Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander is the story of Claire and Jamie, an unlikely couple from two different historical and social settings who found love in the most unlikely of circumstances. Claire and Frank, who spent the first seven years of their marriage separated by war, are on their second honeymoon in Scotland when the story begins. After visiting the sacred stones at Craigh na Dun, Claire is swept back in time to 1741 Scotland and encounters a band of Scottish Highlanders who abduct her to Castle Leoch, where she continues to care for one of their injured party, Jamie. Claire’s life at the castle is full of intrigue, Highland tradition, and espionage. In order to keep Claire safe from the sadistic British captain, Black Jack Randall, she is forced to marry young Jamie Frasier. Though she has come to respect Jamie for his honor and courage, she is against the marriage as she is already married to Frank, and knows she must escape back to the stones in order to return to her own time. After several failed escape attempts, one of which puts Jamie’s life in jeopardy, Claire begins to acknowledge her love for the young Scot while dealing with the guilt and betrayal these feelings evoke when contemplating her love for and marriage with Frank. When Claire opens up to Jamie about her past, he takes her back to the stones and tells her to return to Frank and 1945. Once presented with the option, Claire decides to remain in 1741 as she can not bear the thought of losing Jamie, as she is already suffering from the loss of Frank. Outlander is a tale of love and adventure, but the inner logic of the story brings to question ideals of masculinity and femininity, empowerment and fantasy, that lie at the heart of the story. It is more than just a story of love; it is a story of what that love represents.
In order to better understand the complexity of the choice that Claire made on that fateful day on Craigh na Dun one must first explore the two men behind her decision: Jamie and Frank and what sets them apart from one another even though they have many similar characteristics. To begin with, it is important to understand that Diana Gabaldon was writing Outlander in the last 80s and early 90s, therefore she is using two different but related historical masculinities in order to set up a contrast between the two masculinities, as well as a contrast between those two ideals of masculinity and the modern ideal of masculinity on display during the years of her writing. The contrast between Diana’s modern notions of masculinity and those she represents in the book and the extent of that contrast could be used to explain why Diana would return to earlier forms of masculinity for her writing. Not only does she set the bulk of her story in the eighteenth century, but further complicates gender ideals by also setting the story in post WWII Europe. Perhaps confusion over appropriate gender roles and masculine ideals that were found in the late 80s and early 90s led to the important question of ‘what is the ideal male’ and ‘how can I represent him?’ One can not diminish Diana’s choice to use the 18th century and post WWII in order to represent manly ideals through the characters of Jamie and Frank.
James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, Laird of Broch Tuarach
To begin with the obvious, Jamie is a Scottish Highlander, born in the eighteenth-century, and is characteristic of George Mosse’s ‘manly ideal,’ or the chivalric warrior. In his 1996 book The Image of Man, George Mosse sets out to define normative masculinity, or as he termed the notion, the ‘manly ideal.’ This masculinity was influenced by Greek ideals of beauty and grace, and “at the center…lay a renewed emphasis upon the perfectibility of the male body, which became an outward sign of a man’s moral superiority and inner strength of character” (Glover 59). Emphasis was placed on self-control, restraint, and discipline, and was greatly influenced by 18th century notions of masculinity. As Mosse argues, “masculinity was regarded as of one piece from its very beginning: body and soul, outward appearance and inward virtue were supposed to form one harmonious whole, a perfect construct where every part was in its place” (5). This was a high ideal to live up to, and became even more conflicted with the emergence of the New Woman after WWI who many thought threatened the existing ideals of masculinity.
As an 18th century Scottish Highlander, Jamie’s masculinity would have been influenced by a number of factors, including a quest for national unity and identity, ideals of progress and civilization, the patriarchal traditions of the clan-based society, elements of revived chivalry, and the refashioning of the gentleman as masculine. The romantic nostalgia surrounding the Scottish Highlanders and the Battle of Culloden that came out of the Romantic Movement can not help but influence modern notions of 18th century masculinity. The works of Sir Walter Scott, the Poems of Ossian, and any number of feature and documentary films surrounding the Battle of Culloden have helped to portray the 18th century Scottish Highlander as both tragic and heroic, the “noble savage” who was a “paragon of domestic virtue” as well as a warrior (Shields 922).
