves her sister enough to want Treena to be happy, but she also resents that Treena’s happiness seems to mean that Lou can’t explore a path that might make her happy. Moyes points out that Lou cannot constantly sacrifice for her sister. Instead, there needs to be a balance of success for both Lou and Treena for the health of their relationship as sisters.

“I have never found a pair of tights I loved like that again. They don’t do them anymore. Or if they do, they don’t make them for grown women.”
“Strange, that,”
“Oh, you can mock. Didn’t you ever love anything that much?”

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor (speaker)
Related Symbols: Lou’s Bumblebee Tights
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

In one of Will and Lou’s quiet days together, Lou confesses that her favorite thing was a pair of bumblebee striped tights that she had as a three-year-old. Lou outgrew these tights, metaphorically having to give up this thing that she loved in order to grow up. As a grown woman, Lou laments that she can no longer have a pair of tights that she loves as much, because Lou believes that part of being an adult is letting go of things that made her happy. Will gently teases the tights, but he very much agrees with the sentiment behind them. Lou needs to find the things that she is passionate about, even if they are as silly as bright clothing, in order to live a satisfied life. No matter the difficulty in finding or achieving these ambitions, Lou’s life is incomplete without them, and without a pair of bumblebee tights.

Chapter 7 Quotes

Patrick had never minded the fact that I dressed “inventively,” as he put it. But what if he hadn’t been entirely truthful? Patrick’s job, his whole social life, now revolved around the control of flesh – taming it, reducing it, honing it. What if, faced with those tight little track-suited bottoms, my own suddenly seems wanting? What if my curves, which I had always thought of as pleasantly voluptuous, now seemed doughy to his exacting eyes?

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Patrick
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

Lou has been dating Patrick for six years, since before Patrick became obsessed with physical fitness. Now that Patrick’s job as a physical trainer and his dreams of completing triathlons take up all his time, Lou beings to doubt the relationship that they share. Patrick’s focus on physical fitness blinds him to the emotional aspects of a relationship, and while physical fitness is upheld as the epitome of health, Patrick actually has a very unhealthy perspective on his own body. Patrick’s hatred of his own flesh causes Lou to be insecure about her own body, making their relationship emotionally unhealthy for them both. Patrick doesn’t recognize the importance of mental and emotional health even as he reaches the peak of physical health. Patrick may not mind Lou’s inventive style, but Lou needs someone who actively loves those quirks in order to have a truly fulfilling relationship.

“You’re twenty-six years old, Clark. You should be out there, claiming the world as your own, getting in trouble in bars, showing off your strange wardrobe to dodgy men…”
“I’m happy here,” I said.
“Well, you shouldn’t be.”

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor (speaker)
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

As Will gets to know Lou more, he starts to encourage Lou to do more with her life than stay in their small hometown. While Will calls Lou’s wardrobe strange, he still wants Lou to show it off rather than hiding her quirks. Will wants Lou to think of more ambitions for her life rather than staying “happy” and safe. Lou may be content, but Will sees that Lou is not truly happy here. Yet Will does not yet know the whole story. Lou was actually sexually assaulted, which caused her to retreat from anything adventurous in order to protect herself from getting hurt again. Will’s reference to dodgy men may seem like a joke to him, but the threat of strange men is actually the reason that Louisa is not out in the world. Yet Will may be exactly the push that Lou needs in order to see that she is not actually happy here, and that she needs to explore more in order to find a fulfilling life.

Chapter 11 Quotes

“If you’d bothered to ask me, Clark, if you’d bothered to consult me just once about this so-called fun outing of ours, I could have told you. I hate horses, and horse racing. Always have. But you didn’t bother to ask me. You decided what you thought you’d like me to do, and you went ahead and did it. You did what everyone else does. You decided for me.”

