Me Before You

Me Before You Summary and Analysis of Chapter 15-17


One day while Lou is hanging out with Nathan and Will on her lunch break, they ask her about her plans for the evening. She tells them she’s going home to read a book, and then watches as Nathan hands Will ten pounds. It turns out that the two of them find her life so predictable and boring that they make bets on her nightly activities. Lou tries not to act offended, but she’s actually quite hurt, to her own surprise and chagrin. She wonders if she really is as boring as Nathan and Will say. She confronts Will after Nathan is gone, and Will refuses to back down. He tells Lou about all the wonderful things he’d do if he was her, like applying to night school to put her sewing and design skills to good use. He describes all the things he used to do in his spare time, and while Lou is quick to point out that some of them are expensive, he’s quick to point out that some of them aren’t. Then Will launches into a kind of pep talk, explaining to Lou that she’s full of energy and potential and that he just wants to see her use it. Becoming pensive, she asks him whether he regrets his adventurous life, since it must make his new one feel even less exciting. He tells her no: he’d rather have the memories of his life before, since that’s more or less all he’s got now.

A few days later, Will is hospitalized for an infection, so Lou gets some time off work. She’s bored without her job, and spends the time in the library, on chatrooms for quadriplegics and their caretakers. She discovers a whole subculture, full of practical tips as well as deeply personal advice. She writes her own message, using the username “Busy Bee.” In the message, she asks for advice on getting Will to change his mind about going to Dignitas, though she’s too vague on the details for anyone to find out she’s talking about Will. She gets plenty of responses. Most are unhelpful. One, from a quadriplegic named Ritchie, is upbeat and full of tips on how to get Will to accept the cards he’s been dealt. Finally, there’s a disturbing but eloquent answer from a user named “GForce.” GForce argues that it’s Will’s right to make his own decision, and that Lou—or any other non-quadriplegic person—can’t possibly understand Will’s motivation. GForce also points out that, no matter how well-meaning Lou is, she won’t be by Will’s side forever. Others disagree in the comments, but the message is hard to dismiss. Another response is even harder to ignore: one user says that the thing that kept her afloat was love, and that the best thing for Will would be a romantic partner.

When Will leaves the hospital, he and Lou take a series of outings, to places including a gallery, a concert, and a swimming pool. Some are failures and some reasonably successful. At a wine tasting, Will bonds with the shop owner over a sophisticated taste in wines. Afterwards, slightly drunk, Will and Lou pass a tattoo shop. Lou mentions having always wanted a tattoo of a bee. Will dares her to get one, and says he’ll get one too if she’d like. The tattoo artists are experienced in tattooing quadriplegics, and tattoo Will in a separate, more accessible room. After, Lou shows Will her bee tattoo, and Will shows her what he’s chosen. His tattoo reads “Best Before: 19 March 2007.” Guessing correctly that this is the date of his accident, Lou tears up, though Will tells her he’d meant it to be funny. Then Will tells Lou where she can find the ten-pound note he’d exchanged with Nathan. Having done something spontaneous and daring, she’s won the bet.

Back home, circumstances have worsened. Treena and Thomas can’t sleep in the small bedroom when they come home, so they take Lou’s parents’ room, leaving them to sleep on the floor. But Lou’s mom is picky about her bedding, which ends up resulting in a lot of extra laundry every weekend. Lou doesn’t want to move back to her old room, since she’s the family’s primary breadwinner, and since Treena is only home on weekends. Patrick, meanwhile, is still a fitness maniac. Lou spends the night at his house one weekend to make life easier at home, but hates it. His flat is barren, and in spite of their long relationship, Lou doesn’t keep any of her things there. Lou’s also putting off telling Patrick that she can’t go to Norway with him for his big triathlon. That’s the last week of her contract with Will, and her last chance to convince him to live. Will notices how tired Lou is, and she confesses that she has nowhere to sleep. He invites her to sleep in his guest room on weekends. Later, Will asks Lou whether she’s seen his father in town with a redheaded woman, and she tells him, truthfully, that she has. He tells her that this isn’t the first time, so he clearly knows about his father’s cheating habit.

Lou uses her free time to frequent the quadriplegic chatroom, looking for advice on where to take Will, but ends up compiling a distressingly long list of places where he can’t go. When she asks her new online friends what they’d most like to do, they usually respond that they’d like to have sex again, which isn’t all that helpful. But one thing improves: Lou’s dad gets a new job, as head of maintenance at the town’s castle. Will’s dad, though, is in charge of the castle, meaning that he hired Mr. Clark. Lou’s dad tells her only that Will mentioned to his father that he was skilled with carpentry and looking for a job. Lou doesn’t say anything to ruin her father’s happiness, though she’s slightly disturbed by the information. She calls Will and asks him whether he had anything to do with the hiring decision. He acts as if it’s all a lucky coincidence, but Lou points out that it’s a bit strange for her father to be hired just after Will received damning information about his father’s sex life. Will acts offended by the insinuation of blackmail, and tells her that this is good—it will let Lou pursue her dreams without having to worry about her parents’ stability. This is oddly moving to Lou.

She goes to the pub where Patrick meets with his fellow triathloners, knowing he’ll be there, and tells him about her father’s new job and about how she’s going to spend weekends at the Traynors'. Patrick seems upset about how intertwined her and Will’s lives have become, and decides that she should finally move in with him instead. He’s insistent, but not particularly enthusiastic or romantic about asking her to move in. Lou, trying herself to feel excited, agrees. The next day, when Lou tells Will that she’s moving in with Patrick, he’s oddly distant. She’s getting tired of this when a man in a suit shows up at the back door. Once Will tells her to let the man in, he enters and introduces himself as Michael Lawler. Will wants to speak to Lawler privately, and asks Lou to make them coffee. He also calls her “Louisa,” which he has never done. The men talk for a long time. When she sees Lawler out, she manages to learn where his office is located in London, pretending to be making small talk. She looks up him and his address online later and finds out that he is a “specialist in wills and probate.” Then she heads home to move in with Patrick. The move is easy, but awkward. She doesn’t yet feel at home, and their dynamic has become positively awkward. Patrick reminds her to start job-hunting, since her six-month contract is about to expire. It’s true that time is running out—Lou only has seven weeks left. Will already acts like he’s elsewhere, and remains oddly distant.