Early ideals of masculinity would have been based upon a warrior caste, yet by the 18th century a new ideal of masculinity began to emerge that combined the characteristics of the gentleman with elements of revived chivalry. Men were now distinguished by their civility and etiquette. Men of battle became men of conversation and pleasant manners. “Refinement is a keyword in many histories of the eighteenth-century masculinity,” as men’s ability to please others and make them feel easy became an important characteristic of a gentleman (Harvey 301). Elements of both restraint and gallantry abounded at the same time as characteristics of chivalric manliness such as bravery and loyalty. The use of chivalry as a manly ideal provided an opportunity to integrate national identity with ideals of progress, as “the male body was thought to symbolize society’s need for order and progress, as well as middle-class virtues such as self-control and moderation” (Mosse 9).
An element of restraint was a common characteristic of the ‘Polite Gentleman’ of 1660-1760. According to Karen Harvey, “the polite gentleman strove for restraint…was easy and thoughtful of others…[and] came from the middling sort, not the aristocracy” (302). This element of restraint is not only typical of eighteenth-century ideals of masculinity as it can also be found in post WWII ideals of masculinity where men like Winston Churchill “insisted that English masculinity was signified by a personal style rooted in bourgeois restraint and understatement” (Francis 649). Both Jamie and Frank, though separated by almost 200 years, exhibit attributes of restraint, although in different contexts. Frank’s restraint seems to stem from what he deems proper behavior for an English gentleman, while Jamie’s restraint appears more in line with chivalry. The characteristic of restraint will come into question again when analyzing Claire’s level of intimacy with both of her husbands.
From the start of their complex relationship, Jamie takes on the role of Claire’s protector. While Claire may be physically responsible for saving Jamie’s life from his battle injuries upon their first meeting, he never acts like an injured patient. He is instead stubborn and pig-headed, refuses to sit still, and displays characteristics of strength, honor, and protectiveness, as he tells Claire, “ye need not be scairt of me…nor of anyone here, so long as I’m with ye” (66). During the 18th century ideals of honor became “less a matter of public reputation and more a matter of individual conscience” (Harvey 303). With this honor came a strong sense of protection toward the weak and oppressed, especially a consideration for women, which was not uncommon among Scottish Highlanders who were viewed by some as “paragons of domestic virtue and familial affection, embodying all the social virtues most cherished by so-called civilized Britons” (Shields 922). If Juliet Shields’ argument is correct, perhaps Frank, the ‘so-called civilized Briton,’ and Jamie, the savage Highlander, where not very different after all.
After her first acknowledged intimacy with Jamie while nursing his battle wounds, an intimacy a WWII nurse would have been accustomed to avoiding, the next occasion Claire has to see her young patient is during ‘Hall’ the following evening. The young girl Laoghaire, one of Jamie’s many suitors, is brought before the ‘Hall’ by her father who demands she be punished for her loose behavior (behavior which remains ambiguous to the reader). Before the guards punish the girl, Jamie parts the crowd and offers to take the punishment for her, which is approved by the head of the clan, Colum. After his beating, Claire tracks down Jamie in the courtyard and asks him why he offered to take the punishment for a girl he admits to have never spoken to. Jamie’s response is simple, “it would have shamed the lass, to be beaten in Hall. Easier for me” (83). By offering to take the punishment for a young, albeit not necessarily innocent girl, Jamie emphasizes his own importance in the ideals of honor and chivalry, displaying as Julie Shields argues, that “Highlanders [are] the most courageous and compassionate of soldiers” (935).
Franklin Wolverton Randall, professional historian
If Jamie represented an example of Mosse’s ‘manly ideal,’ then Frank, a scholar born in the twentieth-century, is characteristic of post WWII ideals of masculinity, such as the self-disciplined family man and companionate husband. However, in conflict their ideals of masculinity, both men love the same post WWII New Woman, Claire. Both men are athletic, highly intelligent, and gentlemen in their own rights. Both men are attractive. And both give Claire the power of choice. But herein ends any obvious similarities between the two men. Granted, the character of Frank is not as thoroughly transparent as he is absent throughout most of the story, yet one can make a generalization regarding Frank’s masculinity based on the information supplied.