Related Characters: Will Traynor (speaker), Louisa (Lou) Clark
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

Lou decides that she is going to show Will all the amazing experiences he can still have living in a wheelchair, and she pushes Will to go to a horse race as the first step in this new life of adventure. Will suffers through the day, suffering many indignities at being a disabled man in a world that is not built to accommodate him, then finally explodes at Lou when they get home. Aside from Lou’s mistakes about wheelchair logistics and Will’s discomfort in public, Will actually hates horses and horse races. Lou’s zest for showing Will how wonderful his life can be ignored the fact that this is still Will’s life. Will has to have a hand in the choices and decisions that face him every day. The biggest struggle of Will’s life post-accident is that everyone assumes that his physical handicaps make him incapable of making any decisions for himself. Making decisions for himself is what makes life worth living for Will. If Lou truly wants to convince Will to keep living, she has to start giving Will back some control over his life.

Chapter 12 Quotes

“I just… want to be a man who has been to a concert with a girl in a red dress. Just a few minutes more.” …
I closed my eyes and lay my head against the headrest, and we sat there together for a while longer, two people lost in remembered music, half hidden in the shadow of a castle on a moonlit hill.

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor (speaker)
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

In another one of Lou’s attempts to get Will out of the house and enjoying life, Lou and Will go to a classical music concert where one of Will’s friends is playing Mozart’s violin concerto. After the concert, Will asks Lou to delay the moment where they have to go back inside the house and end this magical moment. Will and Lou are not dating, but the scene plays like a classic romance novel. Down to the castle and the moonlight, everything about the moment echoes the conventional love story that Will and Lou are specifically not living. Will wants to live the illusion of the perfect love story because he knows his life is very far from the traditional romance. Moyes seems to point out that this dream love story is beautiful, but that Will and Lou’s connection is actually more meaningful because it does not strip away the complicated history and circumstances of the two love interests. Will is more than just a normal man, and Lou is more than just a normal girl in a red dress. Though that “more” includes pain, it also gives significance to the love that Will and Lou share that might not fit into the conventional romance novel.

Chapter 13 Quotes

…Granddad was picking at his plate with greedy delight, letting out what we called his “food noises” – little grunts and murmurs of pleasure.
“Delicious salmon,” Will said to my mother. “Really lovely flavor.”

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor (speaker), Granddad
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:

Will comes to dinner at Lou’s house for her birthday and meets her family, including Lou’s grandfather who has suffered a stroke and no longer speaks. Still, Granddad clearly enjoys his life, expressing his pleasure at the small things, like good food. Will also enjoys the food, but limits his expression of that pleasure to a far more polite form. Will’s mental fitness is untouched by his accident, where Granddad no longer has the mental ability that he once had. Yet Granddad’s compromised mental acuity actually keeps him from realizing the new boundaries of his life, while Will struggles with depression at the thought of everything that he can no longer do after his injury. Granddad can enjoy the small delights of life without worrying about how much better things might have been before his stroke. Though Will is potentially better equipped to handle life, Granddad is actually happier because he focuses on each present moment instead of thinking about his previous mental health. Moyes defines mental health as a matter of happiness rather than a matter of intelligence, unfortunately for Will and Will’s mental fitness.

I ran out of the room and pulled on a pair in the hallway. I pointed a toe, admiring the silliness of them. I don’t think a present had ever made me so happy in my life.
I walked back in. Will let out a small cheer. Granddad banged his hands on the table. Mum and Dad burst out laughing. Patrick just stared.

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor, Patrick, Granddad
Related Symbols: Lou’s Bumblebee Tights
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:

At Lou’s 27th birthday party, Will gives Lou a pair of bumblebee striped tights. Lou had previously told Will about a pair of yellow and black striped tights that she absolutely loved as a child, wearing them every day even though no one else understood why Lou found them so wonderful. Will goes to great lengths to give Lou a new pair of these tights, understanding that the tights are really a way for Lou to express what she actually wants out of life. Will constantly pushes Lou to achieve more in her life, but these tights affirm that Will wants Lou to do things that truly make her happy. Lou’s parents and Patrick do not fully support Lou’s ambitions, thinking that the tights are strange rather than a way for Lou to express her personality. Lou can no longer ignore what she wants in favor of doing things that make sense to her family and her boyfriend Patrick. Will loves Lou so much that he wants her to have the things that make her happy. With Will’s help, Lou will fill her future with the things she has a passion for – even if those things are as odd as bumblebee striped tights.

