Jamie Fraser….portrait of a father…in Outlander

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Outlander

Spoilers: this post contains info about the entire series

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Every year, Father’s Day is celebrated in the U.S. on a Sunday in June. This day is often filled with family get-togethers, BBQ and gifts of some really ugly ties!  This wonderful family day can be bittersweet for many including myself. Memories of imperfect relationships, complicated emotions, and regret tend to rear their ugly heads.  It took me years of living and reflection to be able to look at this particular relationship with any semblance of objectivity. I had to become an adult with adult children before I could truly begin to understand my father.  I’ve heard people say, when discussing parental dysfunction, “he did the best he could with what he had”. I’m not sure that was true in my fathers’ case. It seems to me he had been given a lot to work with. I have decided that ultimately sometimes people make poor decisions and the consequences for themselves and those around them can be devasting. I’ve also discovered that it is difficult to live a healthy happy life without being able to let go and forgive. My father was a human being whose self-serving choices left his family to suffer and I’ve forgiven him.

My image of what a good father is had to come from somewhere other than my own home. Folks who grow-up in homes like mine very often have no idea what is normal. This is our experience and something or someone has to come along to alter our perception. For me, it was books. I found examples of good fathers and nurturing families in between the pages of books.

I learned from books the lessons I should have learned from my own father. I learned that fathers could be trusted. I learned that fathers are protective. I learned that fathers can be spiritual and emotional leaders in a family. I learned that fathers aren’t afraid to tell you when you are wrong. I’ve learned that fathers will walk beside you and be there when you need them. I learned that fathers delight in your accomplishments. I learned that fathers will listen to you and love you just because you are you.

I found Jamie Fraser of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series to be the embodiment of these characteristics.  When developing the character of Jamie, Diana Gabaldon decided to make him strong, loyal, trust-worthy, spiritual, and evidently she decided it would be an interesting twist to make him long-suffering.  Here is a man who would make an excellent father and yet, his opportunity to be a father is constantly being denied him!

Jamie truly believes that children are a blessing and treats his children as a gift from God.  Faith, Brianna, William, Jem, and wee Mandy all have a piece of Jamie’s heart. But, all to often, a piece of that heart is missing and leaves him grieving.  Absentee fathers are a very much lamented situation, but absentee children?  Leave it to Diana to give us a different perspective.  What happens when a man who longs for children is denied? He has very complicated feelings and relationships.  Let’s take a look.

Faith: During Claire’s first pregnancy she asks Jamie if he is happy about the baby.  He responds that he is fearful and, “yet when I think of you with our child at your breast…”I feel I’ve gone as hollow as a soap bubble and I might burst with joy”.  This is a man who wants his child, but he is denied the opportunity to even be present when his wife miscarries.  The reader has to wonder how much guilt Jamie carries with him over the loss of this child despite Claire’s reassurance that she probably would have lost the babe anyway.   As we know from later books, Jamie never forgets his first born.

William: Jamie, now an indentured servant, is blackmailed into bed by Geneva Dunsany.  She marries and William is born the legal son of another man, an earl.  Jamie is a father, but cannot claim his son without ruining the lives of many.  Jamie’s son is orphaned and yet, Jamie still cannot claim him. William is remitted to the care of his grandparents and aunt and Jamie is offered an end to his indenture for his role in saving William from the elder Ellesmere.  After years without freedom, Jamie could once again be his own man and go home, but he chooses to stay near his son despite his never being able to reveal William’s paternity. Who could forget Jamie describing his sneaking a peek through a window to get a small look at his son.  He is awed.

Through the early years, we see him interact with wee William. He becomes a role model to his son despite the difference in their stations.  He cares for, spends time with and teaches William.  In a very real way, Jamie is a “father-figure” to little Willie.  In my opinion, Jamie was as a good of a father to William as he could possibly be.  Jamie made a decision that resulted in the enrichment of both of their lives.  Eventually, William’s resemblance to Jamie places them both in danger.  I know that it is difficult for the modern reader to understand why Jamie just doesn’t tell people he is Willie’s father. It’s a different time.  His son is an Earl and as a result has all the advantages that come with his station. Do you take that away from him?  Do you label him a bastard? Do you cause the Dunsanys to be shamed over something you did?  Jamie believes it is his fault their daughter died, so can he now take away their grandson? No. Complicated and heart-wrenching. With the assurance that Lord John Gray will make an appropriate and caring step-father, Jamie makes the sacrifice to leave his son.