Ideals of masculinity “can take on human shapes most easily through the objectification of beauty” (Mosse 6). Claire’s descriptions of both men can be seen in terms of beauty. While Jamie is large, powerful, and fair, Frank is slender, lithe, and dark. Both men are athletic, though Jamie’s physique is similar to that of a conditioned warrior, while Frank has the build of a tennis player. Jamie towers over Frank’s 5’10’’ frame measuring in at approx 6’2’’. Jamie is both a Scottish gentleman and outlaw sought by the British while Frank is an officer and scholar of British birth. When it comes to Claire, age seems to play an important factor in the men’s treatment of both love and sex. Jamie at 23 is both younger than Claire’s 27 and Frank’s 38. Whether it is his age or a result of his upbringing, Jamie is a virgin upon first meeting Claire, but not only is he a virgin; he seems almost innocent at times. However, once his marriage to Claire is consummated, he has no reservations; he gives his whole self to Claire, body and soul. He is frank and open with her at all times. Conversely, Frank, who is obviously the more sexually experienced of the two men, is considerate and more skilled, yet he lacks the openness that Jamie so easily conveys. Frank is reserved and almost too polished at times. Jamie is the scarred and rough stone while Frank is the highly polished and smooth gem.
Both men, at least on the surface, seem secure enough in their self that they are willing to except Claire’s conflicted fidelity. For example, in the opening pages Frank assures Claire that any acts of adultery that may have taken place during the war are forgivable and he is willing to move past them. Likewise, Jamie, always aware of Claire’s first husband, is able to accept what Claire shared with Frank and brings new meaning to the nature of love and obligation. However accepting Frank may appear, he does apparently have his limits as he expresses some animosity towards the idea of adopting a child – “I couldn’t feel properly toward a child that’s not… well, not of my blood. No doubt that’s ridiculous and selfish of me…” (26). While Frank on the surface seems secure enough in his relationship to be able to except Claire’s possible infidelity he does not seem as secure in himself – “I want to keep you to myself. I’m afraid a child from outside, one we had no real relationship with, would seem an intruder, and I’d resent it,” which is a problem Jamie seems to lack (26).
Eighteenth-century ideals of masculinity, though different from those of WWI and II, did influence modern ideals of masculinity. In his book Image of Man, George Mosse argues that “modern masculinity helped to determine, and was in turn influenced, by what were considered normative patterns of morality and behavior, that is to say, typical and acceptable ways of behaving and acting within the social setting of the past centuries” (4). If this argument holds true, it could be argued that Jamie would have subsequently affected Frank’s ideal of masculinity. As stated, the men do have a few characteristics in common, but it could be argued their differences are directly influenced by the mind-set of their times.
If Claire had the British ‘New Woman’ in the background while growing up, then it can be argued that Frank was also susceptible to the influence of this post-war movement. In his book The Image of Man, George Mosse argues that the British flapper, or ‘New Woman,’ “by trying to look like a boy, was said to destroy the character of her sex and – one might add – that of the male sex as well” (147). If men were to view this ‘New Woman’ as a threat to their masculinity, what exactly about the ‘New Woman’ did 1920’s men find emasculating, and how could this ideal of femininity have influenced Frank as a child? Was it the female entrance into the workplace, their ability to vote, or was it something less obvious? “With her short hair, mannish clothes, and the cigarette dangling from her lips, [the New Woman] seemed to efface gender,” and this alone could threaten the masculine nature of British national identity and imperialism (Mosse 147). Would this threat to masculinity have been the cause for Frank’s ideal of masculinity as he became an adult?
Born in 1908, pre-war notions of masculinity may not have influenced Frank as would the great changes towards masculinity after the influence of WWI. As George Mosse argued “the masculine stereotype was created during a period of revolution and war…heroism, death, and sacrifice became associated with manliness (50). Knowing this, it is not hard to believe that notions of masculinity during WWI would have been militaristic in nature, with a form of hyper-masculinity that would have been common during the 18th century. The glorification of war, death, and manliness was common among writers and poets at the time and often influenced British movements such the Boy Scouts and the Boys Brigade. Yet at the same time as this hyper-masculinity was a fear in the threat the ‘New Woman’ played to British imperial pride. The battle between the hyper-masculine and the effeminate that played out in the years following the war may have influenced ideals of masculinity in both Frank and Claire as men faced the transition from soldiers to domesticated family men.
