At its heart, Me Before You is a love story, though it is somewhat unconventional in that the main characters do not end up together at the end. Despite the lack of a traditional “happily ever after,” Moyes still argues that love is an essential part of life – a complicated approach to love that addresses both romantic and familial bonds as the characters try to balance what’s best for the people they love with what is best for themselves. The plot follows Will and Lou as they overcome their many differences and gradually fall in love, all while trying to avoid the extra challenge of codependency that might haunt a relationship between a caregiver and his or her charge. Lou experiences the joy of caring for Will’s needs, but also the danger of believing that Will’s needs are more important than her own. In the end, Moyes celebrates the love that Will and Lou share, but cautions against the romantic tendency of making a loved on or a relationship one’s entire world. Moyes points out that Will and Lou’s love enriches their lives, but it cannot solve all of their problems, as it might in the stereotypical romance novel.
Yet the novel also asks how much should you sacrifice for the people you love, using the title “Me Before You” to refer to both Will’s death before Lou’s and the idea of prioritizing one’s self above other people. This lesson is hard for Lou to learn, as she has so often put her family’s happiness above her own and then resented them for it. Lou’s experiences with Will give her the strength to both support Will as he makes the painful decision to end his own life as well as recognize her own needs to plan a fulfilling life outside of her family after Will is gone. Will, for his part, gives his family and Lou the time that they need to come around to his decision on their own so that his choice does not destroy his family or Lou’s life completely. Throughout the novel, Moyes suggests that the healthiest balance allows people to be aware of their loved one’s desires but ultimately remain loyal to their own wishes.
Love and Sacrifice ThemeTracker
Love and Sacrifice Quotes in Me Before You
“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.
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?
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.
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?
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.