Study Guide

Freewill Quotes

  • Fate and Free Will

    Is there a voice in your head directing you what to do? Is that how it gets done, what gets done? (54)

    Where does the voice Will refers to come from? Himself? God? The universe? Fate?

    Is it authority because it's in your head? Or is it in your head because it's authority? (55)

    Will seems to be trying to understand where his own self-talk comes from. He questions whether he's running the show or some other power.

    The tide will win. It always does. (540)

    You can't argue with the ocean. Well, you can try, but you won't get far. In nature, there are forces beyond your control, just as in human life.

    My dad drove off the road […] Into the water. With my stepmother. (685)

    It's hard to tell if Will means his dad purposefully drove off the road or if it was an accident. This ambiguity is fitting since we're not sure Will's totally convinced one way or another either.

    You are nobody's responsibility in the end after all, isn't that right? As nobody is really anybody's responsibility. (734)

    We are only responsible for our own behavior, and we can't control how others react. But that doesn't mean we can't complain about it. Will's proof of that.

    Can accidents be beautiful? Wouldn't you have to know what you are doing to achieve something worthwhile? (782)

    Will struggles continuously with the idea of control and fate, and here he brings beauty into the mix. What do you think: Can accidents be beautiful?

    Choice will. It can kill you. It is supposed to be what makes living worthwhile. It is what makes not living an option. (1104)

    We think Will might be missing something key here: Most things that are worthwhile are at least partially valuable because they can be lost/given up/taken away. So it goes with life.

    What they did they did. What your father did or didn't do he did or didn't do. Their choices. Your choices. (1136)

    How have Will's father's choices determined the course of Will's future? What difference would it have made in Will's life if the police had proven that his parents' deaths were an accident?

    You get one life. And it's yours. And you are in charge. (1353)

    This is a pretty major change of heart for our main man—someone's stepping into the driver's seat (finally).

    You see finally, clearly, indisputably you are responsible.

    You are responsible. (1391-92)

    Will has told himself many times that he is not responsible (1289-1290), but here we see him realizing that he is—that he has freewill, no matter what fate throws his way.

  • Isolation

    "The reason I don't have any friends around here is that people suck and I'm not interested. The reason you don't have any friends is that you're a damn weirdo." (299)

    Angela bonds with Will over their status as outcasts, yet she also makes a point of setting herself apart from him here. Looks like misery can only stand so much company…

    His garden is your beach. (541)

    Everyone needs a space to feel safe in, a place to go when you need to retreat from the world. For Pops it is the garden, and for Will it is the beach.

    You are with yourself alone. People are nearby […] but they are never really with you, are they? (615)

    Maybe Will's having a bit of a woe-is-me moment here, but maybe he's also tapping into something that's simply true: There is always a bit of space between us, a limit to just how together we can be as humans since, in the end, we're each different.

    She respects your space, the same way people respect the space of an electrified fence. (623)

    Will sees himself as dangerous. Or does he just want people to not judge him? What does Will get from feeling that everyone is afraid of him? What does he lose?

    Why would you need to go to the world when the world comes to you out of the box. (652)

    We love television as much as the next guy, but there's still nothing quite like a good, old-fashioned face-to-face interaction with another human being, Will.

    Well, unfortunately you are a victim of your own success. You don't hardly exist. (670)

    Will thinks he has made himself invisible by keeping a low profile and isolating himself. But while this seems like it was his goal, he also seems pretty bummed out to have reached it.

    You are not anything today. There is something there that was not there yesterday […] a distance, a wall, a separation, something dividing you from you and it cannot be allowed to stand. (993)

    Okay. So Will is nothing today… but there's also something there that wasn't there yesterday. You win, Will—we're thoroughly confused.

    "Comes a time when somebody needs somebody else to pull his wagon for him." (1354)

    No one can shoulder their whole lives themselves. That's what friends are for, yo—listen to Pops, Will.

    You've got nothing to worry about, right? You're famous already. You're there. (1415)

    Does being famous make Will feel less isolated?

