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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All Roads Lead to The Gathering Ep 149

Drums of Autumn

Chapters 68-71

Week 34

“All Roads Lead to The Gathering.”

Summary: Domesticity ruled the moment. Jamie and Claire drunkenly frolicked in the night. Roger and Brianna established married life. Duncan Innes came to the Ridge with a proposition. The family headed to the Gathering. The baby finally had a proper name. The Gathering hosted Scottish families from across the Colonies. A word from Young Ian was had. A Highland Regiment arrived. Lizzie got a welcomed surprise. Claire worked her pop-up clinic. Roger shared a private letter with Jamie. Jamie offered to return something special to Claire. Brianna clearly made her choice.

Inside the Chapters:

Chapter 68

Domestic Bliss

August 1770

Domestic bliss filled the morning and Claire thought about the night before when Jamie had invited her outdoors the night before (p1045, Nook). They wandered into the woods to intimately share each other under the moon before drunkenly going back to bed for an hour. They silently shared the memory over parritch under the acknowledging eye of Brianna. The moment was broken when Clarence announced a visitor. Duncan Innes arrived to invite them all to the upcoming gathering at Mount Helicon. The clincher for Jamie was being told a priest would be there and the baby could be baptized. Then Duncan embarrassingly dropped a bomb on Jamie; he asked permission to marry Aunt Jocasta (p1047, Nook). Duncan was a man of propriety and thought it only right to seek Jamie’s blessing because he was the next of kin and her rightful heir. Jamie gave his blessing and said they would dance at the wedding.

Chapter 69

Jeremiah

October 1770

The baby’s name had not been settled even though he was about five months old. The discussion went round and round as they traveled to the Gathering. Claire brought up Jeremiah and the nickname of Jemmy. This recalled the woman and her child from the Gloriana to Roger. He inquired to Claire if she remembered the name of his ancestor the changeling’s (William Buccleigh) wife. Claire obliged. The woman’s name was Morag Gunn. Her son’s name was Jemmy. Claire suddenly spoke of Geilie who had said they could travel through time to change things.

Chapter 70

The Gathering

We have arrived at the Gathering an incredibly long and detailed set of storylines that carry on well into the next book.  Claire reflected on the last Gathering she had attended at Castle Leoch nearly thirty years prior. Though the Clans and the old way of Highland life were dead in Scotland, the Clans gathered together in this place with pride. Looking for Jamie in the crowd, Claire spotted John Quincy Myers and called to him. He was there to sell his hides and trinkets. He was surprised on a trip up in the mountains to have seen Young Ian geared out like a Mohawk. Myers presented Claire with a small package from Young Ian.  Myers left Claire assuring her he would see her later. Jamie returned, and they read the letter together. Young Ian had been married to Emily, and they were expecting a child. Rollo had also sired a great many puppies in the village. Jamie, of course, ridiculed Young Ian’s use of Latin.

Claire observed every Scottish family from the Colonies up to Pennsylvania must be there with more arriving all the time. Due to the difficulty of travel, families would stay about a week or so. The next day Jamie made his way to where Lizzie was sitting and offered her a great surprise. Fergus has Joseph Weymss, Lizzie’s father with him. Jamie had purchased Mr. Weymss indenture contract and intended to burn it in the fire that evening.

Day three and Claire was almost overwhelmed with the amount of news, gossip, and Gaelic in the air. Roger though absorbed every detail and sound as he wandered about the grounds listening. The night before he had borrowed a guitar and sang for a crowd. Jamie being no fan of music decided to take the baby for a game of dice (p1054, Nook).

Claire had opened a pop-up medical clinic. She gave dietary advice trying to get the people to eat foods filled with vitamin C. She even had Jamie eating the dangerous nightshade, tomato in front of people on purpose to persuade them it was safe to eat. Instead of making dietary inroads, the others regarded Jamie supernaturally and that Himself, of course, could survive having eaten such food. Claire treated skin a family with a skin condition when a Highland regiment marched into view. Brianna and baby came up behind and asked if they were friend or foe. Did the Crown think this was a political gathering? Claire advised Bree to take the baby up into the rocks if anything happened. All around the men stepped in front of the women and children. Two men rode toward Jamie. The man dismounted and introduced himself (p1057, Nook).

