Me Before You

Me Before You Summary and Analysis of Chapter 8-10


Chapter 8 sticks out right away, because its narrator is Camilla Traynor, not Lou. She explains how she got into the unusual position of having to, as she puts it, “help kill her son.” She describes a life of professional achievement and respectable parenting. She also speaks about her life as a magistrate, watching all kinds of people come into the court, and describes her own impatience at watching them make the same mistakes again and again. She is a strong believer in right and wrong, she tells us, which might explain why she can seem so harsh and unforgiving. She also speaks about her love of gardening and the joy it brings her, especially in challenging times, such as when her husband cheated on her in the past. But for a year after Will’s accident, she explains, she didn’t do any gardening. She was simply too depressed. Once Will moved home, though, she began again in order to give her son something to look at, hoping that the garden would give him the same feeling of hope it gives her. Camilla then talks to her husband about Will’s mental state and about Louisa, who he seems to like. Camilla is understandably worried about Will, since she has only six months to convince him that he should stay alive, but Steven seems either resigned or completely uninterested.

Camilla then remembers how she felt when Will first asked her to help him commit suicide. She recounts her feelings of shock and denial, but in spite of her refusal to entertain Will’s idea, he is relentless, and used to the dignity of being listened to. It is not, Camilla takes care to say, her Christianity that made her unwilling to comply with Will’s request. Rather, it’s a feeling of protectiveness, not only over Will as he is today, but over Will as he once was, when he was a child. Still, she became convinced after Will’s suicide attempt. She explains that her husband found Will heavily bleeding after using his wheelchair to scrape his wrists repeatedly over a loose nail in the annex. The incident causes Camilla to completely lose control and scream while standing in her garden. She now believes that Will can find a way to commit suicide if he wants, and that the most she or anyone else can do is try relentlessly to keep him from managing it. It is this realization that drives her to agree to Will’s plan.

Chapter 9 returns to Lou’s point of view. She feels so disturbed by the conversation she has overheard that she can’t sleep that night. She is torn between pity for Mrs. Traynor and judgment of her, and she is bewildered by Will’s decision as well as the simple possibility of his death. At work the next day, she has trouble talking to Will, though his mood is unusually good. At the end of the day, she writes a letter to Mrs. Traynor and leaves it in an envelope with her name on the table. The letter says that she wants to quit immediately, and Lou tries to think of a way to justify the decision to her parents without revealing Will’s secret. However, when she gets home she doesn’t have a chance to share, because her next-door neighbors are in a dramatic fight and the whole neighborhood has gone outside to watch. While Lou and her family watch Richard Grisham’s wife yell at him for cheating on her, Lou sees Mrs. Traynor’s expensive car pull up. Mrs. Traynor seems surprised by the behavior of Lou’s neighbors, but is determined to talk to Lou, and eventually convinces her to have a conversation in the car. After Mrs. Traynor tries relentlessly to tempt her back with raises and long lunch breaks, Lou confesses to overhearing Mrs. Traynor’s conversation with Georgina and explains that she refuses to be a part of Will’s suicide. Mrs. Traynor argues that she needs Lou to keep an eye on her son so that she can convince him to change his mind, but Lou refuses, although Camilla insists that she will give her a long weekend to decide. Inside the house, Treena confronts Lou privately about her decision to quit her job. Lou accuses Treena of being selfish, since the job is an important factor in letting Treena return to university. The two fight bitterly and Lou pushes Treena out of her bedroom, but moments later, while Lou is crying to herself, Treena reappears with a bottle of wine and two cups. When Treena asks, Lou tells her the real reason she’s decided to stop working for the Traynors. Treena responds calmly, to Lou’s great relief, and proposes a radical plan of her own: she thinks that Lou should take it upon herself to change Will’s mind.

