Study Guide

Me Before You Quotes

  • Family

    Everything that is sensible, or smart, Katrina did first, despite being eighteen months younger than me. (2.2)

    If you can't tell, Lou has some serious sister issues. Happens to the best of us, right? Although Lou is older, she's always felt like she's stuck in Treena's shadow, which results in a lovely cocktail of insecurity and resentment.

    The significance of my sister's words sank in slowly but inexorably. I felt the way a Mafia victim must feel, watching the concrete setting slowly around his ankles (3.166)

    Ironically, it's Lou who's given the unenviable job of supporting the Clarks when times get bad, despite her sister being the apple of her parents' eyes. That's a tough pill to swallow. What's more, it adds to Lou's sense that she'll never be able to escape her insular family and explore life on her own.

    Their dependence on my income [...] meant that I also received a little more respect within the house. (5.5)

    The one bright side to becoming the Clark family breadwinner is that Lou gets a little more love from her parents—though, as she admits, she's still not respected as much as she might like. Baby steps.

    She was so held in, so restrained. She made my own mother look like Ozzy Osbourne. (5.16)

    The Traynor family is completely different from the Clark family, and nowhere is this more apparent than when we encounter the tightly wound Camilla Traynor. There's nobody like that in Lou's family.

    More my son, I found myself thinking. You were never really there for him. Not emotionally. You were just the absence he was always striving to impress. (8.38)

    The Traynors might have oodles of money, but that doesn't mean that everything is hunky-dory with them. As we can see here, Camilla resents her husband Steven for being absent in his children's lives—most likely because the dude is having affairs like a fiend. Frankly, we'd probably rather live in the Clark household.

    There were many ways in which I disliked my sister. [...] But every now and then I was very glad indeed that she was my sister. (9.157)

    Lou might resent Treena in many ways—and justifiably so, at times—but the two have a strong bond. They might fight over stolen belongings and beef like rival rappers, but they always have each other's backs when they need it. That's what being sisters is all about.

    "Will needs to be allowed to feel like a man. That is not going to be possible if his mother—or his sister, for that matter—is always on hand." (10.47)

    Although Steven Traynor might not be a great father (or husband, for that matter), he's sort of right in this instance. There's nothing wrong with Mrs. Traynor's desire to pay close attention to Will, but it's important to let him feel some sense of independence, especially because that independence has been so abruptly stolen from him.

    She was rigid with anxiety. I felt a sudden wave of sympathy for her. It couldn't be easy being my mother. (13.87)

    Lou complains about her parents almost as much as she complains about Treena (which is a lot), but there's a lot of love there. Lou's birthday dinner is a great example of this close, albeit contentious, bond.

    I could see suddenly how desperately tired she looked. I think she had aged ten years in the time that I had been with them. (22.35)

    It's easy to criticize Camilla Traynor for being overbearing, but no one can deny her selfless dedication and love for Will. No one else does as much for him as she does—and we're including Lou in that. That has to be worth something.

    But Mum broke the silence. "If you go, Louisa, you needn't come back." (26.25)

    Lou's decision to join Will at Dignitas is met with a harsh response. Although it must be a bummer to hear this from your mom, it's also an important step for Lou as a person. She's spreading her wings and doing something for herself rather than her family for the first time.

  • Love

    I could well imagine Will pushing her away. But surely if you loved someone it was your job to stick with him? (4.124)

    Here, Lou is talking about Alicia, Will's ex-girlfriend, who left him soon after the accident. It's easy to judge her for this decision, but life can be complicated sometimes—and this is really complicated. Love doesn't always conquer all, as it turns out. And that's our emo moment for the day.

    And then, out of nowhere, Will Traynor laughed. It exploded out of him in a gasp, as if it were entirely unexpected. (5.33)

    Will is a total jerkface toward Lou at first, so this first guffaw is a big step forward for their relationship. We think we hear Cupid's wings a-buzzing. Oh, wait—that's just a mosquito. Carry on, folks. Our bad.

    I was no longer in sole charge of a poorly quadriplegic. It was just me, sitting next to a particularly sarcastic bloke, having a chat. (6.174)

    Lou quickly lets go of her preconceptions of quadriplegics and looks at Will as an individual—and a great one at that. They develop a classic back-and-forth banter that wouldn't be out of place in a sitcom or romantic comedy.

