“Some mistakes just have greater consequences than others. But you don’t have to let the result of one mistake be the thing that defines you. You, Clark, have the choice not to let that happen.”
Jojo Moyes, Me Before You
Jojo Moyes novel, ‘Me Before You’ is a wonderful romantic story. But as usual the novel has so much more depth than the movie. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoyed the movie, but the novel is so much more than a romantic story between Lou Clark and Will Traynor, the quadriplegic man she is employed to care for. Jojo is a journalist and was interested in writing ‘Me Before You’ when she read a story about a young man who convinced his family to assist him in dyeing after an accident left him in a wheelchair. Intrigued how the family could go through with this and also what made people like this man make that kind of decision.
‘Me Before You’ could have been written with a happy ending and Lou could have been able to convince Will that life in a wheelchair, even paralysed by the neck down was still worth living. Jojo could have written the novel like this, but the story would have had a predictable, boring ending. Critics slam the book for the ending, because the story feels like the author is actually saying a quadriplegic’s life is not worth living. But I think people are not looking closely enough at the story.
The novel is not just a romance, although yes this is a strong element to the story. It is not just about the quality of life and how life is always worth living, no matter what. This is a good point, but Jojo has studied the lives of paraplegic and quadriplegic people, especially the ones who do choose to end their lives. This story is about euthanasia, about the right to be able to choose how we live our lives, something that people who are quadriplegic are left feeling like they have very little control over.
By making Will choose to die at the end of the story, Jojo was not saying that a person’s life is not worth living if you are a quadriplegic, she was trying to show you via her characters how these people often feel, what they go through and I think she did this really well. Writing is a process of learning, of trying to understand the world around us. Jojo, as a journalist was interested in euthanasia as a subject and the people who make this choice, simply because she was as appalled, as anybody is how people can come to the conclusion that life is not worth living.
By making her story end with a sugar-coated happy ending, what would she have learnt from the people she encountered while writing this book? I would say very little and she would portray these people’s lives and how they feel with even less honesty. No, the author does not believe that Will’s choice was right, but it is sometimes people’s choices and Jojo wanted to understand why and also write about why they may come to this conclusion as honestly as she can. The character of Lou Clark is there to scream out to the Wills of the world that there is still so much to live for.
The best part of the story, which seems to be forgotten, is that while Lou is trying to teach Will that there is still a reason to live, even though his life is so very limited than it was before the accident, Will is trying to teach Lou that her life could be so much more than within the self-imposed limits she has lived her life. The irony of this at the end I thought was quiet thought-provoking and handled well by the author.