While married before the start of WWII, Frank’s masculinity seems to mimic that of post WWII notions of masculinity than the hyper-masculinity of WWI. The romantic languages of heroic masculinity suffered a blow after WWII as the reassertion of the domestic family man took center stage. Characteristics such as self-discipline and restraint were favored over those of strength and honor as nations sought to “rebuild a peaceful, traditional, and normative society that would erase the memories of the conflict” (Mosse 182). Yet with this push towards the domestic male one can not help but question whether this new ideal of masculinity was less valued than the previous ideals. According to Francis Martin, “the domesticated male…was accorded much less respect than his father’s generation had received” as the years following WWII sought to “emphasize the understated, self-deprecating, good-humored courage of the little man” instead (642, 647).
Would Frank fall into this category of the ‘little man?’ Frank is a scholar, a bookworm, a historian who gets lost in genealogy charts and ancient rituals. For some, this may make an attractive mate, but for a woman who spent her youth traveling to exotic and primitive places with her uncle, how could a woman such as Claire easily and comfortably settle down to the life of a scholar’s wife? While they had been married seven years prior to the start of the book, all but nine months of those seven years were spent away from each other, while Claire nursed injured and dying soldiers on the battle line. Even her wartime profession gave her power and a sense of danger and adventure. When she comes back home to her husband and attempts her first act as a professor’s wife while in the Vicar’s study, she fumbles and reprimands herself for not behaving ‘properly.’ If Frank is characteristic of the ‘domesticated male’ of post WWII how does one account for his questionable lack of consideration towards Claire? It could be argued that at times Frank seems inconsiderate to Claire’s interests as he becomes so focused on his work that all else seems not to matter:
“Perhaps we could come back later,” I suggested, still curious about the blue- flowered vine.
“Yes, all right.” But he had plainly lost interested in the circle itself.
“Frank was so absorbed in the tattered documents that he scarcely looked up when I entered the study.” (32,24)
Frank’s lack of consideration towards Claire brings to question the post WWII ideals of the companionate marriage, “in which teamwork and partnership were to replace unquestioned patriarchal authority as the basis of domestic life” (Francis 644). Perhaps Frank, like so many men following WWII, found the ideals of the companionate marriage hard to live up to; perhaps the same could possibly be said of Claire. If Claire also found the ideals of domestication hard to live up to, perhaps Tania Modelski is on to something when she argues “one of the great attractions of the rake was that he seemed to provide an exciting alternative to the staid domestic ‘pleasures’ which all god women were supposed to want” (19).
Eroticizing of male violence – The Warrior Hero
During a recent conversation with a friend of mine, the progress of my thesis writing came up for discussion. Since this particular friend had read Outlander and most of the following books in the series, I asked her why she thought Claire chose Jamie, and why as a reader she liked her decision. She had a few general suggestions but the one that caught me the most was “because he is a bad boy, and who doesn’t like a bad boy?” That led to the question – is Jamie really a ‘bad boy,’ or are modern notions of masculinity such that Jamie’s behavior would be deemed as bad? Of course he is powerful, manly, and can wield a sword like nobody’s business, but do those characteristics necessarily make him bad? Would a character like Jack Randall better represent what it means to be a ‘bad boy?’ He is attractive, polite, a rather smooth talker, but also a sexual sadist and possible sociopath – overall a bad man.
This is an incredibly complicated question. There is no denying that upon first meeting Jamie, Claire sees him as dangerous. After being kidnapped, she is forced into a strange home where she first encounters a very young Jamie who is sporting a rather nasty wound inflicted during a confrontation with British redcoats. After tending as best as she can to his wounds, Claire is forced into the saddle in front of her patient, and ridden off in the middle of the night, to both an unknown destination and an unknown fate. While Jamie appears to display a lack of civility towards Claire when he tells her if she does not get back into the saddle after momentarily stopping to rest the horses, that “I shall pick you up and sling ye over my shoulder” (52), it is an ironic statement as it is quickly obvious to both Claire and the readers that Jamie is more than he seems, as he “gallantly assum[es] the blame” when Claire’s stomach growled and then hands her a flask of whiskey to help with her stomach pains (53).
