Me Before You

Me Before You Summary and Analysis of Chapter 2-5


When Moyes introduces us to Lou's family members in Chapter 1, there's still one figure we don't meet. Lou's sister Treena is mentioned a few times in that chapter, but she remains pretty mysterious until the start of the second chapter, when Lou describes her in more details. Treena, or Katrina, Lou explains, was always known for being intelligent, so much so that even though she is younger than Lou she was promoted to the grade above her in school. Lou mentions that she might have developed her fashion sense as a way to stand out from her sister, since she is not particularly brilliant or beautiful. This doesn’t seem to bother her much, except to the extent that it means her sister gets more attention. Lou also reflects that she’s never given much thought to her ambitions or to setting herself apart. She assumes she will marry Patrick and remain in the same town as an adult. Lou’s mother tells her to wear one of her old suits to her job interview, though it’s a bit small on Lou. She feels nervous about interviewing and apprehensive about the prospect of helping an elderly disabled man. The house where she is told to go for the interview, called Granta House, is old and grand, in the wealthier part of town. The woman who greets Lou is intimidating and cold. Her name is Camilla Traynor. Camilla leads Lou into a beautiful room full of antiques. This surprises Lou, who has been expecting a hospital-like setting. Just as the interview begins, Lou notices that a stitch on her skirt has ripped, revealing her thigh. She spends much of the interview fretting about the rip, and stumbles over Camilla’s questions, unable or unwilling to lie about her lack of experience in caretaking. She attempts to make a few jokes, all of which fall flat, and is stumped when Camilla asks her about her larger ambitions in life. She learns that her employer will be wheelchair-bound, with no use of his legs and very little use of his arms and hands. When Lou makes a comment revealing her assumption that Will is Camilla’s husband, Camilla tells her that Will is in fact her son. Remembering her family’s finances, Lou makes a spirited last-ditch attempt to argue that she should get the job, though Mrs. Traynor seems unconvinced. But finally, in spite of the awkwardness of the interview, Camilla hires Lou for a six-month contract. Lou is completely bewildered, since a much more competent candidate interviewed before her, but she accepts on the basis that she will be a companion to Will and have no medical responsibilities. Though she wants to meet Will, Mrs. Traynor believes that they should be introduced the next day, when Lou starts work, rather than today, since Will is in a bad mood.

We next jump to Lou’s house, where she is eating dinner with her family, including her sister Treena and her boyfriend Patrick. Her family is curious about the Traynors, both because of their wealth and because of Will’s medical condition. They trade jokes, although Lou’s mother scolds her father for joking that she needn’t worry about sexual harassment at her new job. While Treena wonders whether Will will be able to talk without help after his injury, Lou briefly reflects that her sister’s intelligence didn’t prevent her from getting pregnant and dropping out during her final year of university. The chapter ends with Patrick and Bernard, Lou’s father, teasing her about getting into physical shape, but when Lou becomes defensive and lashes out at Treena, her father softens and tells her that he is proud of her.

Chapter 3 opens back at Granta house, where Camilla is showing Lou around. Since Will cannot use stairs, he lives in a one-floor annex. Mrs. Traynor is insistent that Lou stay by Will’s side as much as possible, since he was left alone for several hours recently and was injured during that time. After explaining that Will might not want her around very much and pointing out the cleaning supplies, Mrs. Traynor takes Lou to meet her son. They go to an expensively decorated room, in the middle of which sits a wheelchair. A man in scrubs is helping the man in the wheelchair to adjust his feet, and the man in the wheelchair, who has shaggy hair, begins to cry out and contort his face as Lou enters. His mother scolds him, and Lou panics as the man continues to bellow, but introduces herself anyway. The man suddenly stops shrieking and politely introduces himself, and the man in the scrubs apologizes on Will’s behalf, though he seems to find the entire prank funny. Mrs. Traynor is clearly shaken by her son’s behavior and continues to speak to Louisa, while Will breaks in to point out that he is present and does not appreciate being spoken about as though he cannot hear. Next the nurse, Nathan, shows Lou through a dizzying routine of medication, which alarms Lou, since she assumed that she would bear no responsibility for Will’s medical care. They also speak about Will’s personality. Nathan acknowledges that he is difficult, but says that he, at least, likes Will. Then Nathan leaves.

