Frank….what’s a man to do?….

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Frank.  An enigma. I like him.  I dislike him.  But, do I understand him?  There is the challenge and I mean that literally.  Recently, one of my readers inspired me to take a closer look at Frank.  So, here I am trying to find some empathy. After all, to quote Jamie, if Claire loved him, “…he must have been a good man”.

Jamie has always been easy for me to understand.  I know what motivates him and sustains him.  We’ve had eight books and a lot of character revealing situations from which to draw that understanding.  I can write about Jamie, but Frank?  Up until this point, I just hadn’t thought too much about Frank and certainly hadn’t much to write about him.  I think it’s because Jamie and Claire seem to be meant for each other and that trumped everything for me including Frank. Actually, that might say something more about me than it does him.  But, why doesn’t Frank evoke the strong emotions I feel for some of the other characters?  Certainly some of his choices are to be admired; taking Claire back, loving Brianna….  but, he also might cheat and lie.  I’m not sure I’ve truly looked at the WHY of any of these actions!  Guess it’s about time I did.

Where to start? Hmmmmm. The beginning? No, makes too much sense.  That damn letter in the desk drawer?  It did help me understand why…naw.  Where did Diana reveal his character? What situation was so stress-filled that we saw the real Frank…..? Got it, …the night he died.  Not a very flattering portrayal that, but in his defense, what’s a man to do?  What’s a man to do with 20 years of knowing your wife loves someone else?

When I think of that particular icy night, warped things come to mind; intentions, plans, relationships, and love.  What started out straight and good and true becomes a twisted bumpy mess.  Frank and Claire chose to remain married in a situation ripe for a divorce. Their reasons? Complicated.  I wish I could say Frank stayed because he loved Claire too much to leave her.  I wish I could say Claire stayed because she still loved Frank.  I can’t.

You know what time and pressure do to a lump of coal, right?  A diamond.  Time and pressure left us no gems here.  What happens when feelings get suppressed? When time and pressure are applied to that suppression? Anger. Resentment.  Emotion doesn’t stay inside the skin.  Feelings can never be fully suppressed.  They find a way to come out and sometimes it’s sideways.  I think some sideways feelings got straightened out that night.

So, what did we learn about Frank the night he died? What did his behavior and words tell us about him as a man and a person? Well…I’M still troubled over the studied casualness in which Frank told Claire he was leaving her.  They were spooning for God’s sake!  That seemed pretty cold.  Did he think she really wouldn’t care? Or, that she didn’t care and his being casual was a defense mechanism.  Claire’s response to this matter-of-fact announcement was very telling, “this one must be really special”. And Frank’s response to her knowledge?  No apology. No remorse.  Some surprise.  “I thought I’d been discreet”, he pronounced.  So, urbane.  He then laid all the cards on the table and announced he was taking “his” daughter with him.

This pronouncement resulted in a shouting match between Claire and Frank. I get the feeling that this was the first time in twenty years that they had truly communicated their feelings.  Frank reveals his bigotry and jealousy.  When Claire denies having an affair with Dr. Abernathy, Frank doesn’t argue.  Deep down, I think he knows she is still the honest woman he’s always known her to be.  I think he was looking for a reason to blame her for his choices.  Claire then reveals that Frank’s infidelity hurt and that it mattered.  Frank speaks aloud the truth of it all, ” … not enough”….Not enough…. And he’s had enough. He’s had enough of waiting for Claire’s love to return to him. He’s had enough of finding solace and maybe revenge in someone else’s arms. He’s had enough of being reminded there is another man and damns Claire’s face that shows everything she feels.  He’s taking the only thing left to him.  The daughter he loves and I believe he thinks he’s owed, “you’re hardly ever home anyway”.  The tipping point of the whole evening is when Frank allows himself to be vulnerable enough to ask Claire if she could have forgotten Jamie.  She simply answers, “no”.  Finally, unable to avoid the truth, Frank leaves. In Claire’s defense, she told him the truth from the beginning.

