Study Guide

Me Before You Themes

  • Family

    Me Before You is centered on two very different families. First, you've got the Clarks, a wild bunch of working-class warriors who are upfront about their many issues with one another. And then you've got the Traynors, a gaggle of upper-class snoots who repress their feelings like their lives depend on it. As Lou Clark grows close with Will Traynor, a young business executive who was recently paralyzed from the neck down, she realizes that she's been letting her own family control her too much, no matter how much she might love them. The result is sometimes contentious and sometimes heartwarming, but it's also an extremely accurate account of what it's like to have a fam, man.

    Questions About Family

    1. How are Will's and Lou's families' differences reflected in their personality traits?
    2. Is Lou a good sister to Treena? Is Treena a good sister to Lou? Explain your answer.
    3. Compare and contrast Lou and Treena's relationship with Will and Georgina's.
    4. Can the differences between Lou's and Will's families be attributed to their respective classes? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    Lou and Treena are good sisters to one another because even though they fight, they ultimately help the other when they need it.

    Both Lou and Treena's relationship and Will and Georgina's relationship are defined by resentment caused by the perceived favoring of one child.

  • Love

    Lou Clark and Will Traynor in Me Before You have the most complicated romantic relationship this side of Romeo and Juliet. After being hired to work as a professional caregiver for Will, a young business professional paralyzed two years prior, Lou finds herself growing increasingly dissatisfied with her boyfriend Patrick and increasingly drawn to this wheelchair-bound hunk. Hubba hubba. Of course, things are far from simple, especially after Lou learns that Will is planning to go to an assisted suicide facility and end his own life. So will she be able to change his mind? Will she be able to turn this tragedy into a romantic comedy? Click on to find out.

    Questions About Love

    1. Compare and contrast Lou's relationships with Patrick and Will.
    2. Does Will love Lou as much as she loves him? Explain your answer.
    3. Is Will right to question Lou's level of commitment to him in the long term? Why or why not?
    4. What changes in Patrick negatively affect his relationship with Lou?

    Chew on This

    Will does love Lou as much as she loves him, and the pain this causes him is what ultimately compels him to go through with his assisted suicide.

    Will does not love Lou as much as she loves him, as proven by his decision to go through with his plan for assisted suicide.

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    Lou Clark isn't a girl with big dreams. Born and raised in a small town in the English countryside, she's made herself content with settling down, working a boring job, and marrying her boring boyfriend. Carpe diem is not her motto. But in Me Before You, when Lou ends up working for Will Traynor, a young business executive and extreme sports enthusiast who was paralyzed two years prior, our hesitant heroine gets a whole new perspective on what life has to offer. All of her dreams might not end up coming true, but she does learn that you've got to fight to make your fantasies into reality.

    Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    1. Does Lou learn the importance of following her dreams by the end of the novel? Use textual evidence to support your answer.
    2. How does Will react to losing his ability to follow his dreams?
    3. What personal experiences affect Lou's feelings toward the future?
    4. How does Treena's relationship with her dreams and hopes relate to Lou's?

    Chew on This

    As proven by her trip to Paris and her decision to go back to school, Lou has learned the importance of following her dreams.

    Although Lou does indeed go back to school, the fact that she needs to be forced to do so shows that she is still not fully committed to following her dreams.

  • Fear

    Me Before You doesn't feature any ghouls and goblins, but there's plenty of fear creeping around these pages. There's Will Traynor's fear that his health will continue to worsen after an accident leaves him paralyzed. There's Camilla Traynor's fear that her son might do something terrible to himself in his grief—again. There's Lou Clark's fear that she's let life pass her by, and that she will miss her one opportunity to be with the man she loves. In this way, the novel touches on fears that we all encounter every day—fears about life, love, and all that jazz—giving the novel a realistic perspective on the inner struggles shared by all of us.

    Questions About Fear

    1. What is Will most afraid of? Explain your answer.
    2. Why does Lou blame herself for what happened in the maze?
    3. Does Lou manage to overcome her fears by the end of the novel? If so, how?
    4. What is the psychological impact of fear on the various characters of the novel?

    Chew on This

    Will's primary fear is that he will lose the physical abilities he still has left.