Lou tries to offer her new employer some tea or make conversation with him, but Will is taciturn and cruel. Lou leaves the room and texts her sister, who reminds her how well the job pays. She spends the rest of the day cleaning and stumbles upon a shelf of photographs in Will’s bedroom. The pictures show Will’s life before his accident—friends, travel, and sports—including one of him skiing with a girl. Will wheels himself into the room and scolds Lou for her curiosity, making her feel guilty as well as stupid. When Nathan returns, Lou goes to take her half-hour lunch break. She calls Treena, and finds herself feeling resentful when her sister points out, correctly, how desperately she needs to stay at this job. This is followed by another excruciating exchange between Lou and Will, in which Lou’s attempts to get to know Will or to take him on a short outing are met with stubborn refusals. Will insists that neither of these improvements will make a difference to his misery, and requests that Lou restrain herself from talking to him as much as possible. The chapter concludes in Lou’s bedroom, which is tiny because Treena shares the larger one with Thomas. Lou complains to her sister and Treena encourages her to stay at the new job, and then reveals why: she is planning on returning to college to finish her degree. Though she will have a mixture of loans and scholarships, she will no longer have a job and therefore the family will need Lou’s support even more than they already do.

In Chapter 4, Lou summarizes the routine she has developed over the first two weeks at her job. She arrives and speaks with Nathan about Will’s physical and mental state, then turns on the radio or TV for Will after Nathan leaves. She gives Will his medication and then, when he implies that he would rather be alone, she leaves and cleans the annex. Then she gives Will lunch, a task she dreads because she must spoon-feed him. Will also hates this part of his day and refuses to meet her eye while he eats. When Nathan arrives to help with Will’s medical routine, she takes a lunch break at the bus station simply because she cannot bear to stay at Granta House. Then Lou turns on a movie for Will and tries to kill some time by reading, though she feels guilty and distracted. Mrs. Traynor sometimes visits her son, who responds rudely to her. Lou also describes Mr. Traynor, Will’s father, who fulfills her preconception of a harmless, clueless wealthy man. Lou very nearly feels pity for Will, not only because he is paralyzed and at risk of a long list of diseases, but because he seems viciously depressed, and because his reliance on others for even small tasks strikes her as undignified. Yet Will’s attitude makes it hard for Lou to feel anything but dislike. When Lou is not considerate enough of Will’s preferences he acts angry, but, Lou explains as she lists his various retorts, when she tries to consider his preferences he makes clear that he finds her efforts futile and insulting in the face of his broader problems. She desperately misses her job at the Buttered Bun.

Then, without warning, Mrs. Traynor tells Lou that Will’s friends Rupert and Alicia have come to visit. Mrs. Traynor seems distressed and hints that Lou should let them speak to Will alone, though she should serve them coffee. When Lou enters the sitting room with a tray of coffee, she observes the visitors. The woman, Alicia, is beautiful and exudes an aura of wealth. Lou realizes suddenly that she is the woman skiing in the photograph with Will—the one that Will saw Lou examining. She is, Lou notes, clearly uncomfortable. Rupert and Alicia speak awkwardly to Will. At this point, readers might make the connection that they have met these people before, in the prologue. Alicia, or Lissa, is Will’s ex-girlfriend, the one to whom he spoke while she lay in bed. Rupert is the old coworker who called Will just before his accident. Will asks Lou to put more logs on the fire, and she is surprised to hear him use her first name instead of merely calling her “Miss Clark.” Will is as biting and angry to his guests as he is to Lou, she realizes with satisfaction—and a small amount of affection. He also puts Alicia and Rupert on the spot, telling them that they have not visited in eight months. They awkwardly apologize and the conversation becomes even more uncomfortable. Lou dashes from the room and tries to spend as much time as she can outside before getting too cold and returning. As she stands outside the living room door, she hears Alicia tell Will that she and Rupert are engaged. Will is very clearly upset by this news, as his visitors seem to have expected. They reveal that they became close while commiserating after Will’s accident, but everything Rupert and Alicia say to explain themselves sounds insulting to Will, and he uses his gift of sharp speech to make what they say sound even worse. They leave without reconciling, and when Lou sees Alicia, it is clear she has been crying. Alicia explains that she tried to stay by Will’s side after his accident, but that his unwillingness to be helped made it impossible. Then Alicia and Rupert leave. Several minutes later, Lou hears a crash from Will’s bedroom. She hurries in and sees that he has destroyed his framed photographs by using a walking stick to send them crashing down. She spots the picture of Will and Alicia on the floor. Lou cracks a joke to Will about his wheelchair’s tires getting punctured by broken glass, and he seems to smile at her. When she leaves to fetch a vacuum, she hears, in the distance, what might be an apology.