Chapter 71

Circle’s Close

Roger had been waiting to get Jamie alone. He had a message for him. Jamie took the baby from Roger and invited him to speak. Roger explained he had to wait to go through the stones after Brianna left. Roger had stayed at the Manse, his family home while waiting. He found a letter and was not sure if he should tell Claire or Brianna about it. The letter was to his father the Reverend, and the seal of confession had been broken by the death of the writer and his father. Roger spoke the memorized letter to Jamie word for word (p1059, Nook). Roger knew the struggle of thought he had gone through carrying this knowledge. Frank could have chosen to keep the information to himself and not had the Reverend place the headstone that led Claire back to Jamie after Frank’s death followed by Brianna and Roger. With Brianna in the past having had a baby, Jamie’s bloodline would continue. Roger wondered if it was “interest on the debt owed?” Jamie finally spoke (p1063, Nook). Roger planned to tell Brianna but asked if he should tell Claire also. Jamie said under his pledge of honesty to Claire, Roger should tell her.

Day four and even more families had arrived. Each family had their campfire that filled the night’s darkness. Claire was reminded of the MacKenzie clan badge. She realized the burning mountain was a visage of a Gathering like this one representing togetherness. The motto, Luceo non uro (I shine, not burn) finally made sense to her too.

There was a large fire in the clearing families came to declare their presence including Jamie announcing, “The Frasers of the Ridge.” Claire sat with the sleeping baby in her arms. Jamie sat down behind her.  They watched Roger and Brianna in intent conversation leading Jamie to wonder if they were going to change the baby’s name again (p1065, Nook). After formally choosing to be husband and wife, Brianna asked Roger to go declare “the MacKenzies are here.”

We DID IT! We finished the Drums of Autumn read-a-long. 34 episodes over most of a year. Thank you for sticking with me as we followed our (my favorite) book friends further into their adventures. We met new people along the way and saw the painful and painstaking process it took for Roger and Brianna to be together. Young Ian is in the hands of his new Mohawk family. Lord John has become a friend to Brianna and reestablished his friendship with Jamie. He and Claire still tolerate each other. Roger and Jamie have entered a tentative relationship. Jocasta is marrying Duncan Innes yet has no heir in Jamie or Brianna. Stephen Bonnet is on the loose. Claire and Jamie are building a life and home for themselves and others in the mountains. We learned how Frank was instrumental in Claire, Brianna, and Roger going into the 18th century. Claire hopes the coming war will stay away from the Ridge. Beware after season 4 airs on television we will be starting straightaway on a read-a-long of the immense Fiery Cross.

What’s Coming up? The Space Between novella.

How can you participate? Send your comments to contact@adramofoutlander.com or call the listener line at 719-425-9444 by Friday of each week. If you’re reading ahead, you can leave comments for any part of the book too. Comments or messages may be included in the podcast or a written post.

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

 

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The intro and outro music segments are taken from a piece by Damiano Baldoni at URL on Free Music Archive. Curator: ccCommunity. Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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Hard to Kill

Why is Jamie Fraser hard to kill?

Jumping in with both feet, and putting forth some speculation about Jamie the p’tit chat and Jamie the something else. Here we go…

In chapter 10 of A Breath of Snow and Ashes, Jamie recalls a fortune teller in Paris who told him that he’d die nine times, like a cat, before he’d rest in his grave. (This always makes me think of Miracle Max in The Princess Bride, declaring that Westley is only “mostly dead.”) A few chapters later, he and Claire count the times when Jamie almost died:

  1. At the abbey, after the events at Wentworth Prison
  2. After Culloden, when his leg wound festered
  3. After Laoghaire shot him and his wound became infected
  4. When Dougal hit him in the skull with an ax
  5. The rattlesnake bite

All these near-deaths have a few things in common: the wounds could easily have been fatal, they would certainly have been fatal without medical intervention, and they would almost certainly have killed most men (hold that thought…).

