A Paean To Marriage

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A paean is a song of praise, and I believe the Outlander series is an impressive paean to the institution of marriage. Few couples in literature have had to endure what Jamie and Claire Fraser endure—yet their marriage just gets stronger. Diana Gabaldon uses three aspects of marriage to make a strong statement about its timeless value: love, sex, and fidelity.

Love — Much of the action takes place in the 18th century, a time when people didn’t necessarily marry for love. Marriages were often arranged for political or economic reasons or were entered into for survival or convenience. Jocasta Cameron Innes is an excellent example of this. Of course, Jamie and Claire didn’t marry for love (although Jamie was already quite the smitten kitten), but it didn’t take long for love to become the cornerstone of their union. And holy moly, they have needed a strong foundation, haven’t they?

Now consider Fergus and Marsali … Ian and Jenny … Young Ian and Rachel (Emily, too) … Denny Hunter and Dorothea Grey … Hal and Minnie … Roger and Brianna. All have love marriages, and what’s more, many of them married despite societal constraints. Differences of class, religion, ethnicity, or cultural expectations could have derailed these marriages before they even occurred. Love prevailed, however, and despite many dire circumstances post-wedding, the marriages (with one exception) endured. Whether they said the following vow or not, this seems to be the guiding principle of good Outlander marriages:

            Ye are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone,

            I give ye my Body, that we Two might be One.

            I give ye my Spirit, ‘til our life shall be Done.

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Sex – If you haven’t purchased DG’s “I give you my body…”: How I Write Sex Scenes, I highly recommend it. It’s an excellent instructional manual…on darn good fiction writing. A nice bonus for thirsty Outlander fans is an appendix which lists all the sex scenes by chapter and book. The list is incomplete and not entirely accurate…but it’s a great tool for proving my next point: almost all the best sex scenes in the Outlander universe are between married couples.

There are over 110 sex scenes listed, and 90 of them are with married people (mostly Jamie and Claire). Three of them are solo interludes, a few more are liaisons between people who eventually will get married or who love each other (poor Lord John), and the rest are either encounters with prostitutes or other miscellaneous bits of unconsummated sexual tension. Rapes, rightfully so, are not on this list.

By the way, this was a very pleasant bit of research. You’re welcome.

My point here is brief, just like Jamie’s first encounter on his wedding night. DG recognizes that great sex is a vital component of marriage, and she uses her characters—usually Jamie and Claire—to celebrate the holiness of a good roll in the hay. In my experience, this is not at all common in other books (or television series) where there’s no shortage of sex, but it’s little more than lust, manipulation, or power play. Depictions of loving marital sex are relatively rare.

“That’s what marriage is good for; it makes a sacrament out of things ye’d otherwise have to confess.”

Fidelity – Take a look back at that list of marriages in the third paragraph. These are some of the most important characters in the books (I’ll get to Jamie and Claire in a moment). And of all these marriages, none have (to this point) suffered from the presence of an unfaithful spouse. DG isn’t averse to giving married couples plenty of difficulties—infertility, a disabled child, prolonged absences, illness—but at least with the couples that the readers love, she stays away from infidelity. In an era when a visit to a brothel was hardly blinked at, the married men we know don’t find the need for that brand of entertainment. Well, maybe Fergus does. But perhaps not.

Ironically, both Jamie and Claire seem to collect sexual partners. But are they unfaithful?

Claire – A case could be made that she’s unfaithful to Frank when she marries Jamie. Is it infidelity, though, if you don’t have a choice?

And then there’s her interlude with Louie of France. She’s saving Jamie’s life there—she thinks her marriage might be over, but she still chooses that to free him from the Bastille. Not infidelity, just emotionless body parts.

Is she unfaithful when she and Lord John have drunken sex? She’s married to him at the time—or so she thinks. Jamie’s dead—or so she thinks. Nope, not infidelity.

Jamie – He has two brief encounters—Mary MacNab and Geneva—during the years when Claire is gone. Their separation is permanent, as far as Jamie knows, and there are compelling reasons for each act. The same is true of his marriage to Laoghaire. Claire is gone. Jamie is a faithful husband even in his loveless marriage—he never utilizes the services of the brothel where he takes up residence.

Neither of them is unfaithful when they’re occupying the same time period and both demonstrably alive. In fact, if either were to cheat on the other, there would be a huge uprising of Outlander fans clutching their books and moaning noooooooooo.

Certainly, there are unfaithful partners in the series: Duncan Innes, Frank (probably), Hal’s wife Esme. None of these instances is viewed sympathetically or justified; they are pitiable or sad. In DG’s universe, if love and sex are the bricks of a good marriage, then fidelity is the mortar.

“Above all creatures on this earth,” he whispered, “you are faithful.”

