The aftermath of Wentworth….A theory.

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SPOILERS: DON’T READ IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHO LORD JOHN GREY IS!

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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!

He is a man and that is no small thing… Jamie

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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:

Comforting Claire:

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.

The spanking:

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.

Wentworth:

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.

 

 

 

Jamie brings Claire a posey (spoilers)

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imageOne of my favorite scenes comes late in the series.  The relationship between Jamie and Claire has long been established.  They have had the time to get through the  honeymoon period and have moved on to true married life. We get to see their love blossom and grow through the events in  their everyday lives.  Usually, we hear scenes through Claire’s thoughts and feelings, but every once in awhile Diana lets us hear what Jamie is thinking and feeling.

The scene I’m thinking of takes place on Fraser’s Ridge.  Roger Mac has collected flowers for Bree and Claire has told him it was very romantic.  With her comments fresh in his mind Jamie watches Claire from the edge of the woods.  She is busy with her “back home” routine hurrying to check out her precious garden.  Jamie looks about and sees the woods for their aesthetic beauty for the first time. He picks Claire a “posey”, a bouquet  of color from the woods.  He calls her name and presents her with his gift.  He is warmed and pleased by her response. As moved as I am by his reaction, I am more touched by Claire’s response to this poison ivy filled bouquet.  She treasures it!

As usual, I make connections with the events in  Outlander and my own life. This is one of the reasons I love the series; it is so relatable. This particular connection is also about posies. My husband, like Jamie,  is a leader of men.  His jobs have always involved making decisions for many and having people follow his guidance and instructions.  He was a football player (American style, big boy positions) and then a coach for over 30 years.  He is the “go to” guy for fixing things, building things or solving problems. People look up to him and everybody knows him.

One day in early summer, he showed up to the house with a very large bouquet of purple flowers.  I recognized the flowers. They were wild flowers that grew along the side of the road near our house.  Claire and I must have been struck by the same realization; my big burly manly man saw flowers  and thought of me. I can just see my husband noticing  the flowers, making the decision, parking his car and picking flowers by the side of the road for all the world to see. And, like Claire, I know he had me on his mind; not work, not responsibilities, me.

This “posey” is the one I remember.  This is the gift I treasure, not the dozens of roses or pieces of expensive jewelry that followed, but this lowly, lovely, loving bouquet. Like Claire, I know there will never be another “posey” quite like this one and I treasure its memory.