In one of the later books, Bree and her mother are discussing how people know what they are meant to be in life. During the discussion, Bree asks if her father knew what he was meant to be. Claire answers , ” …a man and that is no small thing.” Men. What makes a man a man? I believe that Diana Gabaldon has given us the portrait of what it means to be a man in the character of Jamie Fraser.
If you asked readers of Outlander why they love Jamie, I’m sure you would get many different answers. Some might focus on his looks, virility or his heroism and these qualities are well worth the focus, but I believe there is so much more to love about Jamie Fraser.
Recently, I heard Diana explain that she likes to put her characters to the test and thereby reveal their character. Well, she certainly doesn’t shy away from putting Jamie in character revealing situations. There were times while reading that I felt the poor man just needed to catch a break! However, conflict and protagonists go hand in hand and Jamie has his share of struggles. Amid these struggles we see who James Fraser is as a person and a man. From Outlander to Echo in the Bone, Jamie lives by a code based on his beliefs about himself and what it means to be a man. He would , “like to believe that he is not many men”, and that his behavior can’t be measured by the lowest common denominator. He has every right to be proud of his actions and choices. He acts out of his beliefs time and time again despite pressures to do differently. Here are some of my favorite character revealing scenes from Outlander:
In this scene, we see Jamie’s willingness to stay in what was most certainly an emotionally awkward situation. He sees someone who is frightened and alone and doesn’t walk away. Instead, he comforts and reassures. He tells her she need not be afraid of him or anyone else because he will protect her. A man isn’t afraid to be present in the face of deep emotions. A man protects those who need protection.
Taking a beating for Loaghaire:
Even Claire is baffled by this one! What kind of guts does it take to take a beating in front of a crowd while still being injured for someone you hardly know? Jamie explains that some scars last longer than others and he is willing to feel pain for a short while to save another from being shamed. This won’t be the last time we see Jamie make a self-sacrificing decision. I think this is the scene that made me sit up and notice that this man was special. A man is gallant and brave.
The wedding preparations:
Even though he knows Claire really doesn’t want to marry him, Jamie negotiates for a real wedding. Or, at least as real as you’re going to get in their situation. He wants Claire to have a dress, flowers and groom she can be proud of marrying. He thought about the ceremony and did his best to give her all he could, including his mother’s pearls. His efforts set the tone for their marriage and do not go unnoticed by Claire or the reader. We see his romantic side and it is charming. Men hold their spouses in high esteem and treat them as cherished life partners.
The rescue from Fort William:
Despite believing his wife may have run away on purpose or that she may be an English spy and the very real danger he may be killed for the effort, Jamie comes to Claire’s rescue. This place is full of emotional significance for Jamie. It is where he was beaten within an inch of his life and he has avoided it in order not to be recaptured and most certainly put to death. For her sake, he charges ahead with nothing but an empty gun. His actions are very brave and his efforts are heroic. However, what strikes me as significant is the reason for his heroism; he promised to protect her. Men are loyal and trustworthy.
There’s no doubt that he is angry when they are on the road after the rescue. Emotions are running on high for both Claire and Jamie. Claire went off on her own after he told her to stay put and she got herself captured by the redcoats. He is especially upset because she disobeyed him and and as a result put herself and others in a life-threatening situation . Now, I’m sure that there are plenty of readers out there that have an issue with this obedience thing not to mention the actual spanking, but Jamie is worried for Claire’s safety when he asks her to obey. He isn’t pulling a power play and he isn’t angry when he takes off his belt. He just knows Claire and her propensity for trouble. The whole spanking scene is about his commitment to Claire not his need to punish her. He is thinking about their future. Men aren’t afraid to do the hard things to keep their relationship and love ones safe.
Telling Claire his most embarrassing moments:
I loved these scenes! We see Jamie at his self-deprecating finest. He knows Claire’s pride is suffering so, he tells her some pretty embarrassing stories about himself. It is obvious that he knows he doesn’t always do or say the right thing, but he isn’t afraid to let Claire see his less flattering side because his self-image is secure. The reader also gets the sense that Jamie learns from his mistakes. His willingness to share his foibles is touching and makes him likable. Now it’s Jamie’s turn to be baffled by Claire’s response. He saves her life and she is angry, but when he shares his most embarrassing moments she tells him she loves him and so do we. Men aren’t afraid to reveal who they truly are foibles and all.
Craigh Na Dun:
How do you even begin to appreciate what this man went through; rescuing her from a witch trail, listening to an unbelievable tale about fairy stones, and then realizing that there is another man in another place with a prior claim…a husband. Every agonizing word of good-bye Jamie uttered, every stumbling step down that hill broke my heart. He did not beg her even though every fiber of his being wanted her to stay. He now knew the truth and it couldn’t be ignored. Men have integrity.
He gave his word to save Claire’s life. What Jamie suffered at the hands of Black Jack Randall very nearly broke him. His sense of self was stripped to its barest essence. He knows he is damaged and believes he can no longer be the man Claire needs. Selflessly, he tries to send her away to keep her safe and whole. To the readers’ great relief, Claire will not let him go. I’m still not sure I understand exactly what she did, but she rescues his soul. Sometimes men suffer because they make sacrifices for the people they love. Men are not always strong and we love them through the weakness until they are strong again.
Jamie Fraser is a man to admire and emulate. He is vulnerable yet strong. He is wise and yet naive. He is serious and yet terribly funny. He can be shy and then bold. He can be ruthless and kind. He is willing to listen and doesn’t have to be right. He is a leader and a nurturer of other men. But, most importantly, he makes Claire feel desired and loved. She bloody well can’t live without the man and neither can we.