SPOILERS: DON’T READ IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHO LORD JOHN GREY IS!
I’ve been having some interesting conversations on Twitter. Some are light-hearted, some educational and some downright naughty (you know who you are innuendo slingers). One day, I attempted to have a serious discussion about Lord John and Jamie and discovered very quickly that Twitter is not the ideal format for such discussion. Threads get confused and it is easy to be misunderstood, not to mention that only having 140 characters stinks!
This particular thread was discussing Lord John Gray and his inherent sexiness. I stupidly asked if anyone thought that Jamie was tempted by Lord John? The resounding and emphatic answer was NO! Upon reflection, I believe that “tempted” was not exactly the right word for the thought I was trying to express. Hey, it happens. I didn’t mean tempted as in Jamie wanting to…I…well…I have a theory. Let me explain.
A lot of things that happen in Outlander are mysterious to the characters. They didn’t have the benefit of 21st century science. They didn’t have environmental studies (begging the pardon of our natural philosopher Mr. Stern ) or doctors trained in advanced medical knowledge and procedures (if they had Claire’s abilities wouldn’t have seemed so unusual), nor do they have a working knowledge of psychology. Even Claire’s knowledge is colored in shades of 1940. A lot has happened since WWII.
In Outlander, Jamie is raped by another man. What this act does to the male psyche could not have been understood by the people of Scotland in 1743. This lack of understanding and the social and moral atmosphere of the time would have made this event even more horrific for Jamie. Adding to the horror is the man doing the raping, a sadist named Black Jack Randall, a man who finds his pleasure in the total domination of another. Jamie naively believes that he will be able to remain unaffected by Black Jack Randall’s actions. He knows there will be pain involved and he will feel repulsed, but he believes he can remain emotionally distant. His illusions are shattered within minutes.
Obviously, Ms. Gabaldon is knowledgable of the damage done to the male psyche by rape because Jamie exhibits the symptoms. The damage done to Jamie physically would heal. What is more difficult to heal, of course, are the wounds that cannot be seen. The aftermath of Wentworth has left Jamie with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The reader can identify several scenes in the book where Jamie exhibits PTSD symptoms. We witness Jamie’s reactions to re experiencing the rape. He has nightmares, he has flashbacks, intrusive and upsetting memories, and intense distress when something triggers a memory of the event. All of these things are expected reactions to experiencing an unpredictable event where a person’s safety is threatened and they feel helpless. Jamie’s experience is even more complicated because his compliance is being assured with a threat to his wife’s life. He is keeping his word to give Claire time to get away, “He thinks you are weak, I know that you are not…” Even the events immediately after his rescue and his illness at the abbey follow the progression of PTSD.
We notice that when Claire is treating him by the fire, although physically beaten up, Jamie doesn’t appear to be that different emotionally. His personality including the ability to joke when things are serious seems to be intact. After a traumatic event, the body and mind go into shock. This is why we don’t really see a change in Jamie right away. But, then comes the abbey and Jamie’s deterioration. This is also typical behavior for PTSD suffers. With time the shock fades. He begins to process what has happened to him and day by day Jamie gets worse not better. Without help and understanding the prognosis for returning to “normal” and being able to function in a relationship with a spouse is practically nil. The fact that he was able to have a functioning relationship with Claire? A miracle.
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe there was some sound scientific theory behind Claire’s rescue attempt. She used his own weakened and traumatized mind to set him free. It was sort of like a version of aversion therapy. She exposed him to what he feared, but this time…he got to fight back. His Highland Warrior spirit fought its way home. It makes sense, but the fact that it worked. Adoration. A still quiet voice. A miracle.
So, what you might be asking, has this got to do with Lord John? Well, this is where my theory part comes into play. What we haven’t talked about is the part a lot of rape victims don’t talk about, physical arousal during a rape. This seems to be the aspect of the rape that causes Jamie the greatest mental conflict. This is the part that causes him to cry out in anguish, “… he hurt me -hurt me badly- while he did it, but it was an act of love to him. And he made me answer him- damn his soul! He made me rouse to him!” The hand bunched into a fist and struck the bedframe with an impotent rage that made the whole bed tremble.” The guilt, rage and shame that Jamie expresses over his physical arousal and ( if we can believe Black Jack) orgasms at the hands of his rapist causes Jamie to question his identity. I’m not saying that he questions his sexuality; he is hetero. However, I do believe for the first time, Jamie isn’t sure he can trust himself. He feels betrayed by his own body and mind. Adding to the confusion is BJR’s use of pain and his constantly talking about Claire. Jamie needs Claire desperately, but because of the clever sadist’s techniques he cannot even stand for her to touch him. We know that Jamie recovers enough to be with Claire and they go on to live their lives. But….I propose this idea. Jamie never fully trusts himself again.
Hiding in a cave for years, then locked away in prison with his hands shackled, Jamie is starved for human touch. In one of the later books, he even admits to Claire that he wanted the men at Ardsmuir to touch him, in fact, he longed for it. There isn’t anything to suggest that he meant that sexually, but later it gives Claire pause to wonder. So….given his touch deprivation and his mistrust of his own mind and body….Lord John Grey makes Jamie more than angry when he touches his hand…he scares him. I think this was what the plaid/flaying scene was about. Jamie was putting a wall between himself and Lord John. Later, on the way to Helwater, Jamie barely acknowledges LJG, but there is a scene at the inn that I think speaks volumes. Jamie is lying on the floor wrapped in his plaid as far away from Lord John as he can get. Like every other night of this trip, he is hyper-vigilante. He hears every move, every rustle, every noise Lord John makes. Jamie is deeply resentful that Lord John makes him feel this way. Makes him feel anxiety. Makes him remember that he cannot trust himself. By dawn, his resentment has become full-blown rage and he wants LJG to make a “disgraceful” move, so that he will have an excuse to vent his frustrated rage…at himself. The fact that Lord John is an intelligent, articulate, honorable man, I’m sure only makes Jamie seethe. Lord John pushes Jamie’s self-image, self-trust buttons. So, I guess I’m not saying that Jamie IS tempted by Lord John, but he’s afraid he might be. Whew!