    It was as if the fitter he got, the more obsessed by his own shape he became and the less interested he was in mine. (7.7)

    Lou's relationship with her boyfriend Patrick...isn't great. He was a nice, normal bloke at first, but his obsession with personal fitness has taken over his entire life. Instead of paying attention to her, he merely pays attention to himself.

    "Go, Patrick!" I yelled weakly. He didn't see me. (10.80-81)

    This is a perfect metaphor for Lou and Patrick's relationship: he's always running toward his personal goals while she stands on the sidelines completely ignored. And she's supposed to be enthusiastic about this.

    "I just...want to be a man who has been to a concert with a girl in a red dress. Just for a few minutes more." (12.150)

    Spending time with Lou gives Will a sense of normalcy that he hasn't felt in a long time. He's probably gone to many concerts with many girls in red dresses (hopefully not more than one at the same time), but we're willing to bet that this is the most meaningful.

    "If he has love, he will feel he can go on. Without it, I would have sunk many times over." (15.91)

    Lou doesn't realize how powerful love is until she spends time on an online forum for people with spinal injuries and receives this response. Sadly for her, however, things aren't always so simple.

    "Sometimes, Clark, you are pretty much the only thing that makes me want to get up in the morning." (18.204)

    We're storing this away for our next opening salvo on Tinder. Jokes aside, Will probably hasn't felt this way about anyone in a long time. It has a profound effect on his sense of well-being.

    I did the only thing I could think of. I leaned forward, and I placed my lips on his. [...] And just for a moment I forgot everything (23.126)

    Lou and Will's first kiss is magical but fleeting. Will pulls back because it causes him too much pain to be physically intimate with the woman he loves—it just reminds him of all of the things that they won't be able to do together. This, ultimately, leads him to go through with his plans for assisted suicide.

    I realized I was afraid of living without him. How is it you have the right to destroy my life, I wanted to demand of him, but I'm not allowed a say in yours?

    But I had promised. (26.127)

    Sitting by while Will dies is the hardest thing that Lou has ever done in her life, but it proves the extent of her love for him. Obviously she'd rather him choose to live. Obviously she'd rather that they spent the rest of their lives together. But she knows Will well enough to know that he won't waver in his decision, and she chooses to support him as best she can through this difficult time.

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    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)

    What a plan for the future, huh? We can already detect a sense of resignation in Lou's choice of words—you don't normally use the phrase "knock out a few kids" when you're actually excited about the prospect of being a parent.

    "You were just looking at my photographs. Wondering how awful it must be to live like that and then turn into a cripple." (3.92)

    Will had big dreams and ambitions for his future, as most of us do, but they were all stolen from him in an instant. He didn't even have a chance to make peace with that loss. This leads to a great deal of psychological turmoil and, ultimately, to his attempt to end his own life.

    "You should be out there, claiming the world as your own, getting in trouble in bars, showing off your strange wardrobe to dodgy men…" (7.92)

    As Will grows increasingly fond of Lou, he can't understand why she hems herself in so much. Why has she accepted her fate as a lifelong townie? Why has she kept herself from pursuing her dreams? Why has she given up on her future? Lou doesn't have a good answer for any of these questions.

    "We need this time, Louisa. We need this time to give him the idea of there being some possibility." (9.103)

    While Lou struggles to redefine her own perception of the future, she's charged with helping Will do the same. That's a tall order. There's no chance for him to make a physical recovery, but he just might be able to change his perspective on life.

    I would have to fill those little white rectangles with a lifetime of things that could generate happiness, contentment, satisfaction, and pleasure. (10.123)

    Interestingly, Lou doesn't start planning things to do with her life until caring for Will forces her to do so. But how is she supposed to help someone look forward to a bright future when she struggles to do that herself? That's the real question, in our book.

    I felt like I was living a life I hadn't had a chance to anticipate. (18.142)

    Maybe this isn't a bad thing. Typically, Lou only thinks about the future when she feels anxious about it, but getting thrust into Will's life has forced her to accept things as they come, even when it's difficult.