Now he was just Will – maddening, mercurial, clever, funny Will – who patronized me and liked to play Professor Higgins to my Eliza Doolittle. His body was just a part of the whole package, a thing to be dealt with, at intervals, before we got back to the talking. It had become, I supposed, the least interesting part of him.

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:

As Lou becomes comfortable with Will and spends long hours in his company, Lou slowly begins to see the real Will beyond a man in a wheelchair. Will’s wit, intelligence, and darkly funny personality match with Lou’s own. Together, Will acts out Professor Henry Higgins, a character from the movie My Fair Lady, who tries to teach the lower class Eliza Doolittle to be a high society lady and falls in love with her in the process. Though Lou and Will do not yet recognize their romantic feelings for each other, Lou very much identifies with the way that Will broadens her horizons and introduces her to cultured experiences that she never would have had on her own. Will is often on the more powerful side of their relationship, though the common assumption about handicapped people would make Will unable to take care of himself or teach anyone else. Will’s mental fitness far outweighs any physical disabilities that he may have. Lou realizes that Will as a person is far more interesting than Will’s disability.

Chapter 16 Quotes

It had become a kind of specter for me, the airless little room with no windows. The thought of sleeping in there again made my chest feel tight. I was twenty-seven years old. I was the main earner of the family. I could not sleep in what was essentially a cupboard.

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker)
Page Number: 241-242
Explanation and Analysis:

Now that Louisa is broadening her horizons and moving out of her comfort zone in her professional life, the tiny bedroom that she has always had is no longer enough for her. Lou moves into her sister’s larger room when her sister goes away to college, causing problems when Treena comes back for the weekends and has no place to sleep. Yet Lou cannot go back into the smaller room for her sister’s sake. Lou’s ambitions have metaphorically outgrown the space she once inhabited. Lou is very used to sacrificing her own happiness and growth for her sister, but she now has to recognize that her own needs are valid as well. No matter how much Lou loves her family, there has to be a balance between what Lou does for her family and what Lou does for herself. Refusing to go back to sleeping in the tiny box room is Lou’s first step on the journey of understanding her own desires in life while remaining close to her family.

Chapter 17 Quotes

I thought of my parents, my sister with her big new life. Mine was to be the small life, my ambitions the petty ones. I glanced over at the maze, at its dark, dense box hedging. I was being ridiculous. Perhaps I had been behaving ridiculously for years. It was all over, after all. And I was moving on.

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor, Katrina (Treena) Clark
Related Symbols: The Maze
Page Number: 269
Explanation and Analysis:

Before meeting Will, Louisa had assumed that she was not meant to do great things, the way that her sister Katrina seemed destined to achieve an amazing life. This feeling was cemented by the sexual assault that Lou suffered in the maze at the castle above the village where Lou lives. This trauma, which occurred in a location that symbolizes the many choices and paths that Lou might have taken in her life, convinces Lou that making adventurous decisions invites pain and struggle. Lou’s fear keeps her stuck living with her parents in the tiny town where she was born, metaphorically never entering the “maze” and never making choices that carry both potential risk and potential happiness. Will brings Lou back to the maze, suggesting that she go in, and Lou finally takes the opportunity to confront her fears. With Will’s support, Lou can enter the dark maze and move forward into a better future. Lou takes back agency in her own life and goes into the maze ready to make the necessary choices to make it through and emerge on the other side with new ambitions.

“Ultimately, they want to look on the bright side. They need me to look on the bright side… You, Clark,” he looked down at his hands, “are the only person I have felt able to talk to since I ended up in this bloody thing.”