However, one can not disregard the fact that ideals of masculinity have indeed varied throughout the years, and during a violent time such as the years leading up to the Battle of Culloden in Scotland, violent men could not be judged by the same merits as men today; as argued by sociologist Michael Kimmel, “all wars…are meditations on masculinity” (72). Claire seems to realize this argument as she speaks with Jamie shortly after their first meeting, joking, “obstruction, escape, and theft…you sound a right dangerous character” (61). History has a violent past and this could account for the popularity of historical romance novels and their heroes. Do readers enjoy them because they remind us of our brutal past, or the reality of our present? Is the ‘bad boy’ historical romance hero no more bad than necessary for the time period? In the case of Outlander, the Scottish heroes of the story, including Jamie, must be able to live up to the violence of their time, a time of war, brutality, and injustice.
With that being said, Jamie does not necessarily fall into the typical warrior-hero mold of historical romance either. For starters, Jamie reinvents the romance of the virginal heroine by being a virgin himself. He is not sexually experienced as many historical romance heroes are, even though he is attractive and highly desirable to the women in the Castle of Leoch. Jamie’s lack of sexual experience has a deep influence on Claire’s own sexual awakening, as she experiences what it is feels like to be wanted both body and soul. As Williamson argues, “while [the hero’s] desire for [the heroine] might be strictly sexual at first, once the physical bonding takes place, sex is not enough; he must possess her heart and soul, even while he in turn becomes possessed” (130). This possession is all the more powerful because both Jamie and Claire had never experienced it before. Jamie gives his whole self to Claire – “seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own” (320). Claire never needs to tame Jamie or force him into opening himself to her; Jamie is always capable of expressing his emotions. He is a combination of the sensitive, modern man and the warrior-hero. While Jamie may be less sexually experienced than Claire, he is comfortable around women and capable of flirting:
“I apologized for hurting him, though he hadn’t moved or made a sound. He smiled slightly, with a hint perhaps of flirtation. “No worry, lass. I’ve been hurt much worse, and by people much less pretty.” (60)
Unlike Gothic novels where the good man is hard to detect, Jamie is a good man right from the beginning and seems to fall somewhere between the alpha and beta male, a hybrid warrior gentleman with manly characteristics of aristocratic honor.
The prototypical romance alpha male “represents patriarchal power in all its glory by being the richest, or the strongest, or the most beautiful, or the most masculine, and most especially, the most emotionally inaccessible man the heroine has ever known” (Frantz 2). The goal of the alpha male is to protect, whether this means society as a whole, or more generally the heroine, and to carry the burden of responsibility for his actions. One of the attractive aspects of the romance alpha male is the idea that while the hero gives off a tough-guy persona, he is ultimately emotionally driven, and in the end comes to rely on his heroine to complete him, such as Claire completing Jamie by rescuing his soul after his imprisonment. As Radway argued in her book, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature, what readers liked the most about their romance hero is when the hero recognized “his own deep feelings for the heroine and his realization that he could not live without her,” both physically and emotionally (76-77). Though Jamie tries to send Claire away while in France, it is apparent to both Claire and the readers that without Claire, Jamie is simply a shell of a man, who succumbs to fever and hallucinations after telling Claire to go back to Frank.
Another possible reason that the emotional alpha male has become such a popular plot device in romance fiction may have to do with medieval constructions of masculinity and chivalry, which are apparent in 18th century ideals of masculinity. According to Jeffrey Cohen, “gender theorists have argued that the identity we unreflectively assume to be our own does not arise from some central, determinate self, but is rather a collection of behaviors, expressions, and material signifiers in which we are dressed by the cultural moment that enables our coming into being” (Medieval Masculinities). The ideology of masculinity is then seen as one that is changeable, adaptive, and constructed by society. Theorists have found a close relationship between medieval masculinity and a heroic male identity. These medieval anatomic and physiological ideas established strict gender roles for each sex. “Though what constitutes manhood has varying definitions according to a society or culture or time period, the most simplistic way of defining it is as a triad: impregnating women, protecting dependents, and serving as provider to one’s family” (Bullough 34). Failing at any one of these tasks was both a direct threat to one’s masculinity as well as a sign of feminine weakness. Men were never to show an inclination towards a more feminine side, which would include weeping. A medieval hero was an embodiment of hyper-masculinity with impossible standards for ordinary men, thus a present day hero who shows he is more than just an alpha male, but capable of emotions, becomes that much more appealing.
