Do No Harm Ep 153

Season 4 Episode 402

“Do No Harm”

Directed by:  Julian Holmes

Written by:  Karen Campbell

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Summary:

Claire, Jamie, Young Ian, and Rollo arrive at Aunt Jocasta’s plantation, River Run. Aunt Jocasta extends every hospitality learning they were robbed. Young Ian and Rollo meet a wicked predator. We meet a mountain man. Claire’s sensibilities and beliefs are on edge. Auntie Jocasta hatches a MacKenzie style plan. There’s a party with the who’s who of the area in honor of their arrival. An incident puts Jamie and Claire between what’s right and what’s the law.

Themes:

  • Jamie is again in a down and out position and feeling responsible for it all.
  • Family matters and Jocasta needs an heir.

The Confusing:

The timeline isn’t discernible for how long Jamie and Claire’s stay is at River Run before the dinner party or the incident with Rufus and Overseer Byrnes. This is important to why Jocasta named him heir so swiftly without seeing him really acting administratively or performing the business management duties she needs help with. Jamie appears not to have looked at Jocasta’s business dealings until after the public announcement. Really? One discussion with Wolff and Jocasta following his business acumen from afar. He was laird of Lallybroch for a short time with Jenny and Ian doing most of the work, he worked for Jared in Paris for a short time, yet successfully, he was in hiding, in prison, working his sentence off, and then became a seditious printer and smuggler. His bonafides don’t add up without Jocasta seeing him in action.

The plot device of Jamie only learning about the difficult slavery laws of the colony AFTER the announcement to make him an heir and the incident between Rufus and Byrnes. Jamie knew about other laws and even the Regulators. Surely, he would’ve asked about slavery and all it entailed. He was so pie-eyed and Pollyanna about working to release them if he took on the running of River Run. It is a kind and right notion, but as we find out, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Squares and Round Holes:

John Quincy Myers the wild mountain man just happens to be on the property and is the one person who knows how to help Young Ian with the skunk perfumed Rollo. Then he goes poof, and we don’t see him again during the episode. This screams, “Hey viewers, he might be important later, and we wanted you to meet him now.” Secondly, he’s either ill-mannered or completely oblivious in speaking to Young Ian, a lad of 16, in such a way. Book readers, I think you get my vibe on this scene.

The Good:

Maria Doyle Kennedy as Aunt Jocasta Cameron. She convinces me she IS a MacKenzie through and through.  The other new faces Ulysses, Phaedre, Lieutenant Wolff, John Quincy Myers, and Farquard Campbell are also well cast and believable. I am always struck wondering what the experience is playing the part of a slave or a slave owner. Both cause my heart to ache.

Claire and Jamie being in partnership they can’t own slaves, how they proceeded together in trying for true justice, treating Rufus, and subsequently understanding his soul is what matters. They stand unified.

Young Ian’s sweet heart when learning about Jocasta’s blindness and his compassion for the American Indians as people and not savages. He also shows great steel as Claire’s surgical assistant.

Jocasta’s butler Ulysses speaking plainly to Claire about what is to come for Rufus if he lives and how saving his soul is better than what’s to come. He’ll be used as an example for the other slaves to obey. Jamie says the same thing to Claire when he realizes Rufus will not be allowed to live no matter what. I like how these conversations mirrored each other, one from each, a free man and a slave.

Claire’s loving and kind bedside manner connecting with Rufus as he was dying. We have seen her do this before to send a soul off peacefully and with comfort.

Finally, Jamie’s prayer as the clock strikes midnight, Rufus dies from the poison, and Jamie delivers the limp body to the waiting men. Jamie crosses himself and prays, “I’m bending my knee in the eye of the Father who created me. Pour down from heaven the rich blessing if thy forgiveness. Be thou patient wi’ us. Grant to us savior of glory, the love of God…And the will to do on earth at all times as angels and saints do in heaven. Give us the peace.”

Mixed Bag:

Claire’s unwavering belief that people should not be owned. Seeing her fight the need to save the young man and not to cause unintended harm, was a beautiful struggle to behold. Sometimes the right answer requires courage in action we can never see coming. The downside to this staunch and brooding belief is that she isn’t culturally aware or sensitive. Did she have to bludgeon the idea home over and over. It is revolting, but she could have found a way to not sulk around and find a way through the situation without inadvertently putting the slaves in harm’s way, and without threatening Jocasta’s home and land, which she did. SLAVERY IS UNCONSCIONABLE. History, when allowed, will speak it loud and clear without Claire being more entrenched and rasher in action because of her 20th-century beliefs.