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor (speaker)
Page Number: 275
Explanation and Analysis:

After Will’s accident leaves him wheelchair-bound, the bonds and sacrifices of a family come into sharp focus. While Will’s family sacrifices for Will in order to give him the best care available, Will also makes sacrifices for his family in order to keep their spirits up. Will has to repress some of his natural feelings of anger and hopelessness for the good of his family, remaining outwardly optimistic even when he desperately wants to share his fears and receive support. Will’s wheelchair physically isolates him from many of his old friends and loved ones because of the logistics of handicap-accessible movement, but he is also emotionally isolated from his family because he can’t share the deep lows of his injury as well as the hope for a better future. Lou, free from the complex push and pull of familial love, is able to offer Will a place to be honest about his feelings, no matter how painful they are. That vulnerability and honesty is a big part of the relationship that Will and Lou build. Their love comes from their ability to share the darkest parts of their experiences with each other.

“Some mistakes… just have greater consequences than others. But you don’t have to let that night be the thing that defines you.”
I felt his head still pressed against mine.
“You, Clark, have the choice not to let that happen.”

Related Characters: Will Traynor (speaker), Louisa (Lou) Clark
Page Number: 276
Explanation and Analysis:

After Will learns about the sexual assault that Lou has kept secret for six years, Will offers Lou the chance to move past this traumatic event. Lou has chosen safe, boring paths for her life for fear that anything more adventurous will open her up to the danger and pain that she experienced that night. Will recognizes the real consequences of that trauma on Lou’s emotional and mental health, but also tells her that she has the ability to make more out of her life than staying stuck in the past. Will sees Lou as so much more than a victim or a survivor, instead focusing on Lou’s tremendous potential to overcome hurt and tragedy. Will also emphasizes Lou’s choice in her own life, a central tenant of Moyes’ outlook in the novel. Moyes celebrates the ambition and achievement that her characters are capable of. Each of Moyes’ characters has the choice and agency to overcome their difficulties as long as they are able to have the mental strength and willpower to continually fight the circumstances of their lives. This may somewhat simplify the obstacles that these characters face (as well as the lasting trauma of sexual assault), but it is also a powerful message of hope in the face of adversity.

Chapter 18 Quotes

I wanted to tell him that he was too good for that silly caramel woman, no matter what appearances might suggest, and that… I didn’t know what else I wanted to say. I just wanted to make it better. “You okay?” I said, as I caught up. The bottom line was, it should have been him.

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor, Alicia Dewar (Lissa)
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

At Alicia’s wedding, Lou comes to terms with the fact that Alicia is the type of woman that Will probably would have married if he had never had his accident. Will dated Alicia before the injury that landed him in a wheelchair, and is shaken when Alicia marries Will’s former best friend. Lou recognizes that it’s sad that Will lost out on this opportunity, but also remembers that Will is actually worth much more than the traditional marriage to a well-bred, beautiful woman. This safe, conventional love story may be the epitome of a perfect life for most people, but Lou wants bigger things for Will. Will’s ambition, drive, and charm should get him more than the “appearance” of a perfect life. Lou loves Will on a more genuine level, seeing all the things that Will could be rather than the expected happy ending for a man of his wealth and social class. True fulfillment and happiness for Will would come from more than the life that should have been his, or the things that he once thought would make him happy. While Lou is sad that she can’t make him realize this, there is also a hope that Will can discover on his own a better purpose for his life than money, adventure, and marriage.

“Louisa is one of the smartest people I know, but I can’t make her see her own possibilities.”
Mary Rawlinson gave him a sharp look. “Don’t patronize her, dear. She’s quite capable of answering for herself.” I blinked. “I rather think that you of all people should know that,” she added.

