Me Before You

Me Before You Summary and Analysis of Chapter 18-22


Lou is still working hard to find places abroad she can take Will, though the travel agent she speaks to doesn’t have any helpful advice. As she hangs up, Will comes into the room and announces that they’ll be going to a wedding. Lou speculates that his decision to go to Alicia and Rupert’s wedding is mostly rooted in his contrarian tendencies, though he may also be seeking some closure. They prepare to leave, and check that a ramp will be available at the venue. Alicia is clearly surprised that they’ve decided to make an appearance. Will buys a present, and Lou decides to wear the red dress Will likes as a way of making the day easier. She’s nervous the wedding will depress Will, but over the phone Treena offers her own brand of sarcastic reassurance.

On the day of the wedding, Lou notices that Will is looking particularly handsome. After Will’s parents send him and Lou off, they drive out to Alicia’s house. It’s huge and beautiful, exactly as Lou imagined. Lou is so nervous that Will has to tell her to calm down, but Will himself seems completely calm. The ceremony goes quickly, though Lou notes that Alicia looks gorgeous and that all the guests are wearing expensive clothes and have a certain air of entitlement. She feels an urge to comfort and protect Will, but once again he seems fine, and just wants to go on and get a drink. Alicia and Rupert are only offering one drink during this part of the reception. It looks like a kind of lemonade, but Lou grabs two glasses of it and heads back to Will. He has a series of unpleasant conversations with old acquaintances and coworkers. Some are awkward, others positively unfriendly. Lou drinks a few lemonades, not sure what else to do. Then they all sit down for lunch. Lou is feeling a bit strange and asks Will whether there’s any alcohol in the drinks she’s been gulping down. As it turns out, there’s quite a bit of alcohol in them. Lou is horrified and doesn’t know how she’ll manage to drive Will home, but Will seems to find it all funny.

It happens that one of the people at their table is a former MP with a record of working for disability rights. The woman, named Mary Rawlins, is completely comfortable around Will, and he takes an immediate liking to her. She starts a conversation with Lou as well, ends up giving Lou her contact information, since it turns out that she’s on the board of an organization that retrains people for new jobs. Lou takes the information, but feels resistant, since the implication of this transaction is that she will need a new job after Will dies. Mary offers words of encouragement to Will, though she also chastises him for trying to speak over Lou. She commends Will for getting “over the hump,” in terms of his emotional recovery, but Will responds that he isn’t actually over the hump at all. The conversation is cut off when toasts begin, and Will tells Lou to get as drunk as she wants—he’ll pay for them to spend the night at a nearby hotel. After that, the night actually becomes fun, and Lou is surprised to find that Will is as happy as she’s ever seen him. He’s clearly enjoying his conversations with Lou and Mary. Even a short, polite chat with Alicia doesn’t faze him. Lou, seeing Rupert and Alicia’s stares, decides that she and Will might as well embrace the attention and go dance. On the dancefloor, she sits in Will’s lap while he turns his chair in circles. They exchange some flirtatious banter about the positioning of Lou’s breasts, and Will tells Lou that she’s often the thing that gets him out of bed in the morning. She responds by proposing that the two of them take a week-long vacation, and Will agrees.

The next chapter is narrated by Nathan and describes the aftermath of Lou and Will’s night out. He knows that something has happened between the two of them, since they seem excessively happy and flirty. Will’s parents yell at Lou and Will for a bit, since they didn't call the night before to say they’d be staying out all night. Then Will tells Lou to go home for a bit, change, and sleep a little. When she leaves, Nathan can tell that Will is in pain. Nathan discovers, after pressing Will for some answers, that Lou actually neglected to perform some routine medical tasks. Will’s blood pressure is skyrocketing, and Nathan worries that he’s at risk of a dangerous reaction called Autonomic Dysreflexia. Will urges him not to call an ambulance just yet, since he might start to feel better. He explains to Nathan that Lou didn’t want to take any risks by performing medical tasks, since she’d had so much to drink. He also confesses that she dropped him on the floor getting him into bed, though Will seems to be remembering fondly. Nathan feels somewhat less fond of Lou in this moment, but, as Will’s blood pressure returns to normal and it becomes clear he’ll be alright, Nathan reflects that he seems to be distracted from his pain for once.

Lou comes back to work in the afternoon, and seems a bit troubled, though she’s trying not to show it. She explains that Patrick wasn’t happy after she stayed out all night. Nathan concedes to himself that Patrick has a reason to feel threatened by Will, given all the flirtatious glances he’s witnessing. He decides to stick around that afternoon, partly to watch Will’s blood pressure and partly to see how annoyed him and Lou get when he refuses to leave them alone. He finds it all a bit funny and a bit worrisome, though a part of him is glad to see Will so happy. As they all watch a movie together, Lou asks whether he’d like to join them on a ten-day vacation. He says yes, impressed that Lou’s managed to get Will to agree. Nathan needs the money for ten days of work anyway. But his good mood changes when he leaves the house and sees Mrs. Traynor and Lou having a secret, grim-looking chat. He hears Mrs. Traynor tell Lou that she hopes Lou “knows what (she’s) doing.”