    "Everything takes time, Will. [...] And that's something that your generation finds it a lot harder to adjust to." (18.136)

    Mary Rawlinson, a woman Will and Lou meet at the wedding, firmly believes that Will will learn to adapt to his new life if he just gives it time. Two years isn't long enough to recalibrate your dreams and aspirations for the future.

    For the first time in my life I tried not to think about the future. I tried to just be, to simply let the evening's sensations travel through me. (23.87)

    This is a big step for Lou. She's being mindful of the present rather than ruminating on the darkness of the past or the unknowability of the future. She just is. Although knowing Will has caused her a lot of pain and sadness, it's also totally revolutionized the way she looks at life.

    "You have no idea how you're going to feel even six months from now. And I don't want to look at you every day [...] and not...not be able to do what I want with you." (23.163)

    After pulling back from Lou's romantic advances, Will explains his reasoning for going through with assisted suicide despite his love for her. She might love him now, he claims, but how will she feel after living with and caring for him after a year? Or two? Or ten? There's no right or wrong way to feel about this, but it's definitely something worth chewing on.

    "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?" (26.23)

    Despite the pain he has caused her, Will has transformed Lou's perspective on life, prompting her to finally take steps toward fulfilling her dreams—dreams that had fallen to the curb years ago. That's a beautiful thing. Although it will take time for her to work through the grief of his death, she'll emerge from the other end as a better person.

  • Fear

    What would we talk about? What if he just stared at me, head lolling, all day? Would I be freaked out? (2.131)

    Lou is terrified by the prospect of caring for a quadriplegic. In our eyes, however, she's not scared of him because of his disability, but because it's something that's unknown for her. As we'll see, Lou has a big problem facing the unknown.

    "A previous caregiver disappeared for several hours once to get her car fixed, and Will...injured himself in her absence." (3.8)

    Camilla Traynor is deeply afraid of something happening to Will, which is understandable after we learn about his previous suicide attempt. It's bad enough that something so horrible happened to her only son, but now she's forced to reckon with the idea that he might do something horrible to himself.

    I wished I could go back, back to when my biggest worry was whether Frank and I had ordered in enough Chelsea buns. (9.146)

    Lou's life was a lot simpler back when she spent her days at the café and her evenings in front of the TV. Meeting Will has been great for her in many ways, but it's also opened her up to a great deal more anxiety and fear about the future.

    I didn't add that [...] driving to the hospital in sole charge of Will was still enough to bring me out in a cold sweat. (10.14)

    Taking care of Will is a tough job. Not only is there a lot of work to do, but there's also a lot that could go wrong at any moment. This is exacerbated by the fact that Lou has grown to care for her ward a great deal, giving her a personal stake in his well-being.

    I can tell you the exact day I stopped being fearless. (12.1)

    What follows this line is a recounting of a night in Lou's early adulthood, during which it is alluded to that she was raped. It's a gut-wrenching scene that helps explain her fears of the outside world.

    "I get really, really scared of how this is going to go [...] I could end up not being able to breathe by myself, not being able to talk." (17.237)

    This is the first time we really get Will's perspective on his condition. It's bad enough that he's lost his independence and ability to do the things he loves, but he also has to face the prospect that it's only going to get worse. That's a tough thing to live with each and every day.

    "No. They were responsible."

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

    Devastatingly, Lou has never been able to shake the feeling that she's somehow to blame for what happened in the castle maze, which couldn't be more untrue. This sense of guilt and shame is what has kept her from moving on and rebuilding her sense of self in its wake.

    My heart was racing. [...] I had been running pretty much since I received Nathan's text message an hour earlier. (22.6)

    When Will catches pneumonia it's pretty much Lou's worst fears realized. Luckily, Will recovers relatively quickly, but it helps her see the health difficulties that he's been living with for over two years.

    [H]is eyes [...] said there wasn't necessarily going to be another time. They said he thought he would never be well again. (22.67)

    This is the first time that Lou sees Will while he's in the throes of a serious medical issue. He feels both hopeless and terrified—almost imprisoned. It's tough, but it goes a long way toward explaining his decision to end his life.

    As I did so I had to fight a peculiar sense of panic. A subversive little voice kept rising up inside me, saying This is how it would feel if he were dead. (22.80)

    This ultimately becomes Lou's worst fear: that Will will die. And it comes true. How's she supposed to handle that? It's going to be a tough road for her, without a doubt, but we think that the lessons she's learned over the past six months will help her eventually find happiness again.