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor (speaker), Mary Rawlinson (speaker)
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:

At the wedding of Will’s ex-girlfriend, Will introduces Lou to an old friend of his, Mary Rawlinson. Mary now runs an organization that helps people retrain for new careers, and offers to help Lou find a new ambition in life. Will is adamant that Lou should find something bigger to do with her life than stay in the small town she has always lived in, but Mary wants to hear from Lou herself what Lou wants to do. Though Will hates when people speak for him or take away his choices because of his wheelchair, he here makes the mistake of trying to talk for Lou. Mary calls him out on this hypocrisy, reminding Will that one of his biggest struggles is that people assume that his physical limitations make him incapable of making his own decisions. If Will truly wants Lou to live up to her potential, he has to let her make those choices and goals for herself. Though Lou may have incredible potential, Will has to let her set her own ambitions, or those achievements will mean nothing.

Chapter 20 Quotes

“Well, this is actual life or death, after all, and you’re locked into this man’s life every day, locked into his weird secret. That’s got to create a kind of false intimacy. Either that or you’re getting some weird Florence Nightingale complex.”

Related Characters: Katrina (Treena) Clark (speaker), Louisa (Lou) Clark, Will Traynor
Page Number: 315
Explanation and Analysis:

Lou finally admits to Treena that she has feelings for Will, her quadriplegic employer, that are far more powerful than her feelings for Patrick, her boyfriend of six years. Treena supports her sister, but also brings up important questions for a relationship between Will and Lou. As Treena points out, Lou’s job as Will’s caretaker has caused Lou to be much closer to Will, both physically and emotionally, than she would normally be with someone she just met. Lou also has to be careful that her responsibilities as Will’s caretaker, acting as Will’s “Florence Nightingale” (a famous nurse), do not get in the way of Lou’s emotional needs. Lou’s feelings for Will are naturally more powerful because there is the potential that she could lose Will, something that Lou has never been afraid of in her relationship with Patrick. Moyes explores the codependency that might arise in such a close working relationship. Lou does spend eight hours a day, five days a week with Will, but Lou is also more honest with Will than she has been with anyone in her life. Treena interprets this closeness as a false intimacy, but Treena’s skepticism forces Lou to confront the real emotions behind her connection with Will.

“It feels like I might be running, but I feel like I’m permanently just a little bit behind the rest of the field. I feel like…” He took a deep breath, as if he were trying to compose himself. “I feel like there’s something bad around the bend, and everyone else seems to know what it is except me.”

Related Characters: Patrick (speaker), Louisa (Lou) Clark
Page Number: 320
Explanation and Analysis:

Lou finally admits to Patrick that she will not be going to Norway to watch Patrick’s next race. Patrick can’t quite understand why Lou no longer wants to blindly support Patrick’s triathlon goals, unable to see the emotional distance that has grown between him and Lou. Patrick’s character is defined by his commitment to physical fitness, to the detriment of all the other aspects of his emotional and mental health. Even though Patrick is physically almost perfect, training relentlessly for triathlons and spending all of his energy on his job as a physical trainer, he is not happy or satisfied because he spends no time on his mental or emotional health. Patrick even understands his emotional life in terms of physical fitness, comparing his emotional confusion to yet another race. Patrick may see that something is missing from his life, but his flaw is that he will never come to terms with the emotional effort that he has to put into his relationship, instead of assuming that his physical fitness will be enough for Lou. Moyes makes it clear that physical fitness alone is not enough, but that emotional and mental fitness are also necessary components for a healthy life.

Chapter 21 Quotes

I knew it, and Camilla knew it. Even if neither of us would admit it to ourselves. Only on my son’s death would I be free to live the life of my choosing.

Related Characters: Steven Traynor (speaker), Will Traynor, Camilla Traynor
Page Number: 327
Explanation and Analysis:

Steven and Camilla, Will’s parents, have had to sacrifice many of their dreams and ambitions in the wake of Will’s accident. Though Camilla and Steven love their son dearly, and willingly put their lives on hold in order to care for Will, Steven still recognizes the things that he has had to give up due to Will’s current situation. Steven and Camilla are bonded in a loveless marriage in order to provide a support system for Will, even though Camilla is well aware of Steven’s affairs and Steven’s mistress Della wishes that Steven would leave his family in order to be with her. Though it is too monstrous for Steven to say out loud, he cannot ignore the fact that his life would be less limited if he did not have his son to worry about. Steven even admits that a stronger man would not remain with Camilla out of obligation.