As a reader of romance fiction, and a fan of emotional, alpha males, Frantz argues that the emotions of an alpha male serve a greater purpose than just to show that men are indeed capable of showing emotion. To Frantz, “the more barriers the man breaks through to express his love for the heroine, the more that expression of love can be trusted…if the hero has to overcome his very nature in order to express his love, that love is that much more valuable” (3). It is not enough for the male to verbally express his love for the heroine, but must take it one step further in order to prove his love, similar to the idea of a medieval knight taking up a challenge in order to prove their masculinity and manhood. Is it not enough that Jamie declares his love for Claire, but must give up his body to Black Jack Randall in order to save her and prove his undying love? Is it then the action of weeping that proves the emotion of love? Without the action can the emotion of an alpha male truly be trusted? And furthermore, do these particular actions of the alpha male align him more with the profile of a beta male, or in the case of Jamie, a hybrid alpha/beta male?
In popular romance fiction the beta male and alpha male are not all that different from one another. The beta male is attractive, strong, and confident, but with one striking difference from the alpha male – the beta male is often in touch with his feelings and has no problem expressing them. If readers were able to view a hero, who had all the positive characteristics of an alpha male (strength, dominance, protectiveness), and all the positive characteristics of a beta male (sensitivity and love of family), wouldn’t this be an ideal of the perfect male hero? Would Jamie, who seems to have all of the above characteristics, serve as an example of this perfect male hero? The ultimate appeal of the emotional alpha male could be that it is an attractive balance between the alpha and beta males and that this is the type of man readers are truly looking for. As Janice Radway argues, readers “prefer to see the heroine desired, needed, and loved by a man who is strong and masculine, but equally capable of unusual tenderness, gentleness, and concern for her pleasure” (81). This type of hero brings a deeper meaning to the ideal of intimacy between the hero and heroine.
Claire’s occupation as a nurse, especially a nurse during war time, would have prepared her for a certain level of distance when dealing with wounded soldiers. She would have understood the importance of being unattached and unemotional when dealing with patients, so from her first encounter with Jamie it would be an easy assumption to make that she would distance herself from him, treating him as simply a patient. But below the surface there is a strong level of intimacy between the two, more so than the level of intimacy the reader is shown between Claire and Frank:
I felt an odd sense of intimacy with this young Scottish stranger, due inpart, I thought, to the dreadful story he had just told me, and in part to our long ride through the dark, pressed together in drowsy silence…it was an act of trust to sleep in the presence of another person…if the trust was mutual, simple sleep could bring you closer together than the joining of bodies. (64)
Claire’s acknowledgement of this intimacy between herself and Jamie is further strengthened during her first night at Castle Leoch. While thinking of Frank she begins sobbing. Jamie takes her onto his lap and strokes her neck and back in an effort to calm her. He doesn’t leave the room or demand she stop crying, rather he nurtures her in a very loving way. This particular scene between Jamie and Claire conveys more intimacy and emotion than any of the previous scenes between Claire and Frank.
Though her first encounter with Jamie, while under duress, would fall into this ideal of distanced care, her subsequent encounters are questionable. After her first acknowledgement of the intimacy forming between her and Jamie, and her witnessing of Jamie’s honorable actions during ‘Hall,’ Claire seeks out Jamie’s company, under the guise of needing to remove his bandages and check his wounds. While there is no doubt that Claire is a talented and dutiful nurse, one can not help but question the real motives behind Claire’s desire to find Jamie, especially considering once she does find him, she spends their time together laying in the grass discussing Jamie’s past, and leaves without even checking his shoulder. As she is walking away she is “thinking about men who lived in cold and ate grass” and readers can already see her falling for this young Scottish outlaw, even if she may be oblivious to it, however, that is not to belittle Claire’s relationship with her first husband (89).