  • Mortality

    No, it was the livid red lines scoring Will's wrists, the long jagged scars that couldn't be disguised, no matter how swiftly Nathan pulled down Will's sleeves. (5.171)

    This is the moment when Lou realizes that Will has attempted suicide—which explains his mother's insistence that she not leave him alone for an extended period of time. Lou knew he was having trouble adapting to his new life, but she never suspected that he'd do something like that.

    This is not the life I chose. There is no prospect of my recovery, hence it is a perfectly reasonable request to ask to end it in a manner I see fit. (8.49)

    To Will, his decision to end his life is simple: he can't live without hope for recovery. Suicide is an awful thing, and something that should never be discussed lightly, but Will's situation makes the debate more complicated than it is normally depicted.

    How could this man whose skin I had felt that morning under my fingers—warm, and alive—choose to just extinguish himself? (9.5)

    Lou, like most of us, has a hard time understanding Will's desire to go to an assisted suicide facility like Dignitas. Living life as a quadriplegic is challenging, without a doubt, but he can learn to adapt, right? While most people can live full lives in the aftermath of such injuries, it's clear that Will feels himself incapable of doing so.

    And yet, there was something else in her expression when she spoke; something that [...] told of a deep, deep relief.

    "He finally looked like Leo again." (14.156-157)

    The story of the young footballer who commits assisted suicide at Dignitas gets to the heart of this very controversial issue. On the one hand, it's tragic whenever anyone makes the choice to end his or her own life, regardless of circumstances. On the other hand, the situation gets more complicated when the person in question might commit suicide in a much less humane way otherwise.

    "I...I can't judge him for what he want to do. It's his choice. It should be his choice." (22.105)

    Unlike Lou, Nathan has some understanding for Will's decision to go to Dignitas. He doesn't exactly support it, but he knows that no one can make that choice but Will himself.

    "No. I want him to live."

    "But–"

    "But I want him to live if he wants to live." (22.120-122)

    This is the heart of the issue. Out of their love for Will, his parents and Lou want to keep him alive at all costs, but they don't take into account what he wants. This is not necessarily to support his decision, but simply to explain it.

    "And if you do love me, Clark [...] the thing that would make me happier than anything is if you would come with me." (23.166)

    That's a lot to ask from someone. But what else is Lou supposed to do? Ignore his request? Leave him alone? Forget that she ever met him? It's a hard thing to watch a loved one make such a serious decision, but if there's nothing she can do to change his mind, she might as well give him as much support as possible before it happens.

    "There are a host of conditions encroaching on me. I can feel it. I don't want to be in pain anymore, or trapped in this thing, or dependent on everyone, or afraid." (23.169)

    Will doesn't merely live with the knowledge that he'll never recover—he also has to face the prospect that he'll most likely get sicker and sicker over time. It's easy to point fingers and judge him for his decision to end his own life, but it's valuable to put yourself in his shoes and think about how profoundly such a thing would affect you.

    "But his parents! They can't let him kill himself," said Mum. "What kind of people are they?" (25.89)

    Of course, what Mrs. Clark doesn't know is how hard his parents have fought to keep Will alive, and how all of those efforts have failed to make an impact on him. It's a tough decision on their part, but they were essentially left without options.

    I hope that one day [...] you will see not just that I could only have done the thing that I did, but also that this will help you live a really good life, a better life, than if you hadn't met me (e.20)

    This comes from a letter that Will wrote to Lou before his death. Lou is still struggling with a whirlwind of emotions—grief, anger, guilt, and sadness, to name a few—and she probably can't see the light at the end of the tunnel quite yet. But we think she'll get there. Although loving Will has caused her a great deal of pain, it's also opened her up to a whole new way of seeing the world.

  • Society and Class

    I knew the real reason for Dad's anxiety. They relied on my wages. (1.65)

    Lou comes from a working-class background, so there's a lot of pressure on her to support her family. This causes a great deal of tension at times—tension that the Traynors have never really had to deal with.

    She was wearing a trouser suit that I guessed cost more than my dad earned in a month. (2.21)

    We wouldn't be surprised. The Traynor family couldn't be more different from the Clark family, and we see their respective classes play a big role in their differences.