The next scene takes place in a pub, the Kings Head. This is where Patrick meets every two weeks with the Halisbury Triathlon Terrors, a group of fitness junkies whose conversations revolve around healthy eating and exercise and who never drink, even at a pub. Though Lou feels out of place at these meetings, particularly among the athletic girls around the table, she attends because Patrick’s training schedule and her own work schedule are so intense that they rarely see each other. She and Patrick discuss the conversation Lou overheard at Granta House. Patrick believes that Lou would leave him if he became paralyzed, which Lou disputes. They also speculate about whether a man in Will’s condition would be capable of having sex, but Patrick points out that in the end, Alicia may have left simply because of Will’s difficult personality. Lou points out that the two of them look happy in their photograph together, but quietly recalls that one photograph of her and Patrick fails to capture the fact that she had been yelling at him right before it was taken. Patrick changes the subject and tells Lou that he is planning on doing an extremely difficult triathlon. Lou responds unenthusiastically, thinking that she preferred Patrick before he became obsessed with fitness, though Patrick is clearly excited.

The next day, Lou tries to save the remnants of the destroyed picture frames. When Will comes into the room she tells him that they might be able to put the frames back together. Will becomes furious, telling her that he wanted to destroy the frames and that he does not need her to decide what is best for him psychologically. Louisa, for the first time, stands up to him. She explains that she has been hired not by him but by his mother, and that she comes to work every day not because she cares about him but because she needs the wages. Will seems surprised at her honesty and agrees to treat her civilly. Meanwhile, Lou’s parents are impressed by and curious about the Traynors. Her mother takes satisfaction in hearing that Lou’s upper-class employers do not keep house as scrupulously as she does, while her father starts to relent with his constant teasing. At work, Will remains a mystery, his father hardly present, and Nathan distant but amiable, while Mrs. Traynor terrifies Lou. Because she is polite, she never scolds Lou directly. Therefore, after Will breaks his picture frames, Mrs. Traynor condescendingly implies that Lou has allowed him to remain alone for too long and made it possible for him to have an accident. She seems unwilling to acknowledge that her son behaved as he did on purpose. Mrs. Traynor’s attitude bothers Lou even more than Will’s rudeness, and she notes with dismay that the Traynors avoid stating their opinions and feelings directly to one another.

Will, however, is happy to be direct with Lou, and expresses his displeasure when he sees that Lou has snuck vegetables into his food. Though Will does not want to eat vegetables, his mother has asked Lou to feed them to him anyway. Lou and Will spar over this, but when Nathan arrives, he tells Lou that Will is in a good mood. Though Lou feels sure that her employer dislikes her, Nathan points out that Will has been laughing, even if he has been laughing at Lou rather than with her. Lou also observes that Will isn’t quite as quick to try to get rid of her. He asks her to watch movies with him every so often, and when she reveals that she has never seen a film with subtitles, Will shows her a French movie that she ends up enjoying. In fact, she enjoys it so much that she cries, to Will’s satisfaction. This prompts Will to ask Lou what she does enjoy doing in her spare time. Lou’s lifestyle and neighborhood are foreign to Will, who has only ever known wealth, and she admits to him that she has never given much thought to the question of what she wants out of her life.

