It has been brought to my attention that I write about the characters in Outlander as if they were real people. I’d like to acknowledge this truth and maybe explain…if I can. First, I’m not delusional. I’m aware they are not real and totally the creations of Diana Gabaldon’s prolific imagination. Second, I think my ability to write about her characters as if they were real people could be seen as a tribute to her skill. She has written characters of such depth that she has made it possible to analyze their personalities. I’ve read some of what she has said about her writing process and I know that she “listens” to her characters. To say I am jealous would be a bit of an understatement! They speak to her and appear to act out of their own values and personalities. The more I write about her writing the more I understand how truly gifted she is and the more intimidated I become! It hasn’t stopped me from trying to write, but wow…just wow.
Diana posted an article I’d written about Claire and womanhood on her Facebook page (how totally freakin awesome is that?) I wrote about Claire being a wonderful example of a woman of worth and substance. Her acceptance of herself and all that means to her life is what I’m still thinking about today. Specifically, I’m thinking of her knowing she was meant to heal and her decision to become a doctor in a time when women just didn’t do that.
Anytime a women decides to do something as monumental and time-consuming as becoming a doctor they must consider the cost. They just do. Fair or not fair, women have biological clocks that have expiration dates. Many women who seek extremely time-consuming careers choose to delay starting a family or know their choice will leave them with precious little time to be with their loved ones. It’s a no-win situation for women, as both choices require a sacrifice.
I find when I read Diana’s stories it is easy to make parallels with real life. I have a cousin who obtained her dream job of being a college Sociology professor. Her husband worked in the world of business and finance. Like many of us they started a family and balanced parenthood with full-time jobs. Their second child was born and it soon became obvious that their newest had special needs and would require full-time care.
May we ALL..find a partner in life… like my cousin’s husband. I’m sure they had exhausted all options and had finally come to the conclusion that one of them needed to stay home with their child. When the time came to have “the conversation”, my cousin’s husband told her that he would stay home because, “I just have a job, but you have a job you love”. He understood the sacrifice would be too great for his wife. I can’t even imagine her relief and gratitude. In a society where a man’s job often defines him, this man chose to be a father and husband first. His insight into his wife’s needs and then…his actions based on that knowledge showed him to be a very wise man indeed.
In Claire’s case, she already has a child and a husband when she chooses to pursue her passion. Throughout the books, Frank is portrayed as the stereotypical 1950’s man. He has bought into the nuclear family status quo. He has every intention of bringing home the bacon and letting Claire fry it up in the pan. She is taking up a study of medicinal herbs as a hobby to fill the void of no longer nursing. We aren’t privy to any conversation that lead to this decision; we just know that it is true. Can you imagine Claire as a housewife only? Me either.
In Voyager, Claire has returned to Frank, but she has not returned to being the little woman. She knows she is meant to heal and this changes everything for her. Claire isn’t cooperating with the role to which she had been assigned. Instead, she is breaking the gender mold, pushing the envelope, and is wholly unapologetic. His wife has returned, but she is not the woman he went on a second honeymoon with to Scotland. Claire is there in the 1950’s, but she left her heart in the 1750’s.
Upon her return, Claire offers Frank a divorce, but they are Catholic and have a daughter (Frank gets mega bonus points from me for loving this child). Given the time period and Claire’s resignation to her loss of Jamie, and the fact that Frank isn’t a “Cad”, they stay together. I can only imagine Frank’s consternation and frustration.
Frank…I’m still not sure I’ve figured this man out. In my opinion, he is one of the most enigmatic characters in the series. I’ve run the gamut of dislike to pity to admiration with this man. And,…just when I think I understand him, Diana throws in a moment like the moment my cousins must have had…things have come to a boil and Claire and Frank have “the conversation”…
Claire is late coming home from the hospital…again. Fed up, Brianna’s babysitter leaves the child alone and Brianna goes looking for her mother. She is hit by a car. Thankfully, her injuries are not severe, but this close call causes Claire to question (I’m sure not for the first time) her decision to leave her child in the care of a yet another stranger while she pursues her medical degree. The cost has become too great and she tells Frank she is going to quit. He could have let her. He didn’t.
“I can’t stand leaving Bree, and not knowing if she’s well cared for-and knowing she isn’t happy. You know she doesn’t really like any of the sitters we’ve tried.”
“I know that, yes.”… he said, “But I don’t think you should resign.”
“Ah, Claire.” He spoke impatiently, but with a tinge of affection nonetheless. “You’ve known forever who you are. Do you realize at all how unusual it is to know that?”
…”No, I suppose not,” he said.
…”I haven’t got that, ” he said quietly at last. ‘I’m good, all right. At what I do– the teaching, the writing. Bloody splendid sometimes, in fact. And I like it a good bit, enjoy what I do. But the thing is–” He hesitated,then looked at me straight on, hazel-eyed and earnest. “I could do something else, and be as good. Care as much, or as little. I haven’t got that absolute conviction that there’s something in life I’m meant to do — and you have.”
He goes on to tell her that having her kind of passion is very rare and wonders if some people are born with that passion or just find it along the way. He also feels the need to warn her.
” But Claire–“…”They paid for it”…
Claire nods her head in agreement and feels the despair of failure. She believes she has made a mess of everything; her career, motherhood, and her role as Frank’s wife. And then, he does the last thing she expects, he says…
“I’ll take Bree.”
I’ve always been willing to give Jamie the benefit of a doubt. After all, he’s an 18th century man and we can’t expect him to have the same sensibilities as a modern man. So, when Jamie rises above his 18th century upbringing, we are in awe and love him for his open mind and heart. Why I can’t seem to cut Frank the same break is something I might want to take a closer look at. After all, Frank is a man of his time period as well. We admire Jamie for his ability to express what he feels. However, I was recently reminded that MOST men are unable to express their feelings as poetically as Jamie. That doesn’t mean they feel less. And, despite Frank’s stiff British upper lip and his 1950’s male perspective (remember when he thought Claire did nothing all day because she was home with the baby?) He seems to do the honorable thing…often.
I would love to say that his choice was made solely because of his love and understanding of Claire. That isn’t exactly the feeling I get when I read this scene. His wisdom seems tempered with reality rather than love. He knows Claire is meant to heal and recognizes that life will just be easier for them all if he just steps up to the plate…I think. But, there is another side of me that says no matter how the choice is presented, he still made the choice and allowed Claire to be exactly who she is. He overcomes his own 1950’s gender expectations and sensibilities. He loves her even if he does think she’s a pain in the arse. (sounds pretty familiar to me!) It’s not easy loving Claire! There is a price to be paid for passion and for loving a special woman. Frank’s wisdom in this situation should be a lesson to us all.