The Flip Side of Forgiveness

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In my last post about forgiveness in Outlander, I mentioned this snippet of dialog—Jamie to Claire on the subject of forgiving her rapist:

“And if ye could forgive him, he needn’t die, ye’re saying? That’s like a judge lettin’ a murderer go free, because his victim’s family forgave him.”

I had a feeling as I was writing that this dichotomy between forgiveness and justice would have to be revisited. Sure enough, as soon as I posted the blog, I got some thoughtful “But what about ______ ?” comments. So today, we’re getting the flip side of forgiveness, and an attempt to answer the questions:

In the Outlander universe, when is forgiveness not necessary or possible? What situations call for vengeance?

I’m going to stick with Jamie’s character in my response. Because Jamie.

While I don’t suppose that Jamie ever sat down and formulated a Personal Code of Justice, he was a Highlander and the son of a good and moral man. He wasn’t always rose4cconsistent about who got roses and who got thorns, but I believe that in the instances below, Jamie was motivated by honor, tradition…and selflessness.

Yep, selflessness. Here we go.

In Outlander, when Jamie thinks that Claire is probably incapable of bearing a child, he says to her:

“I can bear pain myself, but I couldna bear yours. That would take more strength than I have.”

That’s nothing to do with vengeance—just illustrative of Jamie’s essential selflessness. He’s only in his early 20s there, but he’s already developed the virtue of putting others above himself. We see this in DIA on a greater scale, when he attempts (twice!) to save the Lallybroch men from slaughter, and later in Voyager, as Mac Dubh caring for the men in Ardsmuir. So keep that characteristic of selflessness in mind as we consider some of the people who suffer from Jamie’s vengeance. (I’m not considering deaths in war or battle, self-defense, or heat of passion killings—just those that can legitimately be considered acts of revenge because of a previous wrongdoing.)

  • Black Jack Randall – In ch. 31 of OL, Jamie says to Claire:

 

“I’ll tell ye this, mo duinne. One day Jack Randall will die at my hands. And when he is Picture1dead, I shall send back that book to the mother of Alex MacGregor, with word that her son is avenged.”

 

At this point, Randall has viciously whipped Jamie, but the events at Wentworth have not yet occurred. Still, Jamie’s anger is more on behalf of the hapless Alex MacGregor and on behalf of Jenny and Lallybroch. Later, at their near-fatal encounter in France (the duel), Jamie attempts to kill Randall not for the torture and rape he suffered in Wentworth, but for Randall’s abuse of Fergus. Jamie eventually (probably) kills Randall at Culloden, but since we book readers don’t know yet exactly how that transpired, we’ll have to leave it on the table as to whether that was revenge for his own torture or simply a battlefield killing. Yes, I know what they showed on Starz. Doesn’t count.

  • Danton, the Duke of Sandringham’s servant – Jamie kills him (again, book, not TV show) in revenge for the rape of Mary Hawkins and the attack on Claire.
  • Murchison, the guard at Ardsmuir prison – Jamie, perhaps with the help of one or two other prisoners, drowns Murchison because of his constant cruelty. It’s my opinion that this was an incident of opportunity, and that Jamie did this in his role as de facto chief for his men at Ardsmuir. Would he have done this if Murchison’s cruelty was reserved for Jamie alone? Hard to say. Jamie does occasionally occupy some morally ambiguous territory.
  • Richard Brown’s gang – In ABOSAA, Jamie utters perhaps the three most chilling words in all the Outlander books: “Kill them all.” The raiders—except for a few who we’ll visit in a moment—die because of their offenses against Claire.
  • Claire’s nameless rapist – This is the feckless fellow that Claire sees at the end of MOBY, three years after her abduction. She realizes not only that he escaped the killings (see above), but that he is the one man who actually succeeded in raping her. Jamie cheerfully toddles off to take care of him, and though it happens off-page, it was certainly the epitome of revenge killing—because of wrongs done to Claire.

Similarly, when Wendigo Donner is discovered to have also survived the kill them all raid, his life was forfeit—but when Jamie kills him, it’s in defense of his home and all who are present there.

  • Stephen Bonnet – Of course, it isn’t Jamie who kills Bonnet, although he has the chance to do so on Okracoke, at the end of Echo. Instead of killing him on Brianna’s behalf (which would have been consistent with the poor dudes above), he offers that honor to Brianna, whose sufferings at Bonnet’s hands were even greater than Jamie’s. What’s the difference? In the other cases, the wronged ones were not capable of carrying out their own vengeance. Too young, too frightened, not present, too dead, bound by an oath not to kill. But Brianna is more than capable; the choice is hers. She chooses mercy—of a sort.

So. Some excerpts from the Highlander’s Big Book of Justice:

Honor your oaths.

Forgive when you can. It might take a while, but it’ll keep your soul pure.

Keep forgiving. Sometimes it wears out.

Forgiveness doesn’t erase justice. If an opportunity for justice presents itself, take it.

If you are responsible for people who can’t avenge their own wrongs, you must do it for them.

Defend those who need defending. Be prepared to defend with your life.

Surround yourself with those who will stay by your side in the cause of justice. Family, clan, true friends. Defend them, too.

[Got any ideas for future blog posts? I prefer to write about the books: themes, characters, events. I welcome your input!]

***

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 and Creative Commons

Join the A Dram of Outlander Community

Please share posts, join the discussions, and follow this website and social media sites listed below!

