Me Before You

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Ambition and Achievement Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Ambition and Achievement Theme Icon
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Quality of Life Theme Icon
Fitness Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Me Before You, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Ambition and Achievement Theme Icon

Me Before You celebrates ambition, encouraging the characters to try for their dreams even if they seem unattainable. Yet at the beginning of the novel, both Lou and Will are watching life pass by instead of participating in it. Lou seems content in a dead-end job still living with her parents, unable to understand or sympathize with her far more ambitious sister – though Lou’s safe, boring life is later shown to be a coping mechanism after the sexual assault that Lou suffered years earlier. Meanwhile, Will’s high-ambition, high-stakes life as a London financier is brought to a screeching halt by the accident that leaves him wheelchair-bound. As Lou tries to convince Will to create new ambitions for the life he has now, Lou has to identify her own ambitions and eventually goes back to school for fashion design the way that she always dreamed.

Will’s life never completes the ambitions he had for himself, but he is able to push Lou towards achieving more than she ever thought possible. Moyes argues that this support is a necessary part of Lou’s success, as some people need the encouragement of another person in order to set their sights higher. It is not easy for Lou to emerge from her comfort zone, but Will forces her to travel the world and advocate for herself instead of selling herself short. By the end of the novel, these choices are the most rewarding things that Lou has ever done and they are all the more satisfying because they were not easy. Ambitions may prove difficult, but Moyes asserts that the effort to achieve these ambitions is well worth it in the end.

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Ambition and Achievement Quotes in Me Before You

Below you will find the important quotes in Me Before You related to the theme of Ambition and Achievement.
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.

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Chapter 6 Quotes

“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

“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 13 Quotes

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.

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.

“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 23 Quotes

“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 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.

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.