So, what motivated them to stay together?  At first, I think Frank believed that Claire had been traumatized and as Claire said, “he wasn’t a cad”.  He didn’t leave her then because she was alone and pregnant and still his wife.  His identity as a man wouldn’t allow him.  And, I think he still loved her.  On the surface it seems very admirable.  But, I can’t stop comparing Frank to Jamie.

What would Jamie have done if Claire told him some wild story about time-travel and standing stones?  Oh wait, she did. The reactions were very different.  Frank’s reaction was disbelief, anger and a smashed vase.  Jamie, probably not able to believe this story anymore than Frank, reacted with compassion and a willingness to try.  But, once again Claire hasn’t left Jamie without an explanation. Once it became evident that Claire was sane, Frank became curious and began to investigate her story. After two found letters, the reader knows that Frank believed Claire enough to prepare his daughter for a possible future in the past and leave a gravestone where he knows Claire “might” find it.  He believes her story, but he never tells her that.  He knows the man Claire loves survived Culloden and that she might be able to return to him.  But…he doesn’t tell her…he’s afraid she’ll leave.  When Jamie finds out Claire’s story is true and there is a husband with a prior claim, he lets her go.  Despite loving her with all his heart…he lets her go.  Frank’s reaction is totally understandable, but it seems I may have been right in the first place. Frank’s biggest sin is that he is not Jamie.

At first, Claire stays with Frank because she is too depressed to care.  Without Jamie nothing really matters.  But, then comes Bree.  It becomes obvious that Frank loves Brianna.  Jamie is gone and after all, Claire loved Frank …once.  So, she stays and tries.  With a shared love of Brianna between them Frank stays and tries.  He tries, but, Frank isn’t Jamie.  In fact, I’m not sure Claire would have ever have been truly happy in a relationship with Frank. In a way, a way that matters, I think Frank’s modern sensibilities were more archaic than Jamie’s.  Jamie’s view of Claire as a woman and wife was much more open-minded.  Frank had beliefs about marriage, a woman’s place in that marriage and a woman’s place in the world that seem geared to keep Claire in her place.  I guess I never felt Frank truly understood Claire.  He tolerated what he saw as idiosyncrasies.  Oh, every once in awhile he surprised me with his insight, like watching Brianna while Claire went to med school.  But, he didn’t make this “sacrifice” for her.  He made it despite her. He was a smart man, he knew it would just be easier to give in.   Jamie wanted Claire to feel happy and fullfilled.  He loved her because of all of her idiosyncrasies.  He was proud of her, he fought for her right to be herself. Frank loved Claire, but wanted her to fill his expectations of her as the wife of a college professor.  I do have empathy for Frank. He wasn’t a bad guy. In fact, he was probably a great guy.  He certainly was a great father.  His intentions were good. None of what happened was Frank’s fault, he was a victim of fate. And after  all, Claire did love him, once.   I feel sad for Frank because he didn’t know that he never stood a chance against Claire’s love for Jamie.

Claire first cries over Frank the night he dies. She cries a second time for Frank in their bedroom on the cusp of returning to Jamie.  Trying to make sense of the sadness that was their relationship, she tries to say goodbye.  She realizes that they had said goodbye… twenty years before on the green hill of Craig Na Dun.

P.S. The response to this post has been amazing. Lots of discussion! It was brought to my attention that Diana had a few things to say about the topic (pages).  The biggest thing I took away from reading her response to the Frank question was that we only see things from Claire’s perspective. Her bias and possibly self-serving reasons for viewing Frank and his behavior as she does should be considered when talking about Frank. She said Frank is an honorable man and that we don’t know the whole story. So….keep that in mind!

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46 thoughts on “Frank….what’s a man to do?….

  1. annecolbert

    I agree. Frank couldn’t compare to Jamie, but a lot of that had to do with who Frank was as a person. He always wanted Claire to fit him and his life. You’re right that Jamie wanted whatever Claire wanted for herself because he loved her so. Unlike Frank, Jamie never felt threatened by Claire’s strength’s and abilities. Frank also never struck me as a warm person and I think Claire realized that when she found Jamie. I think she also realized that was the type of man she wanted and needed in her life.Also, Claire always knew where she stood with Jamie. They disagreed and fought, but cleared the air. Frank never was able to do it. Passive-aggressive describes him perfectly. Thanks for the excellent article that confirmed I am not the only one who thinks Frank couldn’t compare to Jamie not just because of who Jamie was, but because of who Frank was not.