Later, there is another scene where Jamie gets to spend time with William. They are in the mountains at Fraser’s’ Ridge and like the other times Jamie is with William, he must be careful not to reveal the truth.  Williams’s aunt/mother has died and his step-father is ill. My heart broke for Jamie when he surreptitiously offers comfort and enfolds William in his arms. He goes to sleep holding the son he cannot claim. Fatherhood continues to be denied to this wonderful and caring man.

The explosive scene in 17 Chestnut Street between William, Lord John and Jamie was gut-wrenching.  I wanted to reach through the pages and tell Will that Jamie is a good man!  I want to tell him there is nothing to be ashamed of because his father is a king among men.  I want to say don’t you remember Mac? He must because he still wears the wooden rosary Jamie gave him. I can hear the longing in Jamie’s voice when he tells William he is a dirty stinking Papist. But, like other children who discover they are not who they thought they were, Will isn’t easily pacified. He is angry and feels betrayed. Jamie never intended for William to know, but now that it’s here, he will deal with the repercussions even if it means his son will hate him. Further encounters with William only serve to reveal that Jamie is a man any son could admire. He remains true to his beliefs and will not speak ill of Will’s mother even when given the opening. The last scene between the two is amazing. Without saying the words Jamie tells Will he loves him. I was left wanting more of that relationship.  I want a father and son reunion.

Brianna: One the most poignant scenes I have ever read, in any book, is the scene where Jamie looks at Brianna’s pictures.  He is so moved by what he sees that he is unable to even hold the pictures steady.  With Claire’s help he makes it through the miracle of seeing the child he thought he’d lost forever.  He then turns to Claire and falls apart in her arms.  The depth of feeling revealed in that scene moves me to tears.  This father loves his daughter just because she exists. He has no expectations other than the opportunity to learn as much as he can about his beloved girl. “Draw her for me”, he asks Claire. He delights in hearing stories of Brianna his braw lass.

When Jamie is finally given the chance to be a father to Brianna she is an adult.  She comes from a different time with different social and cultural mores and has loved another man as her father. We see Jamie navigate his way through these complications.  Sometimes he gets it right and sometimes he doesn’t (Roger), but always he is motivated by his love and dedication to his child.   Who can forget Jamie taking his six foot daughter into his arms and crooning to her his love, reassurance, and protection.  I delighted in seeing the developing relationship between these two.  He finally gets to be the father he wants to be.

And then…..they all leave …for what he believes is forever.  I get a lump in my throat thinking about this and they aren’t my children!

Probably the most convincing evidence that Jamie is a wonderful father is the relationship he has with children that are not of his blood.  Fergus, Lizzy, Joan and Marsali to name a few.  The wedding scene between Fergus and Marsali when Jamie gives Fergus his name? Jamie pulling Fergus from the pool and cradling him in his arms?  Fergus explains it best after he is told he might have a father looking for him.  He states that he believes every orphan dreams of being the lost child of a great man. He realized he didn’t need to dream because he was already the son of a great man.

Diana’s story gives me hope that people can choose to be different than their examples. Brian Fraser chose to be a good father as he did not have a loving father of his own. As a result, Jamie was the son of a great man.  Brian’s choice and guidance will affect generations to come. We would all be so lucky to have a father like Brian or Jamie Fraser.

I believe books can do more than entertain. They can help give us different perspective, help us heal, and give us wonderful examples…of loving caring fathers.

 

Photo credit to Sylvia

 

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66 thoughts on “Jamie Fraser….portrait of a father…in Outlander

  1. Lynn Bischoff

    I was very lucky and had a Dad as full of love, caring and hinor as Jamie Fraser. He loved my Mum the way Jamie loves Claire, So many of the scenes in the books reflect the caring and love I recieved from my Dad and bing him closer to me. My Dad passed away 20 years ago and I miss him so much. Thank you for your insights, Jamie is one of the best examples of a great father, but there are non-fictional examples out there.

  2. jomarie

    I loved this post. All of your insights are spot on. I know Diana does not make it easy on her characters, but sometimes it makes my heart hurt. He and Claire were denied seeing him cradle his newborn, and he’ll never get that back. He was there for Willie when he was young as best he could be, but had to keep his distance. As for the future, I also hope that he and his son will come to an understanding at some point. It would be nice if they could have more of a father son relationship without restraint. Jamie deserves that I think.

    I’m not sure I’m happy with his feeling that Geneva’s death was somehow his fault, when he was blackmailed and did what he did to protect his family. (As it was he gave her more than she deserved; he practically gave her a wedding night for heaven’s sake, something that still doesn’t sit right with me.) I give him credit for not speaking ill of her to William. I wonder though, if he can tell more of the truth someday and just explain fully why she did it in a sympathetic way. I think he deserves to not to seem like he was just some lecherous old guy to his son.

