Study Guide

Me Before You Setting

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From Small-Town England to Tropical Islands

Prior to the events of Me Before You, Lou Clark never thought she'd spend much time away from her tiny English hometown. By the end of the novel, however, she's a legit world traveler.

How'd that happen?

Smalltown, U.K.

There's no two ways about it—Lou's hometown is as dull as dirt. The one point of interest is Stortford Castle (which is owned by Will's family), a tourist destination that draws people from all over the world. In fact, Lou marks "the changing seasons [...] by [...] the return of the tourists" (11.3). Besides this occasional influx, however, there's not much going on, making the village a generic fill-in for every small town ever.

That creates a sense of confinement for Lou. Here's how she sees her life playing out:

I supposed I would probably marry Patrick, knock out a few kids, live a few streets away from where I had always lived. (2.5)

Really exciting stuff. In this way, the town comes to represent Lou's feelings of insecurity and fear about her future, as well as a sense of inevitability about the fate she sees awaiting her. It's as if she's resigned herself to remaining in this boring little town simply because she thinks it's what she's supposed to do.

Thunder in Paradise

So it's no surprise that Lou is blown away when she visits Mauritius, a small island off the coast of Africa. She "had never [...] imagined that [she] would spend time somewhere like this" (23.42). Of course, part of Lou's bliss can be attributed to her growing romantic feelings toward Will, but equally important is her sense of amazement at the beauty the world has to offer.

Mauritius is about as different from small-town England as you can get.

We see a similar dynamic at play when Lou visits Paris in the novel's closing moments. This visit was arranged by Will before his death and is a reference to a conversation earlier in the novel when he said that it was his favorite place in the world. In a fitting way, the novel closes with Lou heading "off down the street toward the parfumerie and the whole of Paris and beyond" (e.32), finally taking her future into her own hands and embracing all of its possibilities.

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