Lou is so stressed that she asks Mrs. Traynor to meet her for coffee. She reveals what she knows about the lawyer’s visit. Mrs. Traynor is so upset that she ends up telling Lou off for moving in with her boyfriend. Her reasoning is that Will, in his current state, shouldn’t be subjected to the sight of someone else moving forward with their life. Lou is insulted by this, and the two part on bad terms. Lou feels shaken afterwards, partly because she never considered that Will might care and partly because things still feel strange at Patrick’s. She tries to talk to him about it, but he critiques her for turning the situation into a bigger deal than he thinks is necessary. Soon after, Will suddenly stops acting strange. He tells Louisa that he’d like to take a walk to the castle, since he can use his dad’s keys to go in after hours. When they get there, Will describes childhood memories of playing on the castle grounds after tourists had left it empty. They talk for a bit about their very different childhoods, and then Will decides he’d like to go into the maze. Lou declines, not explaining why, but he keeps asking until she caves. She goes inside, but soon she starts to panic, and begins to have flashbacks to the last time she went inside.

These flashbacks are fragmented, but include memories of a group of men grabbing at her and insisting that she kiss them inside the maze. She avoids telling us explicitly, but it seems as if she was raped. Lou begins crying and calling for Will, who finds her inside the maze. He tries to figure out what’s wrong, but she only wants to leave, so they exit together. Finally, when they’ve exited, she tries to explain, but can’t. So he offers a confession of his own: he tells her about how much he fears the future, knowing that his physical condition might worsen. He talks about his fear of a future without full use of his body, and his family’s emotional state. He also tells Lou that she’s the only person he feels that he can talk to since his accident. So Lou reveals her story, crying and holding Will’s hand all the while. Will reassures her that what happened wasn’t her fault, and tells her that the night in the maze needn’t define her life. Eventually, they head back home together.


Since we’re limited to Lou’s point of view for most of this novel, we usually only hear her opinion about Will’s plan to end his life. She’s so determined to make sure he lives, and so unwilling to entertain the possibility that he won’t, that we don’t often get a chance to consider why Will doesn’t want to live or what might happen if he does die. In these middle chapters, Moyes begins to bring in outside voices to help explain the context of Will’s decision. Lou still tries not to think too much about it, but both she and the reader are exposed to a range of opinions and feelings. Before, we heard about the stories of other people who committed assisted suicide, such as Leo McInerney. Now, Lou seeks information from a more personal source. The people she speaks to in her chatroom provide their perspectives as quadriplegics, which means that, for the first time in the book, Lou encounters other people living with Will’s condition. Some are happy and optimistic, while one person—voicing what appears to be a minority opinion—argues that Will should get to make his own decision. Both these types of responses force Lou to understand the choice Will is making. Moyes is providing evidence for the reader on both sides, allowing us to figure out for ourselves how we feel about the situation.

Lou isn’t typically one for new experiences, but she wholeheartedly embraces her new online community. Trying something strange and new feels less daunting to her when it’s for or about Will. Even though Will isn’t with her and doesn’t know she’s joined this chatroom, she ends up exposing herself to new ideas, even ones which frighten her, and to new people. This is just what Will wants for her, and what he tries to get her to do when they’re together. The scene in which he tells Lou to use her potential makes that clear. Will seems to think he can no longer shape his own future, or at least to be frightened of it, but he seems to have transferred some of his drive to succeed over to Lou. The more Will tells her about the limits he faces, the more he wants her to live the kind of life he can’t. This is exemplified in the tattoos they get together. Lou’s is a picture of a bee, an industrious, colorful, flying animal that hints at her freedom. Will’s, though, is an explicit reference to the limitations he faces.

Since all Will seems to want is for Lou to try new things, it’s a bit odd that Mrs. Traynor is upset about Lou and Patrick moving in together. Camilla believes that she’s showing off her freedom, but Will relentlessly encourages Lou to take advantage of her freedom. Instead, there’s a fair amount of evidence that Will’s displeasure comes equally from his feelings for Lou and from his desire for Lou to live in a way that makes her happy. Patrick, as Will seems to have noticed, doesn’t make Lou all that happy. Still, after a brief period of awkwardness, Will once again seems determined to make Lou live less cautiously, since he pushes her to explore the maze. Of course, it just so happens that he has asked Lou to confront her greatest fear of all, though she doesn’t know this. Though the experience is frightening for Lou, Will’s presence, and the mixture of pushiness and comfort he provides, allow her to speak about her traumas in a cathartic way.

While Lou does indeed speak about her traumas to Will, she doesn’t actually tell us what she tells him. Their dialogue is summarized rather than transcribed fully. We piece together that she was sexually assaulted based on the bits of dialogue we hear and the flashbacks she describes, but the fact remains that Lou preserves this most personal discussion for Will. Up until now, the reader has been privy to all of Lou’s thoughts about and experiences with Will. In this moment, the dynamic shifts, because she has told Will something important and purposely excluded us from the moment. It’s still more or less clear what’s happening, and there’s nothing malicious about her choice not to share with us, but nonetheless this marks a turn, since it shows that Lou and Will have a connection that nobody, not even the person reading the book, can fully access.