  2. Jean Gobel

    Very interesting. I always liked Frank even with his faults. I don’t know if their marriage would have worked if Claire had tried harder. His letters were very revealing, too, of his feelings for Claire. No good answer to their problem…..

  3. In Outlander, when Claire and Frank are on their second honeymoon, Frank says that he would understand if Claire had found solace in someone else’s arms during the war years of their separation. Claire is affronted. Makes me think that Frank may have hoped that Claire had found solace, so he could justify finding his, perhaps?

    Frank is also 10 years older than Claire. They met when she was 18, just a girl, while he was already a worldly, sophisticated man. There already existed an imbalance in their relationship. This is not an imbalance that exists between Jamie and Claire – although remember that Claire had had to fight for herself with Jamie. She never had to fight for herself with Frank until she returned, depressed and pregnant. She only picked up the fight when she went to med school, and Frank was so admiring before the certitude she had that this was her calling.

    It’s hard to decide who had the greater flaw: Claire staying in this relationship when she kmew she could never love Frank like she loved Jamie, or Frank for not seeing earlier that he couldn’t make Claire love him with the innocence of their beginnings.

  4. Connie

    As I have come to expect, you made me consider much more than my own feelings on this relationship. Still deciding if I like Frank or not!

  5. I rather look at Frank staying on with Clare as:
    1) Honor. He could do nothing else. She was his wife and pregnant.
    2) He stayed on…after the first year or so, I think more for Brianna than Claire. I think the marriage would have ended if there hadn’t been Brianna in the mix. I think he knew he’d never compare to Jamie but he had hopes of a decent, respectful life. And she denied him even that with her reflective face.
    3) So of course, he took his revenge. He had his pride. He needed something to survive that toxic relationship for Brianna’s sake.
    4) While I know we can’t help it…but its unfair to compare Jamie and Frank and their reactions to Claire’s revelations and betrayals. B/c Jamie did not have to confront a wife who had abandoned him and come back pregnant with another man’s child and clearly in love with him. Although, how he’s (Jamie) taken Claire and Lord John Grey’s…liaison…is unique. But that could be age too. Would a 23 year old or even a 33 year old Jamie have reacted so circumspectly? I don’t think so. (As proven with King Louis)
    So yeah, unfair of us to compare the guys. They both made the best of their circumstances and dealt with life’s awful twists in the best and as honorable a way as they could.
    Why should have Frank forgiven Claire if she wouldn’t forget Jamie? If she had…or made a decent attempt to then yes, he also might have tried to forget. Forgiveness is a two way street, as is love.

    • I think we agree on most things. Yeah, haven’t even dealt with Claire’s unwillingness to try to forget Jamie. Thanks for your insight. I knew when I wrote this not everyone would agree. After the dust settles maybe I’ll think differently and write a retraction!

  6. Cristin Watts (@Cristin1234)

    Hmmm. All of these excellent debate points and still I have to wonder how things would have turned out for ALL of them if Frank (and Claire) had been born in more modern times. In their era open and honest back-and-forth communication between spouses just did.not.happen. Yes, of necessity Claire had told Frank what had happened to her and urged him to go but of course as a non-cad he would not. I have a feeling that that was the last open discussion they had on the entire situation and they both just kind of kept moving forward without bringing it up again. Very 50’s attitude, and very English as well. Frank, I am sure, meant well but as he had not been a monk he must have had dalliances while Claire was missing, and he also seems to be a man who is very susceptible to flattery from a woman, so he was just weak.

    • I’ve been recieving a lot of info that may cause us all to think a little differently of Frank. (DG says so) but I agree with what you said about the time era!