I was struck hard at the closing sequence. I applaud the realistic and brutal portrayal of slavery as it was in the American Colonies. I believe we must confront the good and bad in our collective history through any and every medium. The entertainment industry is an important vehicle, especially when the simple and often harsh truths are allowed to be represented, and no agenda or politics get in the way. Time might heal some wounds, but others need intervention and social change to be righted even a little bit. That said, I do think like the theme of circles in episode 401, it was heavy-handed without allowing the viewer to make the emotional, ethical, and moral leaps on his or her own. Outlander viewers are by and large people who can critically think and get what the writers are trying to say.

The idea Jocasta would assume Claire to be a Quaker because of her abolitionist beliefs is simply odd. The Southern Colonies had slaves, the northern Colonies did not. For some reason, viewers REALLY, REALLY need to know that Quakers may be of importance to future storylines.

CORRECTION: There was slavery across the colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. And the first organized group of white people to speak out against slavery was indeed the Quakers (The Society of Friends) who stood alone as a group for quite some time. I misspoke in my critique. With the exception of Claire’s speech, Jocasta may have been correct in this assumption.

Things to Ponder:

  • The color blue is seen throughout the décor and in clothing during the episode. Is it a nod to the indigo trade or something else?
  • Will we be meeting Quaker’s in the future?
  • Will we see more of John Quincy Myers?
  • Will Jamie take Governor Tryon’s offer?
  • Will we see Jamie in a kilt this season? He is free to wear one.
  • Have we seen the last of Stephen Bonnet?
  • Where’s Murtaugh?

Favorite Lines:

There are numerous warm fuzzies from the book regardless of who the lines were given. These stand out in particular for me.

  • We learn Jocasta has lost most her vision but has “now been gifted with hearing that would be the envy of many gossip, and the ability to scent truth from lies, if ye catch my meanin’.”
  • There’s been a run in with the scary and horrible skunk. Young Ian says, “It lifted its tail and sprayed a foul liquid from its arse.”
  • Jocasta says to Claire, “Jenny was right about you. You are a peculiar lass.”
  • When Jocasta adds definition to how Claire speaks her mind on all manner of topics whether she knows about them or not, Claire responds, “the same could be said for Jenny.” There’s the humor! Jocasta likes her fiery spirit.
  • Claire to Jamie after he tries to be positive about benevolent slave ownership and forging change, “Fuses often lead to explosions.”
  • Jamie’s response to Claire, “Aye, but when the dust settles, oftentimes the devil yer fightin’ is gone.” Mayhaps, he’s talking about Black Jack Randall?

Links of Interest:

Bottom Line:

It took me two viewings before I could get a handle on this episode. I think us devoted book readers need to watch more than once to firmly separate one from the other. We have the blessing and curse of knowing the material being adapted.  I like this episode for the most part. I’ve a few gripes so far this season: the choppiness in the flow scene to scene and episode to episode (why didn’t they discuss the ring being taken too), the sense of feeling rushed from one place to the next without taking time to savor or deepen important moments or characters, then slowing way down for one event, and being spoon-fed what the writers deem important. If the writing is solid, there’s no need to put the point on repeat.

Please share your thoughts and comments to 719-425-9444 or contact@adramofoutlander.com. Comments or messages may be included in the podcast or a written post.

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

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Mammoth Bones and Toilet Paper

Although Outlander will always be Jamie’s and Claire’s story, the series is so richly populated that occasionally DG lets someone else take center stage for a while. One of my favorite non-Jamie/Claire moments comes in chs. 69 – 70 of ABOSAA, and it features Brianna and Young Ian, with flashbacks to Frank Randall and Ian’s Indian family—his wife Emily, in particular. These two chapters are among my favorites in the series.