Will has a checkup appointment at the end of the week, and notices that Lou seems nervous. She admits to him that she is nervous about using his chairlift and getting his wheelchair into the car, but after a few minutes of teasing Will assures her that Nathan will accompany them. They continue to joke while Lou cleans a food stain off of Will’s lap. The trip to the hospital goes smoothly, but Lou is anxious, and is shocked at how hard it is to navigate the town with a wheelchair. Getting Will out of the house is an ordeal, requiring a painstakingly packed bag, and Lou is quietly angered when she sees that parked cars have blocked wheelchair ramps on the curb. While Will sees a doctor, Nathan and Lou sit in the waiting room of the fancy private hospital. Nathan gently but firmly explains that Will has no chance of walking again or making a substantial recovery. Rather, his complicated medical routines exist to prevent further harm and to keep his body from deteriorating. Lou leaves to grab a coffee, since Nathan assures her that the appointment will go on a while longer. When she returns, she mistakenly opens the door to the doctor’s office, believing that Will’s appointment is over. Before Nathan can cover Will, who is undressed, Lou sees that his wrists are covered in long scars.


These chapters introduce us to some of the most important and complex relationships Lou will have throughout the novel. We see, first, her dynamic with Treena. It becomes clear that she feels both resentful and admiring of her younger sister. On the one hand, she envies the attention that Treena gets for her intelligence, and resents her for getting pregnant rather than finishing college and getting a high-paying job. And yet, when Treena decides to return to university, Lou isn't entirely supportive. After all, she is yet again being asked to make more money in order to support her sister and Thomas. Still, the two are close, and Treena is the first person that Lou turns to in a crisis in spite of these tensions. We also meet Will. Although readers encountered him in the prologue, this is a new relationship for Lou. Though she had been nervous about Will’s physical condition, she sees that his emotional state will be a far bigger challenge to her. Lou is no stranger to conflict, since she fights with her family often, but those fights are undergirded by love and marked by candidness and honesty. Will’s chilly, witty cruelty is new to her and leaves her feeling both inferior and bored, since she is an extroverted person who loves conversation. It seems that Lou is not the only person upset by Will’s behavior. While Nathan, the nurse, seems immune to it or even occasionally amused by it, Mrs. Traynor is flustered and angry around her son. Moyes, however, employs a few tricks to make the reader curious about Will even while Lou wants nothing to do with him. Firstly, because of the prologue, suspense is still at play here. We now see the vast gulf between the London businessman from the novel’s beginning and the angry paraplegic man before her now. The tension between these two figures creates momentum in the story, since we want to understand the relationship between them: how has Will changed since his accident, how has he stayed the same, and what do the photographs in his room reveal about those changes? Moyes’ second trick is simply to make Will interesting. The insults and retorts he throws at Lou are upsetting precisely because they are so clever. They also make a certain kind of disturbing sense. When Will points out that a drive in the countryside is unlikely to make him feel much better, we have to concede that he’s probably right— at the very least, we have to acknowledge that many of the actions people take around him are based on their own desire to assuage their discomfort rather than on Will’s preferences.

This chapter also sheds more light on one of the novel’s main themes, class differences. Up until now, we’ve seen plenty of instances of how much money matters. In Lou’s family, money is tight, restricting both Lou and Treena’s ability to pursue their ambitions or enjoy their youth. But here we see, in a way that was not made explicit before, the way that money can create interpersonal as well as practical strife. The first way in which we see this is the relationship between Lou and the Traynors. Their wealth is intimidating to Lou and allows them to exert more power over her than they otherwise would. This is visible in Lou’s interview, in which she wears her mother’s too-small skirt because she cannot afford her own. Because she is so nervous about her cheap outfit, especially when it begins to tear, Lou can hardly pay attention to the questions Mrs. Traynor asks. The grandeur of the room only exacerbates her feelings of inadequacy and disorientation. Then, when she is caring for Will, the class difference between them makes it harder for Lou to stand up for herself. She relies on Will for her money, and so she can neither quit nor speak her mind to him regardless of how badly he treats her. On the other hand, of course, Will’s disability makes him radically reliant on Lou in an even more immediate sense. The beginning of their relationship hints that the novel will continue to deal with these intersecting themes of class and disability. The other way in which money causes tension between characters here is the relationship between Lou and Treena. Because of their limited resources, only one of them is able to prioritize broader ambitions and goals. Since Treena has always been known for her abilities in school, this means that Lou has had to put her own desires on hold in order to support Treena’s education, both in the past and when Treena returns to finish her degree. This causes her to resent Treena and makes Treena feel guilty for pursuing her degree. It also means that Lou simply doesn’t know herself very well. Though she doesn’t believe herself to be stupid, she also has always felt that her family only has room for one smart child, and that she might as well devote herself to non-intellectual interests that will allow her to support herself and her family. As a result, she has very little sense of what makes her happy or what she wants to spend her life doing.