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No Violets Here

2006BB8074_jpg_lThe Outlander books are a huge tapestry, and there are threads of many colors—various themes—that run in and out of every inch. Some of the threads are family … home … courage … faith … duty … and one bright thread woven throughout is that of forgiveness.

In DOA, Jamie and Young Ian beat poor Roger senseless and give him to the Iroquois as the result of a string of horrendous miscommunications. When Roger eventually returns and takes up residence on Fraser’s Ridge, he and Jamie circle each other awkwardly for a time. Roger has several choices to make, including returning to his own time. He chooses forgiveness, and soon Jamie becomes a beloved father figure.

Claire’s decision to forgive involves one of the men in the gang that abducts and rapes her. When she encounters him, surprisingly still alive years after the killing raid by Jamie and the men from the Ridge, she spends most of three chapters at the end of MOBY finding a path of forgiveness. Her role model in the process is Jamie; she has spent years watching him forgive Jack Randall.

Brianna, too, chooses to forgive her rapist. In her case, it’s Stephen Bonnet, and her decision is at the urging of her father, who writes to her:

“For the sake of your Soul, for the sake of your own Life, you must find the grace of forgiveness.”

Ironically, at the time when Brianna reads this note, she and Jamie are estranged because of his actions with Roger—and eventually, she will forgive Jamie for those, too.

thread_10561cSo Jamie is the needle pulling the thread of forgiveness through the Outlander tapestry. For Jamie, forgiveness is a process, and it’s beautifully shown in chapter 48 of DOA. After an emotional encounter with Brianna brings his own mostly-buried trauma to the surface, he walks outside in the night and wrestles a bit with the shade of Jack Randall. Finally, though, he is able to say:

“Go in peace…you are forgiven.”

He knows that he has to convey this to Brianna:

That only by forgiveness could she forget—and that forgiveness was not a single act, but a matter of constant practice.

Jamie’s forgiveness of Jack Randall is a defining moment for him. On more than one occasion, he expresses doubts to Claire about his own basic goodness. He knows that he has a great capacity for violence and that he deeply feels the need for revenge when he (or someone he is responsible for) has been wronged. He knows, too, that he’s capable of manipulating others for his own purposes. Perhaps more than any of his positive attributes (and Jamie has many), his ability to forgive is the one that most differentiates Jamie from other men. It is not a sign of weakness—it takes considerable strength to forgive.

Forgiveness, however, doesn’t mean saying to the one who has done wrong that their actions were just dandy—that you really don’t mind what happened. Jamie’s not likely to buy into the axiom that “forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it”—he’s not particularly interested in shedding a flowery fragrance anywhere. Rather, forgiveness is a decision to keep the wrong actions of others from blackening one’s own soul. To Jamie, forgiveness is possible, but justice is still necessary.violet_5544c

“And if ye could forgive him, he needn’t die, ye’re saying? That’s like a judge lettin’ a murderer go free, because his victim’s family forgave him.”

There are many more examples of Outlander characters forgiving wrongs done to them:

  • Claire forgives Malva for having betrayed her, calling Malva the “child of my heart.”
  • Bree’s forgiveness of Stephen Bonnet extends to a second offense against her and ends with a mercy killing.
  • Jamie forgives Claire for her sexual acts with the king and with Lord John (although he admits that he may well remind her from time to time).
  • In The Scottish Prisoner, Jamie also forgives Lord John for a terrible conversation, with the simple words te absolvo.
  • Jenny forgives Claire for any number of perceived wrongs against Jenny’s men, including failing to heal Ian.
  • It appears that Frank forgives Claire for—well, for everything associated with her ‘abandonment’ of him. It wasn’t possible for his forgiveness to reach Claire during the stretch of their difficult marriage, but he demonstrated it through his love of Bree (and his behind-the-scenes workings; we’ll get more of those in the next two books, I think).
  • With the help of Claire and Brianna, Young Ian comes to a place where he can forgive himself for the failure of his marriage to Emily.

I want to mention one example of unforgiveness, and how it’s a black thread in the Outlander tapestry. Arch Bug’s unwillingness to forgive Young Ian for his wife’s death totally consumes him, and eventually leads to his own violent demise.

What’s our takeaway, then? Well, this is a blog, not an advice column, and you’ll have to work out for yourself the role that forgiveness may take in your life. But indulge me for a minute while I use this platform to address young William Ransom.

William. Dude. You need to forgive your papa. He did what he did for you. Think of what you have learned from this good man who loves you: loyalty … honor … soldiering … love of family. And now think of James Fraser, and find forgiveness for him, too. ‘Mac’ sacrificed everything he had when he walked away from you at Helwater, and he, too, did it for you.

From both your fathers, you can learn what it is to be a man.

[Coming soon: part 2, in which we discuss vengeance and justice, and when forgiveness just doesn’t cut it.]

***

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 and Creative Commons

Join the A Dram of Outlander Community

Please share posts, join the discussions, and follow this website and social media sites listed below!

Facebook PageFacebook Group,  InstagramTwitterTumblrGoogle+

To financially support the podcast, go to my Patreon page.

Call 719-425-9444 listener/reader line to leave your comment or question.

 

 

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

Join the A Dram of Outlander Community

Please share posts, join the discussions, and follow this website and social media sites listed below!

Facebook PageFacebook Group,  InstagramTwitterTumblrGoogle+

To financially support the podcast, go to my Patreon page.

Call 719-425-9444 listener/reader line to leave your comment or question.