    You were not alone. All that time. You were lonely. (1475)

    Epiphany alert, Shmoopers: Will has finally realized that there have been people around him who care all along. That loneliness? That was all inside him.

  • Wisdom and Knowledge

    Nobody ever knows who's responsible for something unless they see it with their own eyes. Or even if they do see it. Nobody knows anything. That's what I think. (45)

    Like the man who argues that there is no such thing as truth and insists he is right, Will likes to argue with himself and prove to himself he's right about being wrong.

    Is it faith if you've earned it? Isn't faith putting trust in something for no good reason? (51)

    Faith is the primary focus of the first section of Freewill. What does it mean to have faith in other people? Is it a risky thing to do?

    Why should we believe you? You don't appear to believe yourself. Do you believe yourself? (348)

    Will seems to recognize that his thoughts about himself are warped by his grief and depression, so he questions why he bothers to believe anything he thinks.

    That is your move isn't it Will? From when you were a kid. Still expecting that it is you who disappears when you shut your eyes. That the world spins around you. (388)

    Will shows that he is aware of the self-centered thoughts that plague him. These kind of thoughts are based on the logic of a nine-year-old, and don't serve him anymore, but that doesn't mean he's stopped thinking them.

    Whether it was a suicide or not. I mean can they ever know for sure? I don't think they can. You cannot ever know what is in there, even if you are right there with somebody. (391)

    One of the wiser things Will knows is that there is a limit to how much we can know another person. We act like we can be super conclusive about things—and at times, we certainly can—but we can never actually get inside someone else's head. So in the case of his parents' death, ultimately, it's all a mystery.

    […] and the poor lovely girl whom you knew. Did you know her? (405)

    A young woman Will goes to school with is dead, and Will thinks about whether it's ever possible to get to know who someone really is. He knew her… but did he really?

    If you are not inside somebody's head, or they are not inside yours, how can you ever know one hundred percent anything about them? (457)

    Hey, Will—you can't.

    You do not know that. That is not knowable. (697)

    Will is so concerned with what is and is not knowable, but the reality is that there is way more we don't know than we ever do. So maybe he should get on with making peace with this.

    Do you really think you have that kind of control over things? (849)

    No Will, you don't. There are all kinds of limits to what we can and cannot control—and with the exception of ourselves, mostly things are out of our hands.

    Certainty. It is the opposite of faith. (1059)

    Question: Do you agree with this assessment of Will's? Why or why not?

  • Transformation

    It looks as it has likewise looked for ages, as if it is ready to quit this life and tumble in. Right now though it is hosting the most lifelike event it has seen in quite some time. (336)

    A little foreshadowing is good for the soul. Will is looking at the willow tree, half in half out of the water, and curiously equates the death of the girl nearby with a "lifelike event." Life does transform into death, though, we supposed.

    Something comes out of you now. Unusual. Unheard of. It frightens you […] It comes out of you, somewhere in the diaphragm region and sounds as foreign to your ear as Mandarin Chinese. (442)

    Will doesn’t recognize his response here. Though he doesn't realize it yet, this may be a moment in which he's starting to change.

    Listen to this voice, Will. The one that owes you the truth. The one that will not go away until it is achieved. (944)

    With so much mess swirling around in his brain, here Will tries to identify a voice inside his head that can guide him toward the truth.

    Clean is good. You love that feeling. Make a note William, to remember you love that feeling of clean even when getting into the shower seems like too much work. (729)

    This isn't just any old shower, Shmoopers—it's the shower that brings Will back to the land of the living after three solid days of wallowing in depression. Some transformations are epic, but some take place in more mundane manifestations. You know, like basic self-care.

    All it took was for Angela to walk in and tell you you stink for the world to spin right again. (731)

    That transformative shower? Yeah, Angela gets part of the credit for it happening.

