Me Before You

Me Before You Irony

Will's use of sarcasm (verbal irony)

One of the more prominent appearances of irony here happens in the form of dialogue, when Will weaponizes verbal irony— that is to say, sarcasm. When he's feeling hostile, the naturally witty Will forces others to unravel his irony-tinged comments. For instance, during their first meeting, Lou offers him a cup of tea. Will replies, "The girl who makes tea for a living. I wondered how long it would be before you wanted to show off your skills." This sounds like a compliment on one level, since Will is praising Lou's "skills," but it's clear based on his tone and the situation that he's disparaging her for not having had a prestigious-enough job. Later, Lou complains that when she asks Will whether the vacuum is too loud, he sarcastically asks whether she's come up with a way to make it run silently. Though this attitude is unpleasant, Lou eventually realizes that it's Will's response to feeling ignored. If he can't be heard when he has a sincere comment, he can try to be heard making an insincere one. Will's wit is one of the things that Lou loves about him, but when his barbed sarcasm comes out, it usually means that he's unhappy and that he's doing his best to make it known.

Point-of-view shifts and dramatic irony

There's quite a bit of dramatic irony in Me Before You thanks to the book's regular shifts in point-of-view. When we switch out of Lou's perspective and into another person's, we are able to snatch a few important pieces of information. Then, when we return to Lou's point of view, we know something she doesn't: and knowing something out character doesn't is the very definition of dramatic irony. One example is that, when we read the prologue, we learn all kinds of things, like that a man named Will Traynor who has a girlfriend named Lissa gets into a terrible accident. When Lou meets Will, he's a mystery to her, but we already know something about him. When she meets Alicia, we're already familiar with this character and know that she and Will have a tumultuous past. It's the same when Mr. Traynor narrates, letting us know that his decision to leave Camilla is dependent on whether Will dies. Though Lou has no idea, we take this knowledge into future scenes, and it informs our understanding of Mr. Traynor's actions.

Will's choice to die (situational irony)

In the last moments of Will's life, Lou tells him that their months together have been the happiest of her life. He, surprisingly, tells her that the same is true for him. It's an ironic statement and an ironic situation, considering that Will is unhappy after his accident and is choosing death in spite of supposedly being happier than ever. But Will knows that, prefacing his statement with the words "funnily enough." The irony here prompts readers to consider Will's meaning. He might have been happy because he had already decided to commit suicide, freeing him to simply enjoy the remaining months with Lou. He also might be describing the happiness he feels knowing that Lou will thrive after he's gone. Since Will believes that he needs to die to let Lou live the life she should, it makes a certain paradoxical sense that he chooses to die in spite of (or, in fact, because of) how happy she makes him.

Will's injury (situational irony)

One particularly cruel element of Will's condition is the ironic circumstance in which he is injured. Adventurous though he once was, the prologue tells us that Will deliberately chooses not to ride his motorcycle in the rain, since he doesn't take unnecessary risks. It seems particularly unfair, then, that he is injured by a motorcyclist. The irony of this situation supports one of the book's central convictions, which is that nobody can fully control what happens to their body. Though he goes out of his way to be careful, Will is still injured. The irony of this moment also makes Will's situation all the more difficult. Being the victim of a coincidental injury, rather than an injury sustained in an impressive or extreme situation, makes Will feel as if he has even less agency than he already does.

Preconceptions of Will's attractiveness (situational irony)

The fact that Lou ends up choosing Will over Patrick comes with a heavy dose of irony, since Patrick has expressed in no uncertain terms that he does not consider a quadriplegic man to be a threat to him. He's not the only one: Lou's father jokes that Will is the best possible person for Lou to work for, from Patrick's perspective, since he's so sexually non-threatening. People tend to underestimate Will's intelligence because of his disability, but they generally avoid saying so explicitly. What they're more overt about is the fact that they find him emasculated and sexless. This is somewhat upsetting, but it also makes us feel vindicated, later, when Will surprises everyone with his charm and good looks, and when Lou ends up falling for him. This is an example of how irony can be satisfying rather than disturbing.