    I agree that as a father, he is one that any of us would be proud to have.

    • Do you think that Will knows? His statements about his mother’s recklessness and fact that he knows she wad marrying a old man. Couple with his admitting that he believed Jamie when e said he wouldn’t sleep with another mans wife?

      • jomarie

        Maybe, but I’m really not sure. He may suspect something, but she could have gone to Jamie and just pleaded with him to take her virginity without the blackmail. And a man with lesser scruples might have. But in that instance, I believe Jamie would have said no. I mean, why would he? He was in incredible danger every minute he was in her room, outside of the pregnancy risk, plus it violated his own code of ethics. I think she knew blackmail was the only way to get what she wanted. So how does Jamie get his son to believe that it was not his idea, and in fact he was forced into it, without telling about the blackmail? All he said was that he didn’t force HER, but without the truth I’m afraid Will is always going to think the worst of him for it.

  3. Pauline Gage

    Truly brilliant writing reaches through & enrich us on our life journey. Your words, beautifully put, have done that. Thank you.

  4. I also had a dad much like Jamie Fraser – maybe that’s one reason I love Jamie so much. My dad had three children of his blood and many more that were children of his heart. We lost him much too soon, at the age of 48. (Unfortunately, my mother was more like a combination of Geillis and Laoghaire.)

  5. I lost my dad 20 years ago this fall. I still miss him every day. He was a wonderful father during my childhood–but he declined quickly during my young adulthood due to alcoholism. I am fortunate that I had him in my life for my formative years and my up-bringing, but I still needed him as a young adult and I mourn the man that I lost, years even before his death.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on Frank, as well. I’ve always been sympathetic to Frank’s character. I think he was an amazing father to Brianna–above and beyond what we’ve read to date. I think she was truly lucky to have two honorable men to call her father.

    I am curious to see how William’s relationship with Jamie will evolve. I was really pleased that William laid some groundwork there and that Jamie was someone he felt he could trust and call on for something important (though it was sadly not going to have a the desired outcome) that only Jamie could provide. Although they were too late in their mission–Jamie came to William’s aid without hesitation and understood William’s sense of urgency and honor to do something. That was pretty amazing to me. William is growing up–and I think will give Jamie the chance at a relationship that will be complicated, but more than worth it to both of them.

    I also look forward to the sibling relationship between Bree and William–they have some very similar circumstances. I think Brianna will really help William understand what their mutual father is all about–and how that does not need to be a disloyalty to the man that raised each of them.

    • Wow! You’ve given me a lot to think about. I love that. I have mixed feelings about Frank. I’ll definitely think on it. My father’s demon was also alcohol. I do have some good memories, but overall …..not so much. Thank you for commenting. Everyone I “talk” to has been so nice and interesting. Definitely my kind of people. I’m meeting Jennifer Veach tomorrow!

  6. Karen Govan

    I lost my father 7 years ago to Cancer and I miss him everyday. What I miss most though is the years that we did not get along. My childhood was not an easy one. When my dad married my mom he took on a widow with 5 children (3 of her own and 2 stepsons as her first husband also came with children) and then had 2 more children (my sister and I). I always wondered why my sister and I were treated differently then my other brothers and sisters. It caused many arguments in the family that my dad and most of his family did not accept my brothers and sisters. My grandfather (my dad’s dad) was the exception to that as he asked my brothers and sisters to call him grandpa, however my grandmother said that they were to call her Mrs. Govan. When I became a teenager there was a big feud in the family my father’s family turned on my mother and I always felt that my father did not do anything to protect her and by default us. It was not easy being told by an Aunt that my mother was a slut (she wasn’t). Anyways long story short by this time I was in my rebellious teens my father threw me out of the house but my mother said that if I had to leave the house then she was going too. As an adult I think back on this and realize I think that all of this stems from the fact that my father did not love my brothers and sisters so therefore I was trying to force him not to love me.

    I guess what I am saying that as much as Jamie loved all his children I also say that at least in William and Breeanna’s case they also had fathers (John and Frank) who loved and raised them well. A Dad does not have to be blood relations it can be anyone. I always follow the old age that anyone can be a Father but it takes someone special to be a dad. Anyways hope this makes sense.

    Karen

  7. K Brixner

    I love your insight into Jamie’s role as father. I always felt so bad for him, not being able to actually be In his children’s lives, giving them up to save them from harm. Loved the ending of MOBY, for no other reason than what it means to him and to Claire.