    You are not walking but swimming out the front door of the house. Like you are being taught to scuba dive. (744)

    Will emerges after his shower ready to take on the world. Notice the water imagery again. Everything important seems to have something to do with getting wet. For more on this, check out the "Symbols" section.

    You are seeing, that much is certain.

    Certainty. It is the opposite of faith isn't it? Which would you rather have now? (1058-1059)

    Will seems to be in the process of changing from the guy who doesn't think you can really know anything to the guy who might be interested in having a little certainty.

    Nothing has to be, Will. It is up to you. (1064)

    Wait, what? Has someone sprinkled a little fairy dust of optimism on Will? Is he starting to believe in the power of choice, and that his life is not doomed? We feel a transformation happening…

    What they did they did. What your father did or didn't do he did or didn't do. Their choices. Your choices. (1136)

    Will is starting to understand that he can't keep connecting himself to his father's mistakes. Freewill means we all have ability to make good or bad choices—and it also means we have to accept others' as theirs, and tend to our own. It's a radical shift from where Will began.

    She is outrageously impossibly beautiful. (1200)

    Whoa: Will just had a positive feeling. And hey—it only took him most of the book to get to this place. Good on ya', Will.

  • Life, Consciousness, and Existence

    The world needs something from each of us, and what the world needs from you is gnomes and whirligigs and furniture. (575)

    Mr. Jacks may or may not believe that what the world really needs from Will is gnomes, but perhaps gnomes and such aren't really what Mr. Jacks is talking about. Maybe what he really means is that the world needs Will.

    What is wrong with people that they are doomed to repeat what has come before? Helpless? Is that what they believe? That they are locked into a pattern of behavior that was established perhaps before they were born? (410)

    Do you think Will is really talking about other people here? Or does it seem more like he's talking about himself? After all, while he isn't repeating his parents' mistakes, per say, he is carrying them forward in his refusal to move on with his life.

    A gnome is a gnome is a gnome. (556)

    Despite Mr. Jacks's enthusiasm for his gnomes, Will just can't seem to muster any himself. And yet he makes them over and over again. Will may wonder about the purpose of his life, but that doesn't mean he isn't living it out at the same time he wonders what it is.

    One day you had parents of a sort and the next day you didn't. That stuff happens to people every stinking day. (567)

    This is generally how it goes with death—one day someone's there, the next day they aren't—but Will's insistence that the loss of his parents doesn't really matter (he treats it like it's ordinary here, when a murder-suicide totally isn't) is one of the ways he holds himself back from really experiencing his life.

    And there is your monument to the meaning of it all.

    Which is?

    Will? (620-622)

    So anticlimactic, right? Just when we think we're going to get a straight answer from Will about what matters to him… he goes and just asks more questions, only to leave them unanswered.

    When people go, they take the whole story with them. (851)

    If people's lives are stories, then here Will seems to be saying that they die with the people who live them.

    And in the end, and the beginning and all the days in between, isn't that really what it is anyway? That you are with yourself alone.

    People are nearby, in front of your face, or working shoulder to shoulder, but they are never really with you, are they? (614-615)

    Life sure sounds lonely when you put it this way, Will.

    "Life is a gift. Only you can't return it if it doesn't fit right. You just grow into it." (1231)

    Angela makes an excellent point here—one that Will sorely needs to get through his thick skull. He has this life, and he can either resent it for its imperfections or accept it and figure out how to make it work for him.

  • Madness

    You know these things now, just as everybody seems to know them now. You could make it better, if only a little better, but you still don't. Why not? Why don't you want it better? (626)

    One of the hardest parts of depression is knowing it's going on, but having a hard time accepting the things that can help it stop.

    Well, unfortunately you are a victim of your own success. You don't hardly exist. (670)

    By isolating himself, Will thinks he has been successful at making himself invisible. He totally isn't invisible, though, and Pops and Gran and Angela all see him.

    "So I thought maybe you were, I don't know, killing yourself over that. That may have been a joke. You have no idea." (671)

    Angela is the first person that we know of who is able to joke about death, or the threat of suicide. This puts Will at ease somehow—perhaps because he feels filled with darkness and she doesn't seem afraid of it.

