A Paean To Marriage


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.


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?”



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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The Outlandish Companion Volume II

The below provisional Table of Contents for The Outlandish Companion II was posted by Herself on Facebook.
I imagine many a “squee” have been let out by reader fans.
There is so much juicy detail to delve into, to analyze, to provide backbone to current theories, or dissuade notions that have had loose ends.  My mind is reeling. 

THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, VOLUME II  It is about time. Been chomping at the bit for this book.

 TABLE OF CONTENTS (provisional)


Section 1: Chronology of the Outlander Series

A complete listing of all novels, novellas and short stories, including the eight (so far) novels of the main series, the three (so far ) novels of the Lord John series, and quite a few novellas, which deal with various lacunae in the main novels, secondary characters, and anything else it struck me to write about.

Section 2: Detailed Synopses  I like this idea to refresh a reader’s memory going into a subsequent book. Heck sometimes a starting point is needed when researching for timelines or specific events.

I do mean “detailed”. These are synopses for THE FIERY CROSS, A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, AN ECHO IN THE BONE, and WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD, and they run about 15-20,000 words each. The point being that 20K is a whole lot less than the 380-500K that each novel runs, and therefore ideal for readers who want to refresh their memories before a new book comes out, but haven’t got time to go back and re-read the whole series.

 Main Outlander Novels:

  • THE FIERY CROSS (done) – Hang on to your hats….
  • A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES (done) Build up
  • WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD – ANSWERS and tissues lots and lots of tissues.

Lord John Novels (if I have time…) – READ THEM – do it – you will not be sorry. LJG is such a favorite. He and Jamie are very much alike though I doubt either would admit it at different intervals in their friendship/relationship. 


 Section 3: Cast of Characters – How many of these characters would I like to see their own stories or books from? MANY that is all.

This is a big chunk, as it includes all the characters from the second four novels and from the Lord John books, with brief notes as to which book each character is introduced in, who they are, and whether they’re fictional or real historical persons.

Section 4: Controversies and Conversations: Sex and Violence Getting the popcorn ready… fireworks will fly.

  • Spanking, Beating, Flogging and other Interesting Topics involving Physical Interactions of a Non-Consensual Sort (This one consists of two parts: a basic essay on the spanking scene in OUTLANDER, plus a discussion of intrinsic cultural bias and the effects of reader frame of reference.) I really loathe it being called a spanking scene. Seeing it as some sort of sex play in the context of the scene and experience has high ick factor for me.
  • “Don’t You Think That’s a Little Rapey?” (Discussion of rape—or not rape—as depicted in the books. Rant about current ideolization of rape. (No, that isn’t misspelled; I _mean_ “ideolization”—i.e., the conversion of a cultural phenomenon to ideology.) I had to look up that not misspelled word. I admit confusion as to how it has become an ideology. I must research further. 
  • The Role of Sex and Violence in Fiction and Real Life Rough sex exists as does BDSM – though it was not common talk culturally when the first Outlander book was written.
  • Sadism (Character Analysis of Black Jack Randall – Redemptive violence vs. Unredeemed Violence) Intrigued with eyes covered.
  • Selection of Reader Letters (and the Author’s (more-or-less) Witty Replies) Always worth a chuckle and mouth agape moments.
  • Adultery (or not) Does she mean Frank after Claire returned? Jamie when Claire went back to the future? Claire with LJG when they thought Jamie was dead?
  • Bad Language and its Uses, JHRC can “we” get the bloody hell over it?
  • Cultural and Ethnic Depictions Times and sensibilities have changed since many of the Outlander books were written.
  • The Loch Ness Monster HMMMMMMM yes that.

 Section 5: History and the Three Levels of Lies Tricky this. I love the history woven in. It would be so much easier to write straight up fictional times and places in my humble opinion. The grit and depth real history lends  to fiction creates a sense of truth and a new version of history that is rich and beautiful.  I have more appreciation for events when I can connect on a completely different point of view.

(basically an analysis of what history actually is—i.e., it’s not necessarily “what really happened”—and the relationship between history and historical fiction, with notes on the responsibilities a writer of historical fiction may or may not have to the people of the past.) 

  • History and the Responsibility of a Writer of Historical Fiction
  • A Note on Organizing the Past; How to Keep Track of Your Research

Section 6: A Comprehensive Annotated Gaidhlig Glossary and Pronunciation Guide – by Adhamh O Broin  SO needed. As I have maybe 10 Gaidhlig words.

[Section 7: The OUTLANDER Family Tree]? I WANT I WANT I WANT. Are Fergus and Claire truly relatives?  And? So many possibilities of lineage. 

(I put this one in brackets, because it might be better to use it as endpapers, as was done in MOBY. If we do it in the body of the book, though, I might add a page or two of commentary—such as notes on Davina Porter being Jamie’s grandmother, his mother’s middle names including Caitriona, and where Heughan the foul-mouthed smith (not show in the family tree, but relevant to the discussion) came from.)

Section 8: Writing, and other Games You Play by Yourself (essays on writing in general, with specific notes/advice on certain topics. Includes: ) Rubs my hands together in anticipation.

  • “Mind Games”
  • “Watch This” – just a stream-of-consciousness example of what goes on in my mind when I’m working. (I do this live all the time, and there’s a good version of it on YouTube under “Author’s Road – Diana Gabaldon”)
  • “An Annotated Coda” – How to Read Like A Writer
  • “A Brief Footnote on Tidiness”

Section 9: Claire’s Medical Procedures I would really like the book that she wrote. Yes I know she was a fictional doctor but come on you want it too. Bunch of nerds.

Section 10: Costume, Cookery, Herbs and Music in the 18th Century  I really must get my cosplay items together.  Come on y’all, you want to dress up too. I see myself wandering around “fests and cons” interviewing other Outlander clan folk.

Section 11: Maps and Floor-plans Lookalike homes built EVERYWHERE. There is a market for this people. Builders jump on it.

  • Map of Lallybroch (exterior)
  • Floor-plan of Lallybroch (interior)
  • Map of Fraser’s Ridge
  • Floor-plan of the Big House at Fraser’s Ridge
  • (maybe a few other things)

 Section 12: The Methadone List (as of 2015)

 Section 13: Bibliography

  • Similar to the one in OC I – i.e., broken down into relevant categories.
  • Assorted Photos, Sidebars and Personal Recipes

The Outlandish Companion II–at the moment, at least–scheduled to be published on Oct. 27th of this year.

As you can tell I am just a little bit excited to read this book. I have so many questions and ponderings. I wonder what of my theories will be in fact “true”. 

What do you find most exciting in this second companion?