  7. Linda Mercer

    Frank was concerned about appearances how others would judge him not about the needs of others. When Bree stated that Daddy loved her and not Claire. Frank planning to take Bree away, because he couldn’t have children. Frank character was manipulative and self serving. No I couldn’t feel pity for Frank.

  8. Rita

    Wonderful article on Frank, very insightful and interesting. These are the things about DG’s characters, they’re all so deep. LOVE THAT. I also appreciate all the debate concerning Frank. Seeing him through other people’s eyes again, is just so interesting. Personally, I agree with Cristin, I think Frank was weak and he knew it. I think he was not only jealous of Claire’s love for Jaime but he was also jealous of Jaime, the man… a man with a depth of character that Frank could never compete with. Jaime the father, a father, something Frank could never become. I think Frank’s battle was as much with the ghost of Jaime the man as it was with Claire love for Jaime although that was most certainly the icing on the proverbial cake. I also agree with those who think Frank wasn’t a bad guy.. he wasn’t, he just wasn’t good enough…. not being “enough” of anything for Claire must have driven him mad.

    As crazy as this may sound I also wonder if Frank was actually glad Claire was gone. Maybe not in the beginning but later on. For some reason, and I need to reread, I believe Frank appeared underwhelmed when Claire returned. I wonder if he’d adjusted to life without her and now she was interrupting. Frank was always a bit off to me, distant, more into himself, his work. I wonder also if a younger Claire was smitten with the academic in Frank, his smarts a challenge to her intelligence. However, when Claire comes back she’s a different woman, older, more independent, more self confident, not so willing to be a second to Frank’s first but rather wanting to be a partner which she always was with Jaime.

    In the end there’s a part of me that feels for Frank. He’s a complicated man, which I love about DG’s characters, but he was also deeply selfish. It seems to me Claire was another trophy to Frank, a prize to compliment his accomplishments. I think he loved her but I think he also hated her at the same time. I don’t think either of them really worked at putting Jaime behind them and moving on as a couple. In that regard I believe Claire to be equally as selfish. Yet, she looked at Jaime’s face every time she looked at her daughter.

    The relationship was tragic on many levels for both Claire and Frank but for different reasons.
    Thanks everybody.

    • Yes, I hope I made the point that Frank was a victim of fate. And agree they could not get past Jamie! Thank you for your comments! Can’t believe this has generated this much discussion!

  9. Ellen Fout

    Claire loved Frank as a girl would love; she was only 18 when they married. Claire loved Jamie as a woman loves. I have always been struck by how Frank seemingly refused to let go of his image of Claire as his “young bride,” and accept her as the woman whom she clearly became with Jamie.

  10. You give voice to your thoughts brilliantly. I agree with almost all of it, but I’m having trouble putting my own words to where I have some slightly different feelings. I’m going to give it some thought, mull it over, and hopefully return when I have the insight to be able to explain my muddled thoughts. Thank you!

    • This was tough one for me. I kept picking it and putting it down. I’ve gain some new perspective SINCE writing it! Lots of opinions (including a DG one I didn’t know about)!

  11. Rita

    Bethwesson – you wrote an amazing insightful article on an interesting topic. Your skill is what generated all the discussion. Good for you!!! Can’t wait for the next article.

  12. I agree with Rita on this point Beth. Frank is a complex character, whose attitudes and actions leave room for any number of questions or interpretations. Thanks for sharing your point of view. It caused me to challenge and consider some of my own ideas about Frank.

  13. Michele

    After reading Frank’s letter I now think that his time in the intelligence service colored his behavior more than I realized. Behavior that seemed stiff and uncaring may have been wariness or it may just be that they were so conditioned to say nothing. And I wonder if his death was an accident.

  14. annecolbert

    I wouldn’t say that Frank was a villain either, but I don’t know that he was tragic. In some ways, it is another marriage where one of them falls in love with someone else, albeit not in another century, and that partner gets pregnant by her lover. Frank chose to stay in the marriage, but he was passive-aggressive and made Claire pay. Claire certainly was not faultless. Frank’s characteristics, personality, and morals were not the result of what happened. His controlling behavior of a young Claire, for example, may be contributed to the 1950’s, but Jamie didn’t feel compelled to abide by the times in his treatment of his wife, with the one horrible exception when he hit her.