  8. Heather

    I loved this post! It actually made me cry to just read it and think about all those instances. While I was reading the book I remember feeling how hard it would be to never get to have those relationships. He suffered so much and was denied so much. I love the moment where Bree sees him for the first time before he knows who she is. And I’m very excited to see their reunion and hopefully more of William as well. He deserves as much!!

    ** I realize I am commenting on these waaaay after the fact but I just found your blog and I am enjoying it very much!!**

  9. You made me cry first thing in the morning! Another moment I always think of is when Jamie is standing in the window just to watch Bree and William together in the street. It was so emotional for him just to be able to see his children together. I so hope to see this little family get to reunite in the future.

  10. This one had me moved to tears again. Thank you! I lost my father 10 years ago. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but I sure wish he was still here. I can’t wait to read the next book from Diana. I’ve read the final few pages of book 8 oh….about 20 times! lol I think I’ll go read them again right now in fact!

  11. Katrina

    It is funny a lot of people will be asking whether in season 2 it is lighter or more happiness. Whilst through the book series there is much happiness of course. It breaks your heart in so many different ways over and over. Yet it is not depressing as such. The beautiful moments are just so satisfying it mends your heart.

    I mean and spoiler here
    *****

    if you just say 20 years apart. That is enough to think no how why. Let alone the rest.

    It was so sad about how Jamie has missed out on seeing his kids grow. But how happy he is they exist.

  12. chazak

    Beth, this is so moving and beautiful. Life hands us so many things out of our control, doesn’t it? What we do with those circumstances is what makes our lives. The ripple effects on others is what builds our legacies, for good or ill. Being able to look beyond our own needs, to make choices that are best for others and putting ourselves last is truly a parents’ job. No one leaves the hospital with a set of instructions! We are left with our own experience, our hopes and dreams and our prayers for guidance along the way. As a mother of three teenagers, I deeply appreciate my father more now than ever, and I have always loved him. A steady, loving, patient, hardworking man of great faith. Perfect? Certainly not, but pretty darn close! Married a similar man and striving each day to pay it forward.
    I love the character of Jamie…says worlds about Diana, I feel! His care of his children, both blood and heart is beautiful. I love his and Fergus’ relationship. I too, wish for a restoration of William and Jamie’s relationship. ..we’ll wait and see!
    As for your experience, as well as some of the commentators above, all I can say is that I pray for those wounds to heal completely, to have each of you feel the freedom of forgiveness (which you’ve stated you have ) and that there will be beauty for your ashes. No child deserves the hurt of others’ mistakes, be it intended or circumstantial. May Father’s Day find you all well and at peace.

  13. Linda

    This is such a lovely spot on description of James Fraser! You’ve touched my heart once again with several of my favorite parts of the books. People often wonder why Claire decided to stay with Jamie and later return to him 20 years later, but you need to read all the books to have a clear understanding of this man! Anyone would be proud to call him Father. I read these same passages to my husband and it brought tears to his eyes. There truly is a bond between Claire and Jamie that grows throughout the books, for many different reasons. Jamie is a beautiful man for many different reasons and Claire knows that, this is such a true love, that will continue to grow…as long as their hearts beat. Thank you, Beth Wesson

  14. Reading these thoughts from so many of “us”, it amazes me that we are talking about characters in books!! Goes to show that to US they are real people. We know them, we love them and we grieve with them. Diana gave us extra family.
    How thankful I am for all of you.

  15. I’m one of the ones crying 🙂 I’m currently visiting my dad for several weeks. He isn’t that well & I want to have an opportunity to put some things to rest. My step-mom never wanted me around so I have two brothers I don’t know (hers that dad adopted). She died 2 years ago and we still have a lot of pain between us. She was his wife, they were his family so he tended to side with them over me which has caused me a lot of pain.

    He also hasn’t quite dealt with the idea that I toed the family’s line growing up. I was never ME – always what was expected. That has changed in recent years – I don’t bow to all that anymore and he doesn’t quite know how to deal with it.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful thoughts. Jamie is indeed a wonderful example of fatherhood – maybe because he isn’t perfect though he wants to be for his family.

  16. Lizbeth

    Well, Beth, you did it again! You articulate your thoughts so clearly. You did say you majored in Eng, right? What grade level did you teach? Back to the story, SPOILER Alert——————— at least Jamie got a chance to be there for the birth of one or both of his grandkids & had an active hand in raising them. TY for helping us remember & appreciate how great a writer DG is.