In Chapters 4 and 5, we see Loui becoming, if not comfortable, at least less miserable at her new job. At first, though she dislikes Will as much as ever, she seems to be more at peace with their antagonistic relationship and simply avoids him. After his encounter with Alicia and Rupert, though, something shifts between them. This seems in part to be because Lou has seen a more vulnerable side of Will. Though Will’s disability leaves him in need of help, it is only after Alicia’s and Rupert reveal that they will be getting married that Will is forced to reveal his emotionally fragile side and his desire to be cared for. Furthermore, Will’s anger towards his ex-girlfriend and ex-colleague leaves Lou as his closest ally. While he speaks with his guests, Will calls Lou by her given name, though he uses “Louisa” rather than her nickname. In doing so, he shows a preference for Lou over his old friends, and positions the two of them as a team. He also asks her to rekindle the fire, a non-essential task which implies that he would like her to remain by his side. The second moment that helps lead to a closer relationship between our two main characters occurs the next day, when Louisa explains to Will that she has a plan to put his picture frames back together. In this scene, each character clearly lays out their desires and expectations. Will, for his part, wants to make it clear that he destroyed the pictures on purpose and that he is entitled both to his own feelings and to his own reactions. More than his physical restrictions or pain, Will’s greatest distress is caused by others’ condescending attitude towards him. Lou, meanwhile, reacts by acting anything but condescending. Rather than treating Will with distant politeness, she speaks to him as her equal, albeit not an equal she particularly likes. She lays bare her feelings towards him and clarifies that she remains his employee for money rather than out of a desire to help him. Each of our characters respects the other’s directness, so that they are able to agree to treat each other with a reasonable amount of respect, but, ironically, this conversation causes them to like one another a great deal more, so that they are able to treat each other with real affection and humor afterward. One effect of this shift is that Will begins to help Lou just as Lou helps him. Will is restrained by disability, and Lou uses her able body to help him. Meanwhile, Will, who has had a wealthy upbringing full of highbrow films and music, begins to share his tastes with Lou. This gives the two of them more to talk about, but it also gives Lou a chance to think about her own desires and tastes, a privilege she has never had. In the previous chapter, we saw some of the ways in which disability and class make life difficult for the characters here and allow them to manipulate one another. Here, we see those same themes, but they manifest very differently. Will and Lou each use their own abilities and access to help one another. This is only possible, though, after they have an honest and uncomfortable conversation about their own positions. They refuse to tiptoe around one another, and this dynamic will distinguish their relationship from others in the novel.

While Lou and Will grow to like each other more, Lou’s relationship with Patrick begins to suffer. We’ve seen a few hints of differences between them before, but Lou is more willing to acknowledge them now. Their interests and approaches to life’s challenges are quite different: Patrick is ambitious and motivated, while Lou is a bit more focused on having fun in the moment. In a sense, Patrick has become much like the version of Will that we met in the prologue: ever-moving, high-achieving, unfocused on relationships. Furthermore, Patrick’s driven personality manifests in a fixation on physical fitness. He becomes more competitive and focused on the body’s ability to achieve, while Lou becomes more aware that life can continue even when athleticism and physicality are compromised. In fact, she even starts to find that Patrick, whose body is extraordinarily functional, is harder to talk to than Will, whose body is almost completely non-functional while his personality is witty and occasionally profound. Patrick is also curious about Will’s ability to have sex, though Lou vaguely assures him that it is probably possible. This might be because he is beginning to feel jealous of his girlfriend’s new friend, but it also reflects a broader attitude towards the body on Patrick’s part. Patrick views the body rigidly, in terms of its ability to achieve certain functions, including sports, sex, and work. Lou feels differently, both because of her personality and because of her time with Will. Therefore the existing theme of disability is deepened here and intertwined with other ideas about the body, such as athleticism and sexuality.