Moyes examines the bonds of family, and questions what family should sacrifice for each other. Many of the other characters, such as Lou and Lou’s mother Josie, sacrifice just as much for their families without even seeing the things that they themselves are giving up. Moyes suggests both that Steven should be free to live as he wants but that it is also wrong of him to resent the sacrifices that he is making for Will. There is no easy answer for Steven, as he wants his son to live a fulfilling life just as much as he wants to remove some of the obstacles keeping him from his own happiness.

Chapter 23 Quotes

I know this isn’t a conventional love story. I know there are all sorts of reasons I shouldn’t even be saying what I am. But I love you. I do. I knew it even when I left Patrick. And I think you might even love me a little bit.

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor, Patrick
Page Number: 359
Explanation and Analysis:

While on the beach in Mauritius, Lou finally gathers the courage to tell Will how she feels about him. Moyes uses this moment to emphasize the fact that this book as a whole is not the traditional romance novel. Will is not the idealized romantic hero and Lou is not the perfect romantic heroine. Furthermore, their love will not be the ultimate solution to all of their problems. Love is a powerful force in the novel, but it is not able to immediately fix all the things that Lou and Will are struggling with – including Will’s paralysis, Lou’s recent breakup, the class differences between Will and Lou, and Lou’s job as Will’s caretaker. Moyes recognizes this fact without diminishing the significance of what Lou feels and the gravity of Lou’s confession. Even if love cannot cover up all the difficulties of their relationship, Lou still needs to be honest with Will. Theirs is not a conventional love story, where the happy ending comes as soon as the characters realize how they feel about each other. It is a realistic love story, where love can help the characters do wonderful things without becoming the only thing that matters in life.

“Well, you don’t have to let that… that chair define you.”
“But it does define me, Clark. You don’t know me, not really. You never saw me before this thing. I loved my life, Clark. Really loved it… I led a big life.” His voice had lifted now. “I am not designed to exist in this thing – and yet for all intents and purposes it is now the thing that defines me.”

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor (speaker)
Page Number: 361
Explanation and Analysis:

Lou confesses her love to Will as a final effort to convince Will that he still has reasons to live despite his physical limitations. Will returns Lou’s love, but asserts that it is not enough to overcome his wheelchair-bound life. Will defines himself through his paralysis, reducing his health and well-being to just the physical aspects. Will’s physical limitations, keeping him from the bold, ambitious life that Will always thought he would have, damage his mental health. Will’s depression over all the things he can no longer do prevent him from seeing the possibilities that are still open to him. Lou is open to improving Will’s mental and emotional health to balance out the physical disabilities that Will struggles with, but Will can only focus on the physical fitness that he will never achieve (in a way, echoing Patrick’s single-minded obsession with physical fitness). While Lou tries desperately to give Will a chance to make a new life in his wheelchair that is just as fulfilling as his able-bodied life, Will prioritizes his lack of “normal” physical health above any other definition of a healthy, satisfying life.

Chapter 25 Quotes

I couldn’t imagine crying over anyone I’d been with. The only equivalent was if I thought about Thomas waiting to die in some strange country, and as soon as that thought came to mind it made something inside me actually flip over, it was so hideous. So I stuck that in the back of my mental filing cabinet too, under the drawer labeled: unthinkable.

Related Characters: Katrina (Treena) Clark (speaker), Louisa (Lou) Clark, Will Traynor, Thomas Clark
Page Number: 383
Explanation and Analysis:

When Lou comes back heartbroken from the trip to Mauritius, Katrina doesn’t fully understand how deeply Lou feels for Will because she has never had a romantic attachment that significant. Katrina compares Lou’s feelings for Will to her own feelings for her son, Thomas. Moyes equates familial love and romantic love, holding up each as extremely powerful. Katrina’s comparison here, then, adds more weight to Lou’s feelings for Will. Lou’s love for Will is as strong as the bond between a mother and her child, one of the most incredible bonds between people. Lou and Will have more than a passing attraction—they have a true, deep love that changes each of them for the better.