“Well,” I said at last, with a deep sigh of my own, “so are you. Quite a good thing, really. Isn’t it?”

 

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Jan Ackerson is a retired teacher, a writer and editor, and an absolute cuckoo about all things Outlander. You can find her on a much-neglected Twitter account (she’s mostly there to follow the Outlander gang) @janackerson1, or on Facebook (Jan Worgul Ackerson). Her book of micro-fiction, Stolen Postcards, is available at Amazon or https://bofapress.com/collections/all.

Comments or Questions? Send your comments to contact@adramofoutlander.com or call the voicemail line at 719-425-9444.

The Outlander book series is written by Diana Gabaldon. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook

Picture attribution – ChurchArtPro

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11 thoughts on “A Paean To Marriage

  1. During Claire and Jamie’s explosive row after Laoghaire’s appearance at Lallybroch to verify “The Witch’s” return, she is removed forcibly by Jamie. When he returns to explain himself and the situation to Claire….She is dresssed and going ‘back’. Cutting him off during his commentary by telling him his explanations don’t matter, he married again and that was that. Jamie then asks her if she had lived like a nun with Frank to which she says “No! No I bloody haven’t!”. This part of Claire’s 20 years with Frank is never clearly revealed in the books. There’s a memory of Frank “helping her to go into labour”….. and another reference to sex by stating that she hadn’t had any for two years prior to returning to Jamie, as she was a widow for 2 years after Frank’s death. What exactly was the nature of their sex life in the years when she lived in Boston?

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    • We know that Claire has a strong sexual drive–we were told that in the first few pages of the book, in fact, when she had her Mound of Venus interpreted. She and Frank had sex during those eighteen years after Claire’s return, all right, but I think it was partially just because of sexual need (both of theirs). I won’t discount that there may occasionally have been tenderness there, too–they had loved deeply once, and their sex may sometimes have been an echo of that memory. But I don’t think that was infidelity on Claire’s part, any more than her having sex with Lord John was–in both cases, she thought Jamie was dead.

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      • Thank you…..I think you are right. She did say that she walked a fine line with Frank in Boston…respect and civility towards him, but never crossing the line into passion. 😶

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  2. Sherenne Powell says:

    I love the books and J’s & C’s marriage. I always believed fidelity is truth and trust. Fidelity makes love easier because of this and you know yr partner has your back. If men only knew Jamie’s words, how he speaks to Claire must make her feel strong because of his love.

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    • Agree, Shereene! Lots of men could take lessons from Jamie, that love and fidelity don’t make you any less of a man. And Claire is strong on her own, but adding Jamie’s strength to her own makes her formidable indeed!

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  3. Helen Harrison Schilke says:

    Damn Outlander, dammit to hell! It has ruined me for reading anything else! No Series in Gulf Shore mind in quite the same way Outlander does. perhaps having Heritage from that time frame makes the difference but I love everything that is Outlander. God bless Diana Gabaldon, and they Jamie and Claire live forever.

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  4. PS says:

    I was so fortunate when I met my husband…I was 17, a virgin and scared to death of sex…Hubs was 21 been in the service and had experience…It took him 7 months of his patience and guidance to help me to become comfortable with his body….And during that time I turned 18 which was a lot safer for him to stay out of jail or my dad beating him to a pulp…We are both very strong individuals, not afraid to say what we mean…That is what he loved about me from the get go…I spoke my mind and he knew where he stood…We fell in love fast, you might say he had me at hello…He says he wanted me from the first time he laid eyes on me and loved me when he took me in his arms and kissed me on our first date…I loved his humor, sometimes dry and sometimes just plain silly…He is a man full of compliments all the time, but he has a mighty hot short temper…I bottle things up but when I let it go it is not pretty…Sex has always been the cement of our marriage…He was always up for the experience and never ever told me no he didn’t have time or he was too tired…Sex 3 times a day was not unusual and we made love every day with out fail…When I would let my temper get the best of me he would argue things out with me, he would say I needed that and I did…But then he would use his humor to coax and cuddle me and let me know how much he cared…We never had make up sex cause I was grudgey…but he would again use his humor to help me get over my grudge until I was relaxed and ready to come to him for his lovemaking…We have been married 53 years and together for 54…Medications and injuries have taken their toll on him, but we are still physical to the best we can…Kissing and touching is a must…not a day goes by that we don’t say I love you…Oh we had our bad times it wasn’t all rainbows and roses but we worked through it and came out stronger on the other side…It isn’t just the sex that holds a couple together it is also the understanding of who your partner is…You can’t change a partner but you can know them and know how to react to them…I don’t condone abuse at all and never suffered from it…But know your partner, love them for who they are and enjoy the physical side of it all…

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