We return to Lou's other life: while running with Patrick, Lou finally tells him that she’s not coming to his big triathlon. This shocks him, especially when he finds out that it’s because she’ll be with Will. Patrick just doesn’t understand why Lou has to go on a trip with Will when she has another commitment, and argues that Will always seems to be Lou’s top priority. Lou finally caves and explains that Will wants to die, and that this is her last chance to change his mind. Patrick is visibly upset, though it’s not clear whether it’s because of the information he’s heard or because Lou kept it a secret from him. He asks her to let him run by himself.

Lou recalls the events of a few days prior, when she asked for quadriplegic-friendly vacation ideas on her favorite message board. She’s begun corresponding more regularly with the person who uses the username Ritchie, and feels real fondness for the people she’s met online. She ends up finding a resort in California that offers all kinds of incredible adventures for quadriplegics, including skydiving. She wants to take Will skydiving at the end of the trip, as a surprise. Even Nathan, when she shows him her plans, is impressed and finds no flaws. Mrs. Traynor also gives her approval, though their conversation is far more awkward and stilted. That night, instead of going back to Patrick’s, Lou finds herself walking back to her family’s house. She finds Treena and talks to her about the possibility of going back to school, as Will had suggested. Then she confesses to Treena that she has a crush on Will, and that she loves being with him more than being with anyone else, including Patrick. Treena suspects it’s just a phase, and encourages her sister to keep trying with Patrick. She also offers to help Lou plan her vacation with Will, and has nothing but good things to say about Lou’s plans.

After talking to Treena, Lou goes back to Patrick’s. He’s waiting with a very healthy candlelit dinner, which he’s made as a gesture of apology for his earlier behavior. His apology is carefully rehearsed, and he seems ready to just put the whole thing aside and stop arguing. He spends all of dinner determinedly avoiding the topic of running or triathlons. Lou feels calmer and decides that Treena must be right: she really does love Patrick after all, and shouldn’t become consumed with the drama of Will’s life. But things take a turn when Patrick stumbles across Lou’s “Holiday folder.” It’s full of brochures and itineraries for the trip with Will. Patrick has expected that the trip will be all about finding a cure for Will’s disability, and is upset that it seems to simply be a fun vacation, with plenty for Lou to enjoy as well. He concludes that Lou is pretty much cheating on him with Will, or at least that things are headed that way. None of Lou’s attempts to change his mind work, and eventually he tells her that she has to make a choice between the trip with Will and their relationship. Lou tells him that Will needs her, and Patrick leaves the room without a word.

We learn about what happens next from Steven, Will’s father. He explains that Lou has moved into the house over the weekend with no fanfare or explanation, and recalls seeing her in her pajamas early in the morning. Mr. Traynor is glad she’s there, since she makes Will happy, but refrains from complimenting Louisa in front of his wife. He seems to be trying not to provoke jealousy from Camilla. One day, he recounts, Lou calls the whole family in to look over her travel plans. Mr. Traynor knows that Lou is trying to save Will’s life, but is impressed by her ability to make it sound as if it’s all for her own benefit so that Will won’t resist. Steven admits that Lou is the best chance his family has of keeping Will alive.

Then we skip ahead a bit, to one of Steven’s dalliances with the woman he’s been seeing. Her name is Della. The two of them speak about Will’s trip, but neither says out loud what both know: if Will dies, Steven can leave his wife. If not, he’ll have to stick around to support his family, meaning that he and Della can’t be together. Steven mulls over this impossible dilemma for a bit, and then tells us that, suddenly, Will contracts pneumonia. Back in Lou’s point of view, we see the effects of that illness. Lou rushes to the hospital, where Nathan tells her that Will is stable. She peeks in on him, where Mrs. Traynor is keeping watch. He’s sleeping, and Mrs. Traynor is watching him. Lou recalls how she found out about his illness. She’d taken a day off work to get her passport in order before the big trip, and spent the weekend moving her things out of Patrick’s house and shopping for vacation outfits. That morning, she’d arrived at the Traynors', ready to go on the trip, only to find the house empty. Eventually, a text from Nathan told her that they’d all gone to the hospital.

Lou offers to take over the bedside vigil so that Mrs. Traynor can go home for a bit, and she accepts gratefully. Lou holds Will’s hand and reflects on her breakup with Patrick, which made her feel a little guilty but not nearly as torn up as she would have expected. Eventually, Will wakes up. Lou tries to joke with him, but he’s not feeling up to it, and tells her that he won’t make it on the vacation. She tells him it doesn’t matter, as long as he gets better. When Lou goes back to Granta House, she has a short exchange with Mr. Traynor about Will’s condition. Inside, she becomes overwhelmed with emotion. Nathan walks in to drop off some medication and, seeing that she’s in distress, sits down with Lou to share a cup of tea. Lou realizes that Nathan, too, knows about Will’s plan to die. She asks him how they can prevent it from happening, and Nathan gives a surprising response. For all that he loves Will, he says, Will’s choices are his own, and his suffering is more acute than Nathan or Lou can understand. When Lou gets angry, he calmly tells her that it’s Will’s choice to make—otherwise, Nathan and Lou become just like every other person why tries to make Will’s decisions for him. Lou considers this, but can’t accept it. Instead, she asks Nathan whether he’d agree to go on another trip with her and Will if she manages to plan something safe given Will’s illness. Nathan tells her that he’d join them, but is doubtful she’ll be able to plan such a thing.


