Study Guide

Lou Clark in Me Before You

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Lou Clark

Louisa Clark is quirk embodied. A working-class gal with an idiosyncratic sense of style, she goes through some majorly unexpected life changes over the course of Me Before You. She wouldn't be a romance novel heroine if she didn't, right? Them's been the rules ever since Jane Austen.

Nervous Nellie

When we first meet Lou, she can be summed up in one word: hesitant. She's hesitant about her relationship with her longtime boyfriend, Patrick, a relationship that is less intimate than most friendships. She's hesitant about her career, having just been fired from her longtime job at a café. And she's hesitant about her future in general, which she expects to begin and end within the narrow confines of her small town. As she says, "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).

All in all, things aren't looking good.

Lou doesn't even know what she's missing. "What, you've only ever lived here?" globetrotting Will asks her at one point. And her response? "So? What's so weird about that?" (7.88). Well, it's not weird, exactly, but it does show that Lou, for both economic and personal reasons, has lived her life trapped in a small town she doesn't even really like.

It should be unsurprising that Lou is also hesitant to take the job as Will's caretaker, even though it pays a ton and her family needs the dough. Within a matter of weeks however, she no longer feels like she's "in sole charge of a poorly quadriplegic"; instead, she feels like she's just a gal "sitting next to a particularly sarcastic bloke, having a chat" (6.174). Slowly but surely, Lou's nervous nature is melting away.

So, how does that actually happen, and why?

A Dark Past—But a Bright Future

It isn't until halfway through the novel that we learn why Lou is so scared of life. When she was a teenager, she had been partying in the maze outside the castle in her small town (that happens in England) when suddenly all of her friends disappeared, leaving her alone with a group of aggressive men. The book doesn't get explicit, but it's heavily implied that she was raped. This is a horrible event that shakes Lou to her core. She describes it as "the exact day [she] stopped being fearless" (12.1).

Even worse, Lou is haunted by this traumatic memory. She's never talked about it with anyone, and partly because of this, she also blames herself for what happened—which couldn't be further from the truth. She eventually tells everything to Will after having a mental breakdown in the maze, however, and his response surprises her:

"You don't need me to tell you that it wasn't your fault," he said quietly.


"Yes. Well. I still feel...responsible. I drank too much to show off. I was a terrible flirt. I was–"

"No. They were responsible."

Nobody had ever said those words aloud to me. (17.249)

This is a powerful moment. Not only is Lou beginning to come to terms with the most traumatic event in her life, but she's also being shown by Will that he cares for her unconditionally. You know—you might even say that he loves her.

Will also shows her how she's been taking her life for granted. How would she feel if she suddenly lost the use of her arms and legs? Would she regret all the things she hadn't done? Would she feel she had lived her life? Anything could happen to any of us at any moment. Why are we waiting to do the things that are truly meaningful for us? Right?

Why You Have to Go and Make Things So Complicated?

There's just one thing standing in the way of this whirlwind romance—Will's desire to end his life at an assisted suicide facility.

Yeah, that's kind of a big thing.

Will's already attempted suicide once before, and knowing that a second attempt is inevitable, his family agrees to allow him to get assisted suicide at a facility called Dignitas as long as he waits several months to do it. Lou is devastated by this news, but she commits herself to taking Will on outings that show him that life can still be beautiful. These trips have varied levels of success, but their final vacation to the tropical paradise of Mauritius is wonderful, culminating in the first kiss between the pair.

But it's not enough for Will. He loves Lou—that much is true—but being intimate with her only reminds him of his limitations. Furthermore, he knows that Lou has "no idea how [she's] going to feel even six months from now" (23.163). She might be exhausted taking care of him by then. As you can imagine, Lou doesn't take this well, thinking that he's saying that she's not good enough, rather than understanding that the real issue is everything else besides her.

Although she gives Will the silent treatment at first, Lou ultimately accompanies him to Dignitas to share his final moment. This decision is met with a furious response from her mother, who says that Lou shouldn't return home if she decides to go. While this is a massive bummer, it's also a big step. Lou has always been hemmed in by her small town and small family, but now she's being forced to spread her wings. She's being forced to rebuild her life on her own terms.

It'll be hard, but she's already halfway there. Will has changed Lou in numerous ways, showing her the value in exploring the world and encouraging her to go back to school. He's caused her a lot of pain too, of course, but as he says in the letter he writes to her before his death, he hopes that knowing him has opened her up to a whole new way of living.

The novel ends with Lou in Paris, Will's favorite place, finally setting out to do things on her own: "And stepping out from behind the table, I [...] set off down the street toward the parfumerie and the whole of Paris and beyond" (e.32). That ending lets us know that although grieving will take time, Lou will be a better person when she emerges on the other side.

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