Back at the Traynors' house—away from the annex, where Will lives—Lou presents her plan to Mr. and Mrs. Traynor and Georgina. She explains that she wants to motivate Will to live by taking him on a series of adventures. These will start small, with short outings into town, though Lou is optimistic that she will take Will on grander trips eventually. Lou explains that she will only feel comfortable working for the Traynors if she is able to implement this plan, since the alternative is to play a part in Will’s suicide. The Traynors consent, though not without a few moments of tension. Georgina announces that she will soon return to Australia, and is resentful of her parents for expecting her to prioritize Will over her own ambitions when they would not, she implies, have done the same to Will if the positions were reversed. Lou also has to tell Camilla that she won’t be able to come on any trips with her and Will, since he needs to feel independent, though she wants to. Later, Treena and Lou stand out in the cold to watch Patrick run in a triathlon. They discuss Treena’s ideas to improve Will’s life. They don’t seem particularly well-researched or suited to Will’s interests, and some of her suggestions are quite sexual, which causes Lou to reflect that her sister is casual about sex in a way that she herself isn’t. Lou cheers for Patrick as he crosses the finish line, but he doesn’t hear. Back at home, things are tense: Treena is angry at Lou for rejecting her suggestions, and she repeatedly steals Lou’s things while she packs to return to university. Bernard, Lou’s father, is sure that he’s going to be laid off from his job soon. Lou asks her mother if she can move into Treena’s big bedroom, since Treena and Thomas will be gone most of the time, and her mother consents. When Treena finds out, she and Lou get into a yelling match in front of their parents and grandfather. Treena feels that Lou has taken advantage of her departure and worries that she won’t have a place to sleep with her son when they return on weekends. Lou knows she is wrong about the bedroom, but fights anyway because she resents Treena’s sense of entitlement and relative freedom. Their father breaks up the fight, but they don’t make up. The next day, though, Lou goes to the library for the first time in years and uses the computers there to research activities for Will, just as Treena had suggested.


Jojo Moyes' decision to switch from Lou’s perspective to Camilla’s in this chapter is a bold one, and it serves several purposes. For one thing, it simply keeps us on our toes. But it also sheds some light on the interior life of one of the book’s less likable characters. Up until now, Camilla has seemed distant, unforgiving, and cold. The cross she wears on her neck makes her appear rigidly attached to religion, while her consent to Will’s plan makes her appear unfeeling and hypocritical. By diving into her perspective, Moyes complicates this picture of Camilla. We see the anguish she has felt trying to protect herself and her children in a world that she believes is quite harsh and frightening. We see that she knows about her husband’s infidelity, which makes it harder to underestimate her intelligence or self-awareness. Once readers see that Camilla has made this decision out of a combination of love and desperation, it becomes much harder to find fault with it, even though one might disagree about whether Camilla ultimately made the right choice. This chapter also refreshes the dramatic irony originally created by the prologue. For the first quarter or so of the novel, we felt tension because of the gap between what we, as readers, knew and what Lou knew about Will. Now, Lou has learned nearly everything we learned in that prologue and picked up on a good deal more, since Will has become less of a closed book to her. But Camilla is even more mysterious than ever, and now that readers have taken this leap into Camilla’s mind, a good deal of space will exist between what we know about her and what Lou knows. This space will become the source of much of the tension in the book’s upcoming sections, and might motivate us to continue reading.

When we switch back to Lou’s perspective, the full force of what she has learned hits us again. It’s understandable why she would choose to quit her job, but in light of Mrs. Traynor’s desperation, which we learned about during our foray into her perspective, such a choice would only leave Camilla and Will in the same terrible position. Furthermore, Lou is so upset that it starts to seem as if she might not be able to fully extricate herself from the situation anyway. Even if she quits, she still cares about Will. The dramatic irony kicks in here, and we are forced to reconcile Treena’s optimism and Lou’s shock with Mrs. Traynor’s revelations. Her disclosure about the nature of Will’s suicide attempt is so frightening, and makes it so clear that Will will go to great lengths to die as he wishes, that Treena’s plan to help Lou save him seems a bit naïve. At the same time, in light of Camilla’s jadedness and fear, it feels like a welcome dose of hope.

The fight between Lou and Treena brings the tension between the sisters to the surface, but their conflict is reflected in Will’s relationship with his own sister. Lou envies the attention and treatment Treena gets, feeling that she has no choice but to work while Treena is free to pursue what she likes. Treena, though, is restrained because of her son, and believes that it is Lou who has the greater freedom. A similar dynamic emerges during Chapter 10, when Georgina claims that her parents expect her to put her life on hold for Will. Like Lou, she envies the attention her brother gets, and feels that he received undue attention before his accident as well as after. She accuses him of selfishness for wanting to commit suicide, just as Lou calls Treena selfish for returning to school. Yet Will feels that his sister has far greater freedom than he ever will, since his disability keeps him from living the life he wants. In this sense, Thomas and Will’s disability are parallel here, though one is a person and the other an idea: each represents an unmovable obstacle for the life of a motivated person. Though Treena and Lou’s conflict is far less extreme than Will and Georgina’s, the parallels between their relationships help us to work out our feelings about each one. The more typical sisterly argument between Lou and Treena is a stepping stone for readers, helping them to emotionally acclimate to a stranger argument. This is especially true because Lou’s family states their opinions openly, while the Traynors only hint at theirs. Since we know that these sibling relationships are similar, we can use one to decode the other, by assuming that at least some of the feelings Lou and Treena voice are experienced in silence by Will and Georgina.