With that in mind, has this list been added to in subsequent books? Jamie’s life has certainly been in danger—actually, when is it not? A few instances to consider, all from An Echo in the Bone:

  1. In chapter 2, Mrs. Bug shoots at Jamie with the intent to kill him in defense of the hoard of gold. She grazes his thigh, but the injury isn’t serious. I’m going to give this incident a pass; while any wound in this period might be fatal due to infection, this one seems not to have troubled Jamie much.
  2. In chapter 31, Jamie receives a small wound near his collarbone thanks to Capt. Stebbings of the British naval ship Again, the injury seems minor, but Claire realizes almost immediately that it has nicked the subclavian artery. Jamie could easily have bled to death, and Claire fears that he still might. She intervenes, binding the wound and giving Jamie strict instructions to be verra, verra still. He doesn’t die. I’m inclined to add this close call to his list of nine lives.
  3. In chapter 62, Jamie is injured at the Battle of Saratoga. While the gruesome sword injury to his hand isn’t necessarily a fatal one (although Claire eventually decides to amputate a finger), Jamie comes quite close to death at the hands of a scavenger and her son while he’s lying, wounded, on the battlefield. Only Claire’s very determined intervention prevents their slitting his throat. Hesitantly, I’m going to add this event to the list, too.

The difference between these three incidents and the ones Jamie and Claire agree on is that in all the others, Jamie actually seemed to be dying—he was feverish, fading fast. So maybe these don’t count at all…what do you think?

Nothing much seems to threaten Jamie’s life in Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, if I recall–other than fighting in the Revolutionary War, riding spirited horses, breaking and entering, living on a mountain, hunting, building, eating sketchy food, drinking sketchy alcohol, hanging out with generally unhygienic people, being a traitor, and existing in the 18th century.

So. If my additions to the list match up with Diana Gabaldon’s (which isn’t at all a sure thing), Jamie has used up seven of his nine lives. That means (to no one’s surprise) that he’ll be at risk of dying twice more in the final two books. Poor Jamie—you’d think by this time he could just relax at Fraser’s Ridge and grow a slight middle-aged paunch!

As to my earlier assertion that these injuries would almost certainly have killed most men—

By Alex Oliver

Well, Jamie’s not most men, is he? I’ve got a theory that I’ve been kicking around in my head ever since I started reading these books a few years ago, and I’m fully prepared for it to be shot down as totally ridiculous. But hear me out…

DG has never hesitated to bring the supernatural into her storylines: ghosts hang around quite frequently, along with zombies, time travelers, fortune tellers, seers, strange blue auras, and any number of other-worldly phenomena. One of these that’s brought to our attention now and then is Nayawenne’s assertion to Claire in chapter 20 of The Drums of Autumn that she’ll find her ‘full power’ when her hair is white. If you’ve read all the books (and The Space Between), you have a pretty good idea of what Claire’s full power will look like.

But what if Jamie is also just a wee bit supernatural? Granted, he’s not a time-traveler, but there are a few hints here and there that he’s attuned to the mysterious. He has very accurate dreams of the future. He has an encounter with ancient gods in chapter 37 of The Scottish Prisoner when he buries Quinn at Inchcleraun. DG frequently mentions things about Jamie that differentiate him from other men: he seems to be able to see in the dark…his hands are always warm, and he’s mostly impervious to weather…he can inspire others to follow him, sometimes with just a sentence or two. Any of those could just be characteristics of a noble romantic hero—but add to these exhibits the fact that he’s also notoriously difficult to kill, and (to me) the theory starts to make sense.

If I’m right, and Jamie is some sort of, I dunno, demigod (?), I’m not sure what that would imply for the ending of the series. I do have a theory about Jamie’s ghost from Outlander, but that’ll be for another post.

Those of you who’ve been in the Outlander universe longer than I have will undoubtedly be happy to set me straight on my theory and to suggest alterations to my ‘nine lives’ list. That’s fine. Be gentle.

Jan

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

Any images are from Wiki Commons. Click on picture for attribution link.

Join the A Dram of Outlander Community

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

Facebook,  InstagramTwitterTumblrGoogle+

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

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