Alicia and Rupert’s wedding is the first time that Will seems able to forget his troubles. Even when he’s being reminded of them, such as in his conversations with Mary Rawlins, it all seems under control. It’s as if seeing all his former acquaintances reminds him that the life he left behind wasn’t all great. His feeling of exclusion from their group fades when he’s with Lou. She seems to feel the same way. In spite of her nervousness about being surrounded by wealthy people who will look down on her, Will’s presence ends up making for a wonderful night. Certainly, this is the first time we see either of them acknowledge their attraction to one another, even to themselves. Their banter on the dancefloor is all delivered in a joking tone, and they halfheartedly pretend that they are only dancing in an effort to scandalize other guests for their own amusement. Still, when Will sincerely tells Lou that she’s the reason he wakes up in the morning, all the pretense drops. It seems as if things might be ok for these two, especially when Will says he’ll go on a vacation with Lou.

But the novel is structured so that every high point is followed by a low point. In this case, that low point comes via Nathan’s point of view. That choice makes sense, because no matter how tough things are, Will and Lou are simply too caught up in their love for one another to notice. Nathan is the perfect narrative vessel to help us understand the risks at hand, because he’s a clearheaded, observant character with medical expertise. Since his judgment isn’t clouded by love, he can report with some objectivity, and since Lou and Will are pretty comfortable around him, they don’t try too hard to hide their feelings. Nathan’s voice is matter-of-fact and observant, which reflects the way he acts in real life. He easily looks at what is happening around him and puts together the pieces, realizing that Will and Lou are in love when they have barely figured it out themselves. Since Nathan is the only prominent character with any real grasp of Will’s physical condition, it’s important for his brief slice of the narration to be impactful and useful. Mayes places it at a crucial point in the novel, right after a carefree moment for Lou and Will. Through Nathan’s eyes, we learn just how dangerous it can be for Will to get caught up enjoying himself. Nathan isn’t immune to all the excitement. It’s clear that he cares deeply about Will, and he’s both amused and a little excited to see the blossoming romance before his eyes. This makes us pay even closer attention when Nathan gets worried, since we know he’d actually prefer to feel happy for his patient. The chapter sobers us up a bit after the drunken joyousness of the previous one. As much as love might make Lou and Will feel that their problems have disappeared, Nathan knows that Will’s disability continues to present undeniable risks.

Patrick is a prominent character in this story, which makes it a little surprising that there’s no chapter from his point of view. The chapter in which he makes Lou an apology dinner is actually is the closest thing we get to a chapter narrated by him. It’s easy to underestimate Patrick, or treat him as comical, and one of the reasons that it’s so easy is because Lou consistently underestimates him. It’s not because she dislikes Patrick. They’re simply so different, and have so few shared interests, that it’s hard for Lou to see why he acts as he does. Since we only see Patrick through Lou’s eyes, it’s easy for us, the readers, to underestimate him. Thus we are just as surprised by Lou at the sudden sharpness of his observations. He knows, even without seeing Will and Lou together much, that his girlfriend has feelings for someone else. For the first time, we see—along with Lou—that Patrick really does have feelings and might be affected by this. We also see that he won’t take things lying down. His actions at Lou's birthday dinner showed that he was capable of acting competitive around Will, and now, with Lou, he shows that he is capable of standing up for himself and ending the relationship.

Patrick’s hurt feelings demonstrate that Will and Lou’s actions don’t only affect them. Their romance has caused real hurt to someone else, even if this was the best thing in the long run. The next chapter, narrated by Mr. Traynor, similarly shows how Will’s choices might end up causing unintended consequences. In this case, those consequences involve his father’s relationship with Della. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Will’s decision to commit suicide won’t happen in a vacuum. Whether or not Will knows it, all kinds of ripple effects might emerge. It seems that Will’s decision is endlessly complicated. Mr. Traynor narrates in short, simple sentences, which reflect his quiet demeanor but belie the entangled inner life he leads. It’s as if, even internally, Mr. Traynor can’t face the bizarreness of his situation.

Nathan, though, doesn’t think that Will’s decision is complicated at all. He has a tendency to view things with a scientific simplicity, and he presents the facts to Lou. Will is in a great deal of emotional and physical pain, says Nathan, and it should ultimately be his choice how to deal with that pain. As ever, Nathan’s cool logic is balanced by Lou’s passionate, caring personality, not to mention her love for Will. Even as Will’s bout of pneumonia confirms to Nathan that he has a right to die as he wishes, it makes Lou all the more determined to pull out all the stops for her person she loves. Since she’s finally admitted to herself, and to Patrick, that she has feelings for Will, Lou is ready to do whatever it takes to change his mind.