    You throw everything—sadness and rage and the past and the abject unspeakable loneliness—behind the hand as you throw. (936)

    Perhaps a punching bag would have been a better idea than the guy's face? But at least Will understands that his emotions are complicated, and that behind rage is sadness and loneliness, not just anger.

    They must be so relieved. What must they have been thinking you were going to do? (945)

    Will is referring to the fact that he hasn't done himself in, and how that might make everyone happy. Perhaps it is Will who is relieved that he hasn't tried to do something stupid, though…

    You don't want to take the pills […] for a while anyway you don't. But without them there are problems. Pain is a problem. (1051)

    Some people equate taking medication with weakness, and think of it as giving up. But isn't suicide a far worse solution to psychological pain? Perhaps Will understands this, too, at this point.

    You know the lookover. People checking your eyes […] your mannerisms, for signs of whether it's okay to be honest with you. (1216)

    Will is used to people tiptoeing around him because they think he is emotionally fragile and don't want to push him over the edge. The thing is, feeling sorry for him causes more harm than good, because to get through his psychological pain, he needs to feel strong, not weak.

    Nobody understands you. Nobody understands anybody. And everybody's an ass. (1226)

    Not sure what depression sounds like? It sounds exactly like this.

    You would like the screaming to stop, wouldn't you Will? You would so like it to stop. (1244)

    It's moments like these that really blur the lines between inner-dialogue and hearing voices. What do you think is going on?

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    Flowers. Cards. Notes. Bears, and things. People care. People are good. (269)

    It doesn't seem like Will really feels the goodness of people, but at least he's capable of recognizing it when he sees it.

    Angela isn't long patient with this. With you. Watch it boy. You might lose this. You don't want to lose this do you? (365)

    For a guy who seems so mired in his bad attitude and hopelessness, Will sure recognizes a chance at happiness when he sees one in Angela.

    What are you waiting for? That a good tide is going to bring you a superior something? (482)

    Here Will seems to mock his hope. It's a love-hate relationship with pretty much everything for this guy.

    The severed head of a tuna is a joy (484)

    Though we're not sure we totally follow Will's logic here, we do understand that he seems to be feeling some joy. Even if it is about the head of a dead fish.

    Did you know that it's called Hopeless High by the locals? (520)

    Makes you wonder: If you tell a person he's hopeless enough times, will he eventually believe that he is?

    Why can't we do better than this? If everyone is to survive we have to do better than this. (547)

    Will isn't just hard on himself—he's hard on the world around him, too. And from where he's sitting, at least, there's some truth to this observation. After all, he hasn't exactly gotten what he needs.

    Are you listening? This is what you should be listening to […] Listen to this voice Will, the one that owes you the truth. (945)

    Will wants to save himself from himself, and sometimes this means he needs to remind himself to let himself off the hook. Another way to think of it is that this voice that tells him that his parents' death was not his fault is Will's wiser self.

    Right. That's how it feels now. So entirely right. Nothing has felt that way in a long, long while. (1399)

    Yay. It's so nice to see Will feeling stronger and more certain about things. In a moment of courage, there's hope for more.

  • Weakness

    But this is not new. It is standard and barely noticeable to have to strain to be heard. (44)

    Okay Will, we get that you're feeling unnoticed and unimportant. But who among us can compete with and be heard above a power saw in a woodshop? Just saying…

    He won't come near. He cannot. He is afraid, and will allow you to go there rather than risk reaching out and being pulled all the way under. (650)

    Will begins to see his grandfather's weakness, and that he might be a man afraid to show his true feelings. He keeps distance from Will because he's afraid of how emotional he might get if he comes close.

    It is admirable that you don't want to take pills. But do you want to be admired, or do you want the pain to stop? (1054)

    Will equates not taking medication with some kind of strength of character. But isn't it actually braver to admit that there is a problem and ask for help? After all, then he's actually taking care of himself.