Chapter 26 Quotes

Mum? I owe Will. I owe it to him to go. Who do you think got me to apply to college? Who do you think encouraged me to make something of myself, to travel places, to have ambitions? Who changed the way I think about everything? About myself even? Will did. I’ve done more, lived more, in the last six months than in the last twenty-seven years of my life.

Related Characters: Louisa (Lou) Clark (speaker), Will Traynor, Josie Clark (Lou’s Mom)
Page Number: 330
Explanation and Analysis:

When Lou finds out that Will has asked her to come to Switzerland to see him one last time before he ends his life, Lou finally admits to her parents why she has to drop everything and rush to see Will. Josie doesn’t understand how Lou could possibly support this choice for Will, comparing it to murder. Lou sees it differently, feeling as though she owes Will support for his choices in exchange for all the things that Will has pushed Lou to do.

Before Will, Lou had no ambitions for her life, choosing instead to remain safe in her hometown after a traumatic experience convinces her that she will be hurt if she follows her dreams. Will helps Lou come to terms with her past and move forward with her life. Will even allows Lou to see herself as someone extraordinary instead of the average failure that Lou previously considered herself. Will also gives Lou a new goal. In trying to convince Will to see the best in life, Lou also finds new motivation to improve her own life.

It’s not my choice. It’s not the choice of most of us on this board. I love my life, even if I wish it was different…If he is determined, if he really can’t see a way of things being better for him, then I guess the best thing you can do is just be there. You don’t have to think he’s right. But you do have to be there.

Related Characters: Ritchie (speaker), Louisa (Lou) Clark, Will Traynor
Page Number: 395
Explanation and Analysis:

Lou goes on the online forums for quadriplegics one last time before she visits Will in the Dignitas Clinic where he is planning to end his life. Ritchie gives her advice about supporting Will through this decision. Through Ritchie and the other contributors to the board, Moyes points out that Will’s choice to end his life is not the normal course of action for most people living their lives disabled in some way. Will’s choice to end his life is related more to the loss of choice and ambition he feels now that he is in a wheelchair, rather than the conditions of living in a wheelchair alone.

Ritchie also observes that part of loving someone is supporting their choices, even when they are not the choices that Lou necessarily agrees with. If Lou truly loves Will, she has to sacrifice her efforts to change Will’s mind and be at peace with Will’s choice for his own life. Lou cannot live for Will or force Will to live for her. What she can do is be with Will and support him through one of the most difficult moments of his life.

Epilogue Quotes

Push yourself. Don’t settle. Wear those stripey legs with pride… you are scored on my heart, Clark. You were from the first day you walked in, with your ridiculous clothes and your bad jokes and your complete inability to ever hide a single thing you felt… Don’t think of me too often. I don’t want to think of you getting all maudlin. Just live well. Just live.

Related Characters: Will Traynor (speaker), Louisa (Lou) Clark
Related Symbols: Lou’s Bumblebee Tights
Page Number: 409
Explanation and Analysis:

After Will’s death, he leaves a letter for Lou to read once she has gone to Paris like she promised Will she would. In the letter, Will tells Lou how much he loves her, but also asks her to live well to honor his memory. It may seem odd to have a character who chose to end his life offer such life-affirming advice, but Will’s message “Just live” gets at the heart of the novel. Moyes explores what makes Will’s life worth living. Will’s purpose in life was to live as boldly and ambitiously as he could, something that he found impossible once he was in a wheelchair. Though Will loved Lou dearly, and appreciated all her efforts to give him back a life of adventure, these exterior motivations were not enough to restore Will’s intrinsic love of life.

Will’s mission is then to help Lou see all the potential that she has to live grandly. Will recalls the striped tights that Lou loved so much as a child as a way of telling her to follow her heart in all her choices going forward, no matter what anyone else says.

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