Frank was Claire’s first love. She had every intention of being married to him for life, as she is an extremely loyal and honest person. Claire knows that by staying with Jamie she is ultimately being disloyal to Frank. It is an act of betrayal, but one she makes out of love. Once Claire begins to realize the depth of her feelings towards Jamie, she is undoubtedly torn and feels shame and guilt:
No, it wasn’t usual at all. It wasn’t a simple infatuation, either, as I had first thought. Nothing could be less simple. The fact remained that I was bound, by vows and loyalty and law, to another man. And by love as well. I could not, could not tell Jamie what I felt for him. To do that and then to leave, as I must, would be the height of cruelty. Neither could I lie to him.” (328)
Claire is an unselfish woman. While she holds off on making a decision for some time after her last failed escape attempt, she realizes that what she is doing with Jamie, while necessary to remain safe, is wrong:
Despite the myriad uncertainties of life here, despite the unpleasantness of the ill- wish, despite the small, constant ache of missing Frank, I was in fact not unhappy. Quite the contrary. I felt immediately ashamed and disloyal. How could I bring myself to be happy, when Frank must be demented with worry? (338)
It is this guilt of being happy when she knows she is betraying both her heart and Frank that is the main barrier of the story, or as Pamela Regis argues, the forth narrative element of romance fiction, that must be overcome through the “point of ritual death” followed by recognition (14).
Claire’s decision to stay with Jamie reconciled the struggle to achieve a ‘balance of power’ between Jamie, Claire and Frank. As Jennifer Crusie argues, the “balance of power” must be achieved “so that the commitment that takes place at the end of the book is not a surrender but a pact” (Romancing Reality). When Jamie brings Claire to the standing stones, and gives her the power of choice, Claire’s final parting words to Jamie are not ‘I love you,’ as one might expect. Instead of further betraying both Frank and Jamie, Claire warns Jamie of the danger of the Jacobite uprising and begs Jamie to stay out of it. As Claire tries to reconcile her two marriages, her promises, and her duty to both her husbands, her decision seems to be made almost subconsciously:
A step, then another, and another, and before I even knew that I had decided, I was halfway down the slope, scrabbling wildly at grass clumps, slipping and falling…”why?”…”I had to.” (412)
No elaborate explanation. No poetic words. A simple answer – “I had to.” In that one moment next to the rocks, Claire faced her past, present, and future and accepted the power of choice that was given to her by the man she loves. She is resigned to the guilt she will always feel towards Frank, but has to live with the love Jamie has given her – “a balance of power defined by their own terms” (Romancing Reality).
Is the strength of the love between Claire and Jamie powerful and passionate enough to make her forget about her marriage bonds to Frank? Or perhaps, forget is not the right word – does it allow her to set aside one set of marriage bonds for another? It is clear that the love between Claire and Jamie is intense enough for them to risk their lives in order to save the other, but that does not assume to belittle her marriage to Frank. Claire and Frank clearly had a sexually open and pleasing relationship:
Frank waggled his eyebrows at me. “You’re supposd to moan ecstatically not giggle,” he admonished in a whisper. “She’ll think I’m not a good lover.”
“You’ll have to keep it up longer than that, if you expect ecstatic moans,” I answered. “Two minutes doesn’t deserve any more than a giggle.”
Inconsiderate little wench. I came here for a rest, remember?” (2)
Yet there is always a certain level of restraint that Frank abides by. As an outsider observing Claire and Frank during their ‘second honeymoon’ one can not help but question the intimacy of the couple. The ideal of companionate marriage was highly promoted following WWII as “social and cultural authorities sought to make marriage and the home more attractive to both women and men” (Francis 644). Perhaps this notion of ‘companionate marriage’ did not require the same levels of openness as previous relationships had. Even before their marriage, Jamie opens up to Claire in a way that makes the reader aware he has probably never opened up to anyone else in the same way. By showing Claire the scars on his back, Jamie brings a new level of intimacy to the relationship; he opens up completely, wounds and all, to a virtual stranger:
Involuntarily, I reached out, as though I might heal him with a touch and ease the marks with my fingers…I rested my hands at last lightly on his shoulders in silence, groping for words. He places his own hand over mine, and squeezed lightly in acknowledgment of the things I couldn’t find to say. (112)
For two people, one married, who met just a few days prior, to open up like that is a powerful scene, especially given the fact that Jamie goes out of his way to not show his back to any of the MacKenzie Clan, and suffers cruelly when he is forced to.