    No shame. There is no shame. You take your pills. (1057)

    Will is finally ready to stop feeling ashamed of his condition. Depression is serious business, and it is not a reflection of strength of character. Everyone needs help sometimes.

    It is exactly then that you become aware of the lightness of being you, the physical near nothingness of it. You are a massive inflatable parade character. (1101)

    Will often sees himself as a ghost, barely visible—as if he is thin, weak, and unimportant. He feels as though he could just float away.

    When we give up, we often give up collectively. (1194)

    What do you think giving up collectively looks like? Can you think of a situation where a group of people have given up together?

    If you could be her, you could be all right. She works properly. She flows. (1200)

    Lots of people, including Angela, look functional from the outside. The thing is, though, as Will often points out, you never really know what someone really thinks or feels.

    You could just about lift him off his feet […] Stay out of my fucking water. Run home to mommy […] He listens. He runs. (1446)

    Here Will stands up to the caller dude, and takes pleasure in the fear he inspires. It's only one of many forms of strength, but Will is definitely feeling pretty capable right about now.

    "Comes a time when somebody needs somebody else to pull his wagon for him." (1354)

    Will struggles with the idea of charity and with asking for help. But soon he discovers that not only does everyone need a hand from time to time, but it isn't really charity when it's done by someone who loves us.

    Time is not pulling you under. Time is building you up. (1465)

    In other words, Will isn't getting weaker—he's getting stronger. Now if only he can remember this…

    You feel as if you're built of rusty wrought iron. You feel as if you are approaching the finish line of a race you have been running nonstop for a year. (1479)

    All this time Will's felt like he's just stumbling along, but here he is starting to feel like a contender instead of a loser. Yay.

  • Fear

    Surfaces are what I don't like […] I just see myself flying above stuff. (214)

    Surfaces feel safe for Will—it's what's below them that freaks him out. For more on this, check out the "Symbols" section.

    Do you know? You're afraid you might (551)

    Will is confused about this idea that he can predict what will happen and who is going to die next. It can't possibly be true… Or can it? He's not sure, and he's appropriately freaked out as a result.

    What do you feel Will? What do you feel? Anything? (604)

    Plenty of Will's fears are pretty extraordinary—like, say, disappearing gnomes—but when it comes to his feelings for Angela, his uncertainty about admitting them is pretty classic teenager behavior.

    Are you all right, she asks in that warm and woolly tone between fondness and fear. (624)

    Will's grandmother is checking up on him, just to make sure he's still there. Why do you think having people worry about him is one of Will's pet peeves?

    You could make it better, if only a little better, but you still don't. Why not? Why don't you want it better? (626)

    Will finds it annoying when people treat him like he's wounded and fragile, yet he still wants to know that people worry about him. Dude is one complicated guy.

    She wants to say no. You know she wants to say no. See how it all can hinge on the smallest thing? She could say, No, it would be unhealthy to lock yourself away with your television up there.


    Why can't we do what we know we need to do? (638-641)

    When the wiser side of Will interrupts his own thoughts, it's tempting to think that he's totally in charge of himself. He knows he shouldn't hole up in his room with his television, and his grandmother shouldn't let him do it, but they both agree to it anyway. Is that what only weak-willed people do, or is it part of the human condition that affects everyone equally?

    He is afraid. And will allow you to go there rather than risk reaching out and being pulled all the way under. (650)

    Will's talking about Pops here. What's Pops so afraid of? His feelings, man, his feelings.

    Are people so afraid of what will happen that they will not risk misspeaking with you? (723)

    Will sees how much people tiptoe around him. Thing is, though, he needs them to be tougher on him—which is exactly what Angela comes along and does.

    You pull him closer to you. You feel that he is nothing. He is barely even there […] Perhaps he is a kite. (1429)

    Turns out that the man who has been threatening and taunting Will is nothing, he is "barely even there." Maybe he is, or maybe this is what it feels like to have your fear slip away and to feel strong and confident.