  17. donnakaylc

    Beautiful, as always. I also loved it when Lord John gave Jamie the miniature of William and the emotion with which Jamie embraced LJ kinda freaked Claire out! Jamie and Fergus–*sigh*

  18. GGW

    Beth, I’ve been thinking about this all day. I read it this morning and had to think on it awhile (and mop up!) before replying. So many things that could be said. I think I’ll leave it at this: I have been exceedingly blessed to have a father that has ALWAYS been there for me. Even when he struggled with his own demons, I always knew how much my brother and I meant to him (the world) and that we had a unique and special bond. I never really viewed his parenting through the prism of OL before, but feel like my dad was the father Jamie would have been had he not been denied the presence of his children. Exceedingly blessed, indeed.

  19. Liz Bishop

    Beth, this is a wonderful piece that brought up a lot of emotion for me. I,too, had a difficult relationship with my dad. He was smart, funny, and private, but also dark and brooding at times….hard to get to know and jealous of the time my mom spent with me and my three sisters. He dreamt of becoming a writer, but had to set those dreams aside to provide for his family -and I think he always resented that. I’ve come to terms with the way he was as a dad; he was one that had a lot to work with, but maybe didn’t fully use those gifts in the raising of his children. I do love your perspective on Jamie as a father. Thank you for this.

  20. You write so beautifully it brings a lump to my throat. It’s as if you’re the addendum to Diana’s books. Please don’t ever stop.

    I enjoyed reading about your readers’ experience with their fathers. My own family situation is far too complicated to write about. I’ve had step-parents, step-siblings and all the other step-relatives that came with them. I’ve also had half-brothers and sisters, half-aunts and uncles, and so on. Amazingly, I have/had good relationships with all of them. Even my husband has no clue about who’s who. He just shakes his head and says, “As long as you know who your relatives are.” 🙂

  21. Jackie Campbell

    Beth, I knew there was a chord in your writing that told me we have much in common and the way you described your father was it! Same. You brought me to tears here.
    The scene where Claire tells Jamie about losing Faith makes me cry more than anything else. I also love the way he reacts to seeing Brianna’s photos and when he meets her. It makes me yearn at a gut level every time. Always yearning for that father love. God these books! No wonder we are all so obsessed. They are reflecting our deepest longings and fears. That Gabaldon woman, what a talent she has.

  22. Such a lovely essay you have written, Beth. Both my parents were only children, the most selfish and self-absorbed people I have ever met. I had to learn from my husband and his parents and family about loving and nurturing our 4 sons. So I can completely relate to what you have written. Have you ever read this Robert Penn Warren essay, written in 1986, “Why Do We Read Fiction”?

    http://oconnorjeng4ui.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/65669577/Why%20do%20we%20read%20fiction_Robert%20Penn%20Warren.pdf

    • Thank you so much for posting the Robert Penn Warren essay. I loved it.

      My husband and I were both only children and it was a big awakening for me when I went away to college and had to share a room, bathroom, meals and everything else with other girls. It was much the same for my husband only a bit earlier because he went away to a private boarding school at age 12. Both of those experiences saved us from growing up to be spoiled brats….I hope. 🙂

  23. I was fortunate to have a kind loving father but didn’t get to know that till late in our lives, but I finally did get to know him.

    Like you I treasure all those wonderful scenes with Jamie as a father. But to be honest, he approaches his fatherhood, the same as he tries to approach everything else – as a man of worth. This is the greatest gift he gives to his children more than anything else; the example of a man of worth a duine uasal.

  24. I was so lucky to have a loving, caring,considerate Father. I am sorry,Beth, that you did not, but you still seem to have overcome that with your beautiful soul. It always does hurt me that Jamie’s life has been so hard.

  25. S. A. Young

    I’m new to the books (only just finishing DIA), but I’m not afraid of spoilers. I’d been told about a lot of what this post is about by my two best friends who’d given up hope that I’d ever pick up the books. Now that I have (at long last – silly me), nothing will deter me from devouring every word – certainly not what may be considered spoilers. I say that just to tell you how moved I was by your post. As I read, tears in my eyes, one thing shone through: I can’t wait to read these scenes, to know the people I haven’t yet met whom Jamie loves so fiercely. Well done, Beth. Another wonderful post. Thank you.

  26. Vanessa

    I love this, nakes me what to believe that even though life csn be filled with hardships, there is still hope for a family and a man good and honest that can become a loving father…. A real father. I still hope is possible.

  27. Vanessa

    I love this, makes me want to believe that even though life can be filled with hardships, there is still hope for a family and a man good and honest that can become a loving father…. A real father. I still hope is possible. The character of what Jamie Fraser represents is a reflection of what a good and real man can become and I hope I can be a part of that. Hope it for all who wish it.

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