Me Before You

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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.
Fitness Theme Icon

In centering the novel around a quadriplegic man, Moyes explores what it means to be healthy and fit. Moyes draws a distinction between mental health and physical health and argues against subconsciously equating mental and physical fitness. Moyes contrasts the mental and physical states of Lou’s Granddad, who has suffered a stroke and is no longer fully lucid, and Will, who can no longer use much of his body after a traffic accident but has no trouble with his mind. While it might seem that Will is better off because of his mental fitness, Will’s mental health actually suffers horribly because he is aware of how much he has lost. Granddad, meanwhile, seems blissfully unaware of his loss and is still able to enjoy the simple things in life.

Will and Patrick, Lou’s long-term boyfriend, are also contrasted in terms of physical fitness. According to conventional romance stories, the more physically fit person is often the better romantic partner. Patrick is seemingly more attractive because of his peak physical shape—yet Will is a better emotional and mental match for Lou regardless of his physical disability. Furthermore, Patrick is so focused on fine-tuning his body that he ignores building an emotional connection with Lou. Will is able to prove that he is a better emotional and mental match for Lou because he meets her on those levels and appreciates her for who she is on the inside.

In both of these examples, Moyes shows that fitness and health are complex. Mental and physical health are different, but they are also interrelated and hard to untangle, as each has a profound influence on the other. Lou, as Will’s caregiver, is supposed to care for his physical needs, yet this requires her to care for his mental and emotional needs as well. Moyes asserts that true health and fitness means finding a balance between mental and physical fitness, as well as the emotional needs that all humans share.

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Fitness Quotes in Me Before You

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

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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.

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.

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 20 Quotes

“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 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.