    Lou manages to overcome her fear of the future by being open with Will and realizing that she has only one chance to achieve her dreams.

  • Mortality

    We're not going to mince words, folks: Me Before You revolves around Will Traynor's desire to commit assisted suicide. After being paralyzed from the neck down by a motorcycle accident two years prior, this former business executive and extreme sports enthusiast is having trouble adjusting to his new life. He can't do the things he loves. He can't go where he wants to go. He can't be independent.

    Faced with this grief, Will decides to end his life on his own terms, which is a decision that's met with confusion and anger by the people closest to him. This is tough concept to wrap your mind around—and one fraught with controversy—but the novel handles it with a deft touch befitting such a hot-button issue.

    Questions About Mortality

    1. Is assisted suicide ethical? Explain your answer.
    2. Why does Camilla agree to help Will achieve his plan? Are her actions immoral?
    3. Why does Lou fail to convince Will that life is worth living?
    4. How will Will's death affect Lou in the long term? Will it have a net positive or negative impact?

    Chew on This

    Assisted suicide is ethical in certain circumstances when a severe medical condition without hope for recovery is involved, such as with Will.

    Assisted suicide is never ethical because it is fundamentally wrong to end someone's life.

  • Society and Class

    Putting aside the romance, the medical issues, and the ruminations on death, Me Before You has also got a lot to say about the differences between the social classes. Lou Clark comes from a working-class background that instilled many positive qualities in her, even if it has limited her in other ways. Will Traynor, on the other hand, is quintessentially upper class, having always lived a life of entitlement with oodles of money. These class differences define our characters in many ways, creating a unique dynamic that ends up saying a lot about their society at large.

    Questions About Society and Class

    1. What does Lou learn about the upper classes while attending Alicia's wedding?
    2. Does Will live with a sense of privilege? Explain your answer.
    3. Compare and contrast Mrs. Clark with Mrs. Traynor. How do their respective classes affect this comparison?
    4. What are the positive aspects of Lou's working-class background?

    Chew on This

    Will does not live with a sense of privilege, because he has always worked hard for what he has.

    Will lives with a sense of privilege because he innately believes that everything is meant to go his way.

  • Exploration

    It's ironic that someone who shares a name with both Lewis and Clark shows no interest in exploring the world, but that's just how the cookie crumbles for good old Lou Clark in Me Before You. Born and raised in a small town, Lou has never wanted to travel anywhere, much less live in another city—but then she meets Will Traynor, a legit businessman and world traveler whose explorations were cut short when he was paralyzed two years prior. Although Will is no longer able to participate in the activities that he once took for granted, his example helps Lou discover that the outside world has more to offer than she ever thought.

    Questions About Exploration

    1. How do Will's past travels affect his current mental state?
    2. Compare and contrast Lou's hometown with Mauritius.
    3. What does Paris symbolize for Will? What does it symbolize for Lou? Will Lou become a world traveler now? Explain your answer.

    Chew on This

    Will's former travels make his current condition more difficult because they highlight his new limitations.

    Will's former travels make his current condition easier because they give him fond memories to take refuge in.

  • Disappointment

    After being paralyzed in a freak motorcycle accident in Me Before You, Will Traynor contends with a flurry of emotions, but none are as powerful as his feeling of disappointment. He's disappointed that he's no longer able to travel and live life like he once did; he's disappointed that his future is looking bleaker and bleaker; and he's disappointed that he's lost his sense of independence. Although he eventually strikes up a strong bond with Lou Clark, a goofy girl with an even goofier sense of humor, it remains to be seen whether Will can overcome these feelings and gain a renewed perspective on what life has to offer him.

    Questions About Disappointment

    1. What is the root of Will's feelings of disappointment? Is there one root or multiple?
    2. How does Camilla Traynor express her disappointment with Will's current state?
    3. Is Lou disappointed about events in her past? Does she overcome these feelings? If so, how?
    4. What impact does Lou have on Will's feelings of disappointment?

    Chew on This

    The root of Will's disappointment is that his current life is less exciting than his former one.

    Camilla expresses her disappointment in Will's current state by micromanaging every aspect of his life.