    In our street "posh" could mean anyone who didn't have a family member in possession of an antisocial behavior order. (2.101)

    Here's a truth bomb for you, Lou—there's plenty of rich folks with mental issues. Just look at the Traynor family, right? If we were feeling like armchair psychologists, we'd be diagnosing those suckers left and right; everyone has their struggles.

    I'm not the kind of person this happened to. Or at least, I thought I wasn't. (8.3)

    Camilla Traynor's upper-class status has blinded her from reality in many ways. Fate is a random thing, and it doesn't check your bank account balance before dealing its cards.

    With ordinary people [...] most would stare. [...] Here's the thing about middle-class people. They pretend not to look, but they do. (12.48-49)

    First off, we love that Lou refers to working-class folks as "ordinary" and middle- and upper-class people as weirdoes. This is some great insight into the cultural differences between the classes—but it also shows how each class thinks of itself and other classes. Whoever you are, you probably think that you and those like you are ordinary, while everyone else is a weirdo in some way.

    But if I had found it hard to get employment, prospects for a fifty-five-year-old man who had only ever held one job were harder. (14.11)

    This is an issue that's as relevant now as ever. Mr. Clark has been a factory worker for his entire life, and that doesn't necessarily make for the most compelling LinkedIn profile. Still, the dude is an incredibly hard worker and a good man—shouldn't that count for something?

    The difference between growing up like me and growing up like Will was that he wore his sense of entitlement lightly. (17.157)

    This is some more great insight, courtesy of Lou. Will's not entitled in the traditional sense—he doesn't expect to have everything handed to him on a silver platter, and he's always been a hard worker—but his life is imbued with a sense that everything is meant to go his way. Lou has never had that luxury.

    The morning of the wedding dawned bright and balmy, as I had secretly known it would. Girls like Alicia always go their way (18.34)

    Lou clearly has a bit of resentment toward upper-class gals like Alicia. We can't blame her for that, but we think that she's learned a lot more about the struggles faced by everyone, regardless of class, by the end of the book.

    The weddings I went to usually had to separate the bride's and groom's family for fear of someone breaching the terms of their parole. (18.74)

    Now, that's pretty amazing. Although it sounds like Lou is talking negatively about the people she grew up with, we think she's actually talking about them in an affectionate way. She much prefers that sort of chaos to the sterile banality of rich folks.

    I cannot tell you how much better I felt once I saw the way posh people danced. (18.150)

    Have you ever been to a dance party at a yacht club? People don't so much look like they're dancing as much as swatting a horde of insects that are assailing them. It's scary.

  • Exploration

    There are 158 footsteps between the bus stop and home, but it can stretch to 180 if you aren't in a hurry. (1.1)

    If you have an exact count of the number of footsteps between two locations, then you either A) have OCD or B) have walked between those two locations way too many times. Of course, it just might be both.

    "So? What's so weird about that?" (7.88)

    Lou's never really traveled from her small town, period, much less lived somewhere else. She's always felt destined to live her entire life within its narrow boundaries.

    There are places where the changing seasons are marked by migrating birds, or the ebb and flow of tides. Here, in our little town, it was the return of the tourists (11.3)

    Although Lou has done little traveling herself, she finds great comfort in observing the multitude of people who visit her small town during the tourist season. Maybe it's because she's secretly jealous of them. Maybe it's just because they help her gain insight into the outside world. Either way, she's fascinated by them.

    I began to compile a new list—things you cannot do with a quadriplegic. (16.59)

    In her quest to find suitable trips for Will, Lou learns just how many limitations are placed on him due to his condition. That must be rough for someone as accustomed to traveling as he is.

    It was Ritchie, that chat-room stalwart, who had come to my aid in the end. (23.18)

    It's interesting to us that Lou uses the internet to explore the outside world, making personal connections with people on the other side of the planet. Who said that computers make us less social?

    I don't know if it was the journey, or because this was the most beautiful place I had ever been in my life, but I felt suddenly tearful. (23.35)

    Lou is blown away when she arrives in Mauritius, a small island off the coast of Africa. She's hardly traveled anywhere before, but now she's going to one of the most beautiful and picturesque places on the planet. Talk about jumping straight into the deep end.