A brief summary, to remind you if you haven’t read this bit in a while (better still, go re-read those chapters, then skip this summary):

Ian takes Brianna with him on what she believes is a hunting trip. As they walk farther, she realizes that hunting is not their objective, but when she questions her cousin, he indicates that he’ll reveal what’s going on when they get there. He talks a little bit on the way, touching on both Scots and Indian spirituality, and readers are given a brief flashback to Ian’s life among the Mohawk during the happy times of his marriage to Emily. There’s even more conversation on the second day of their trek, giving us this humorous exchange:

toilet_paper_by_superawesomevectors-d847omx“…I dream about toilet paper all the time,” [Brianna said]. “That’s a thin, soft kind of paper that you use to wipe your, er, behind with,” she explained, seeing his incomprehension.

            “Ye wipe your arse with paper?” He stared at her, jaw dropped in horror. “Jesus God, Brianna!”

Ian tells Brianna more about his Mohawk life, including his rivalry with Sun Elk and his and Emily’s inability to have a child. Finally, they reach their destination: a gorge in which reside the ancient bones of a mammoth. Ian has questions about these bones which he hopes Brianna can answer; it’s all tied to his crisis of faith and his grief over the end of his marriage to Emily.

mammoth

At the end of the scene, Ian has reached a tentative truce with the Mohawk and Scots beliefs battling within him, and he and Brianna have a new closeness. It’s a truly beautiful few chapters, and I’d like to examine a few reasons why I appreciate them so much.

Characterization

At this point in the series, both Brianna and Young Ian need a bit of reader attention. Ian spent most of the previous book off-page, living with the Mohawk. He returned at the end of TFC, but when we last saw him before that, he was just barely a man—only 17 years old. He’s twenty when he returns, and the mammoth incident takes place two years later, but it’s the longest bit of Ian-centered writing that we’ve had in a good long time—certainly since he’s reached full manhood. We learn, through this incident, some of the events that transpired when he was a Mohawk, and how being a Mohawk and a husband has changed him.

Brianna is a character who often presents with prickly edges. Even DG has acknowledged that Brianna is difficult to write and difficult to like. But in this interlude with her cousin, we get to know Brianna more deeply, and we see more of her tender side. To comfort Ian in his grief over his dead daughter, she calls out to the spirit of Frank Randall, asking him to find Ian’s little girl in heaven and make sure that she’s safe. This is tricky, given that Frank technically isn’t born yet, but it’s exactly the right thing for her to say. She weeps with Ian, then spends a few peaceful moments with her memories of her daddy and with the trees and water all around. Just for these few chapters, we see that Brianna can be soft and vulnerable and nurturing, and it’s quite lovely.

Long-Range Plot Considerations

Toward the end of this scene, Ian asks for Brianna’s advice: should he go back to Emily? He still loves her, and he feels that she probably loves him—it was their infertility that forced him to leave the Mohawk, not a lack of marital affection.

Brianna answers quickly, giving him several compelling reasons why he should stay. He accepts her advice, and this opens the door to developments in books 7 and 8 that could not happen if he were to return. These developments are significant, centering largely around Rachel Hunter, but touching on many other characters and events as well. Young Ian is at the top of nearly everyone’s list of favorite Outlander characters, and it was necessary to keep him in the forefront, not back among the Mohawk.

Just Darn Good Writing

Ian knows about the time travelers, but he’s unclear how time travel works, and his understanding of it is tied strongly to Highland stories of the Old Folk. So when Brianna tells him that she’s seen similar mammoth bones in a museum, in her own time, we get this exchange:

“A museum? So it’s not a thing ye’ve got where—when”—he stumbled a bit—“where ye come from? Not alive then, I mean?” He seemed rather disappointed.

            She wanted to laugh at the picture of mammoths roaming Boston Common…

Another bit, as fine a description of love as I’ve seen, in just a dozen words:

“My soul didna wander while I slept—when I slept wi’ her.”

And this, just one of the thousands of examples of exquisite writing that perfectly captures a moment:

Brianna felt sleep come, the waves of it gentle, lifting her toward peace, and did not resist. The last thing she recalled was Ian’s face, cheek heavy on her shoulder, his eyes still open, watching the fire.

These interludes away from Jamie and Claire help us to realize that the characters in the world DG has given us are all interconnected. A few moments away from our main characters gives us a little thrill when we turn the page and there they are again. The Outlander universe is very wide, but scenes like this reveal its depth as well.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

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