Me Before You

Me Before You Literary Elements


Literary Romance

Setting and Context

Present-Day English Small Town

Narrator and Point of View

The story is largely told from Louisa Clark's point of view, but every few chapters, another narrator briefly enters. These include an unnamed third-person narrator in the prologue, Mrs. Traynor, Katrina Clark, Mr. Traynor, Nathan, and a government official. These point of view shifts give the reader factual information they would otherwise lack, and they remind readers of the complexity of the situation and the far-reaching effects of Will's choices.

Tone and Mood

The tone of this novel is, for the most part, heartfelt and candid. Louisa shares her feelings quite openly with the reader, and it is, after all, a love story, so there are plenty of feelings to go around. This candidly emotional tone is a reflection of a candidly emotional narrator, and on the occasions when the narrator switches, the tone tends to also. Therefore it becomes matter-of-fact and restrained when Nathan narrates, or cold and clinical when narrated by a government bureaucrat. Even when narrated by Lou in its more heartfelt tone, though, the novel avoids sentimentality, thanks partly to joke-heavy dialogue.

The mood is more variable, and tends to swing between hopeful anticipation and dread, following the novel's plot structure. When the protagonist is hopeful, the narration is rich with lovingly described images, and layered with figurative language, creating a relaxed, luxurious mood. When the protagonist feels dread, though, this is reflected in the mood as well, since the images become fewer and more unpleasant, the sentences shorter, and the language more literal. This more utilitarian prose discourages relaxation and prompts readers to feel anxious.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Lou is the protagonist; there is no clear antagonist

Major Conflict

The novel's major conflict is between Will Traynor, who wants to carry out an assisted suicide, and his friends and family, who want no such thing for him. While Will remains resolute in his wishes, Lou—working with Will's family members—puts a great deal of time and energy into changing his mind. The conflict is resolved, in terms of plot structure, when Will explains that he will still be seeking out assisted suicide, not because Lou's efforts have failed but because, in spite of their success, Will's medical conditions are unchangeable. Its emotional resolution comes later, when Lou accepts Will's right to make his own choice and understands that his choice is not a result of her own failure.


The novel's climax comes when Lou leaves her family's house to go to Switzerland and meet Will, in spite of her mother's protestations. This scene demonstrates Lou's love for Will, since she goes to support him at great personal and emotional cost to herself, but it also demonstrates that Lou has become a more mature and independent person than she was at the start of the book. After a series of smaller challenges, Lou stands up for herself and her beliefs in the most substantial way yet.


When the guard at Will's building warns him in the prologue not to ride his motorcycle unless he has a death wish, Moyes gives us some foreshadowing of Will's later wish to die. Later, when Lissa tells Lou that "You can only help someone who wants to be helped," she similarly foreshadows Will's unchanging decision to go to Dignitas and die. On a less significant level, when Lou brings Will to the races, she prefaces the scene by remembering some advice from her father about the disappointments inherent in planning a family day out. This foreshadows that the day won't be quite what Lou has planned.


When she hires Lou, Mrs. Traynor tells her that Will can be difficult. This turns out to be a massive understatement, since Will, at this point, is wildly antagonistic and cruel. Mrs. Traynor herself takes note of an understatement when Will's doctors note that his suicide was not "a cry for help." This polite phrase reveals that Will desperately wanted to die, and the doctors' use of understatement in this context hints that the topic of suicide is so taboo that people are unwilling to speak about it without euphemisms.


Will has a "Christy Brown" imitation. Brown was a 20th-century Irish writer with cerebral palsy.
Mrs. Traynor makes an allusion to King Canute, an English King who, according to legend, failed to hold back the tide.
Lou compares her and Will's situation to "My Fair Lady," and Will corrects her, arguing that its true title is "Pygmalion." Will refers to a play by George Bernard Shaw, in which a wealthy man tries to transform a poor woman into someone with the affectations and language of his own class. Lou refers to a musical, based on the play but with a different title.


Some of the book's most vivid images revolve around illness and disability, and the author does not shy away from disturbing portrayals of the pain and discomfort Will suffers. Both Will and Nathan, on different occasions, list the litany of physically uncomfortable situations in which Will might find himself, using images to ensure that Lou fully understands their meaning. These images are mostly tactile, though they are sometimes visual. This contrasts with idyllic imagery of the town where the novel is set and its seasonal changes. The castle, in particular, is described with visual imagery demonstrating its grandeur and beauty. Will and Lou's travel destination of Mauritius gets the full treatment: not only detailed visual images, but tactile ones of sunshine and warmth, as well as taste imagery of various foods. We also see plenty of visual images describing Lou's outfits, which show us how much she cares about her clothes and how much thought goes into them. These images increase in frequency and detail throughout the book as Lou becomes more confident in her knowledge of clothing and fashion.


Will decides to commit suicide in spite of claiming that he has just experienced his happiest six months ever. Furthermore, he commits suicide partly in order to give Lou a better life, even though the best thing in Lou's life is, in fact, Will himself. This paradox is never resolved, and Moyes hints that it can't be. The subject is just too complex, and the emotions of love and grief are too strange, to untangle. Like Lou, the reader must live with these unresolved truths.


Will's relationship with his sister, Georgina, Parallels Lou's relationship to Treena. Both Lou and Will have one sibling, and in each family, one sibling feels that they are less appreciated than the other. Georgina argues that her parents expect more of her after Will's injury than they might if the situations were reversed, and Lou resents Treena, since her life's trajectory has resulted in Lou having to support their family. Lou and her sister, though, are open and caring with one another, while the same cannot be said of Will and Georgina. The similarities between the pairs of siblings largely serve to highlight their differences and show how healthy Lou's family life is compared to Will's.

Lou and Will each have one traumatizing event from their past that haunts them more than any other. Lou's is her rape, which has caused her to lose her feelings of fearlessness. Will's is his accident, which has caused him to lose his physical independence. Each is limited by their trauma, but each also works to help the other to confront these traumas. Will allows Lou to confront her fear of the castle maze, to understand that she is not at fault for her assault, and to approach the world fearlessly once more. Lou helps Will move through the physical world as easily as possible, and she also gives him an outlet to talk about his pain and his fear of the future. Yet again, though, the parallels are perhaps most useful because they shed light on places of divergence. When Will announces that he will still commit suicide, Lou reminds him that he has told her not to let one day define her life. Will replies that, in his case, the day of his accident will inevitably define his life regardless of his actions. Since we understand after that Lou can try to move past her trauma in a way that Will cannot, or at least believes he cannot, we also understand Will's desire for Lou to live the adventurous life that he cannot.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

Lou refers to Alicia as "that silly caramel woman," an instance of synecdoche in which Alicia's tan comes to stand in for her entire appearance. The tan signifies her place as a wealthy person able to maintain appearances and take vacations, which is, in Lou's opinion, the only interesting thing about her. Therefore this synecdoche expresses Lou's feelings more generally.


On her first day of work at Will's, Lou complains that the morning "decided to last several years," attributing her own perception of time passing slowly to a personified concept.
While narrating, Treena says that the flowers on the castle grounds look "defeated, as if they were already half preparing for autumn." This echoes the feeling of defeat that Lou is experiencing after Will's decision to commit suicide.