    I had to remind myself that, for most of his life, this had been Will's domain—this globe, these wide shores—not the little annex in the shadow of the castle. (23.37)

    When Lou visits Mauritius, she finally gains some insight into the globetrotting life that Will enjoyed before he was paralyzed. He was a modern-day explorer, visiting every exotic locale you can think of. If anything, however, these former travels have only heightened the trauma his injury has caused him. He's gone from having absolute independence to having none whatsoever.

    I slowly began to suspect I was actually in paradise. I had never, in my life, imagined that I would spend somewhere like this. (23.42)

    For Lou, Mauritius doesn't just provide a nice tan and some good feels—it gives her a whole new perspective on life. Just six months ago, she assumed that she would never leave the borders of her small town, and now she's jet-setting like she's in the one percent.

    Every time I thought about heading back to England, a great claw of fear gripped my stomach and began to tighten its hold. (23.85)

    Of course, the downside to visiting someplace as wonderful as Mauritius is that it puts all of the faults of Lou's hometown into high relief. How can she go back to living in a place so boring after seeing the beauty that the outside world has to offer?

    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)

    Although Lou is devastated by Will's death, their brief time together has given her a newfound conception of the beauty of the world. No longer is she content with spending her days hemmed in—now she wants to explore.

  • Disappointment

    "I don't do anything, Miss Clark. I can't do anything anymore but sit. I just about exist." (3.122)

    Will has trouble adapting to his spinal injury because it removes his ability to do the things he once enjoyed. Imagine if you could never do any of your favorite hobbies ever again. That'd be rough.

    "He's not going to walk again, Louisa. That only happens in Hollywood movies." (5.150)

    Another big contributor to Will's sense of disappointment is his complete lack of hope for recovery. Hope can be a powerful thing, and Will doesn't have that luxury.

    "Everyone does. God's little joke." (6.128-129)

    We get the sense that Will might be happier if he had been injured during an extreme sport exploit, but he has to contend with the fact that he's been paralyzed due to pure random chance.

    I was so furious, you see, that all around me were things that could move and bend and grow and produce, and my son [...] was just this thing. (8.55)

    Camilla Traynor is devastated by her son's injury, not just because of its profound effect on her life as his caretaker, but because she's forced to see all of his hopes and dreams for the future squashed. That's an unimaginable thing for any parent to go through.

    I couldn't talk to him. I found it difficult even to meet his eye. It was like finding out your boyfriend had been unfaithful. (9.22)

    On the flipside, Lou is incredibly disappointed when she learns of Will's plan to commit assisted suicide at Dignitas. Why has she been coming in and taking care of him? Why has she been growing emotionally attached to him? It's a hard thing to wrap her mind around.

    "You decided what you thought you'd like me to do, and you went ahead and did it. You did what everyone else does. You decided for me." (11.185)

    Will struggles with his lost sense of independence, as we see here in the aftermath of Lou's ill-advised trip to the horse races. It's bad enough that he's not allowed to do the things he loves anymore, but he also has to contend with others' belief that he can't make his own decisions anymore.

    It was Will's accident that had curtailed our plans for a life together, after all. (21.37)

    Will's injury has a wide range of unexpected effects. For example, it prevents his father from marrying his mistress and leaving the family. Might not be all bad, actually?

    "There have been times [...] when his defenses are down and it's all a bit raw, he literally can't bear the thought of never doing it again. He can't bear it." (22.105)

    Will puts on a strong front when he's around Lou, but in his darkest moments he's devastated by the memory of all of the things he'll never be able to do again—things he took for granted before the accident. Ultimately, it's this pain that leads him to choose assisted suicide.

    "I can't be the man I want to be with you [...] This kiss becomes...another reminder of what I am not." (23.133)

    Although Will is clearly in love with Lou, physical intimacy only heightens his feeling of disappointment. It's a brutal catch-22: he's enriched by their relationship but unable to enjoy it without feeling a great deal of inner pain.

    "It's not enough for me. This—my world—even with you in it." (23.155)

    This is a terrible thing for Lou to hear: her love is not enough to keep Will from wanting to end his life. It's a brutal disappointment, especially coming so soon after the closest moment the two ever shared.