    I wouldn’t say that Frank was a tragic figure or faultless, but rather that the situation was tragic

  15. Janet Fitzpatrick

    Interesting article …. When reading your article (and the comments that followed ) for the first time I was struck by the similar personal disasters of Frank and Laoghaire . Both characters started with high expectations and hopes of a exceptional relationship with a special someone; having that foiled and having to live with the loss; not being needed or wanted and yet still imagining a fantasy life that will never be yours and isn’t your fault. I understand their actions, I can imagine their pain … They were both people of their times …. They did what they did because they were foundering … Quite sad.

    • Thank you for reading. This topic was more difficult to write about than I anticipated. I’m still not sure I have it right. Already second guessing some comments about Frank expecting Claire to fill a role. Not sure this was anything unusual for the time.

      • Janet Fitzpatrick

        Beth you are right about things not being unusual for the times they were in. The stand out character who goes beyond the expectations of his time is Jamie.

      • Rita

        I do believe Frank is portrayed in the series as more sympathetic. I believe the book presents him differently. The series is awesome, don’t get me wrong I’m loving it. That said I have no expectations that the series will be filmed as exactly as the book is read. I believe that would be unfair to both mediums. Anyway, just sayin!!

  16. Going through and rereading some of your posts. Saw this one and had to comment (even if it is 2 years later lol)
    I’ve commented about Frank before on another of your posts, but feel the need to do so again. I agree with most of the comments that Frank wasn’t a bad or evil uncaring person, he was a product of his time, experiences, and unfulfilled dreams. He also wasn’t Jamie.
    There were problems in the marriage before she fell through the stones. Before the war, they were so enamored with each other they felt like it would last forever; but then the war separated and changed them. Neither of them were the same person after the war-the things they saw and did made sure of that-but they didn’t want to admit it. They wanted to pretend everything was the same and everything was OK. But it wasn’t. They had to re-learn who each other was but they never got that chance.
    Once she fell through the stones she had to grow and change again. She had to adapt to an impossible situation and fight to survive. She also had to fight her growing feelings for Jamie. With Frank she loved the idea of him; the memory of who he used to be. She never got to know who he was after the war. With Jamie she knew him. The real him. She also learned what it was like to be on an equal level with her partner and how to have open communication. They had problems, he had ideas of how women should act, but they both changed their thought processes and met in the middle. They were willing to put in the work.
    Frank didn’t do that. Frank didn’t understand her like Jamie did, and Frank wasn’t as open-minded about some things as Jamie was. That doesn’t make him a bad person, that just makes them a bad fit. Unrealistic expectations and lack of communication are the biggest reasons they couldn’t come together more than they did. I’m not saying they would’ve lived happily ever after (because I don’t think that was possible, even before Jamie) but they could’ve lived a happier and more peaceful life if they could’ve at least communicated.
    Frank’s biggest sin was that he wasn’t Jamie-he couldn’t love, accept, or understand Claire like Jamie did. He also couldn’t forgive. He did some of the things he did because he wanted Claire to hurt. He wanted her to feel what he felt. And in doing so, destroyed any chance of potential happiness. Claire wasn’t innocent-there were things she could’ve done better. But Frank’s passive-agressiveness made that hard.
    Wow! That was much longer than I meant for it to be, and I’m not sure if it made any sense at all lol. But I just felt the need to add my (very late) two cents worth! I hope you’re still doing well and I can’t wait to read your next post!

    • Just wanted to add this:

      I also don’t think Frank ever truly saw who she was when she got back. He still saw her and thought of her as the same person he married even though the war and the past changed her in so many ways. Instead of reevaluating her as a person, he tried to make her who she used to be. A relationship can never work if you can’t accept someone for who they are in the moment and try to place them into a mold of who you think they should be.

      Ok-I’m really done now! Sorry!

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