After her second interview with Jonathon ‘Black Jack’ Randall, Claire is forced by Dougal (Jamie’s uncle) to marry the young Scot in order to protect her from Randall, as an English officer can not take a Scottish prisoner unless there is significant evidence of wrongdoing. Claire rejects Dougal’s offer as “absurd” and “ridiculous” but one can not help but wonder whether her rejection of the marriage proposal is based on anything other than her loyalty to Frank. It has become obvious to those around her, and to the reader, that Claire has entered into a rather intimate relationship with Jamie, one that is questionable for a married lady. Later that night when she is contemplating Dougal’s offer she is anything but cold to the idea:
Yes, possibly marriage was the best way to gain my goal. That was the cold- blooded way to look at it. My blood, however, was anything but cold. I was hot with fury and agitation, and could not keep still, pacing and fuming, looking for a way out. (184)
The extent of her emotions seems to convey there is something below the surface, something stronger than even she may believe. She knows she is on the line, and any move may push her over. She is attracted to Jamie. She has developed feelings for him, and although she claims they are feelings of friendship, when she sees Jamie kissing Laoghaire she reacts questionably and in a way some may see as a bit jealous. It may take Claire some time before she is able to both realize and accept her love for Jamie, but fans of Outlander do not need as much time to appreciate all that Jamie brings to the ideals of masculinity and romance.
To modern readers, James Alexander Malcolm McKenzie Frasier seems an enigma of what an 18th century Scottish warrior may have been. As a female reader of romance fiction, am I meant to feel ashamed or guilty that I enjoy reading about a hero such as Jamie who uses his strength, agility, honor, and power to rescue the heroine in a time of distress? Does the fact that I enjoy reading about a hero who rushes in on a white horse to save the damsel make me antifeminist? Being rescued by the strong hero does not represent a lack of strength in the heroine, or the female reader who enjoys such situations. Rather I find the enjoyment of this plot device as empowering itself. As a woman it takes great strength to put both your life and your soul in the arms of another and ask them to protect and love you. Perhaps the story of Claire can be seen as empowering to a female reader. Not only does Claire physically rescue Jamie on two occasions (when they are set upon in the woods by robbers and from Wentworth Prison), and doctor his wounds on numerous occasions, but she also saves him emotionally and mentally from his submission and rape by Black Jack Randall during their stay in France. Claire heals Jamie’s body, mind, and soul which make her a pretty powerful heroine. As Jennifer Crusie argues, “romance fiction insists that women be front and center, demonstrating over and over again that women can solve their own problems” (Defeating the Critic). Not only do readers get to relish in the power afforded them through Claire’s physical strength, but also in the power given them by Claire’s decision. It is not Frank or Jamie who are given the power to decide if they want Claire, rather it is Claire who has the ultimate say in the matter.
However there is a fine line between choice and fate that is explored in the novel. While Claire ultimately chooses to stay with Jamie instead of going back to Frank, is it truly a choice made under the device of her own power, or is it simply her fate to choose Jamie? Before traveling through the stones, Claire has her palm read by Mrs. Graham while at the Vicar’s home. While looking at Claire’s hand, Mrs. Graham begins to furrow her brow which causes Claire to ask, “is my fate too horrible to be revealed” to which Mrs. Graham replies, “it’s not your fate is in your hand. Only the seed of it…the lines in your hand change, ye know. At another point in your life, they may be quite different than they are now” (22). Mrs. Graham then goes on to explain the division of Claire’s marriage line:
“It’s divided; that’s not unusual, means two marriages…It doesn’t mean anything’s like to happen to your good man. It’s only that if it did…you’d not be one to pine away and waste the rest of your life in morning. What it means is, you’re one of those can love again if your first love’s lost.” (23-4)
However, Claire’s marriage line is not simply divided, but rather forked; as she never really loses her first love so much as is separated from him for a time being.
Suppose the stones of Craigh na Dun serve as the crossroads of Claire’s fate – the meeting point of the two divided line – the fork in the road; the tallest stone itself is vertically split or forked into two halves. Suppose it was Claire’s fate to find herself standing at the crossroads, believing she truly loves two different men, and knowing that it was her fate to make a decision. Once she begins to recall certain sensations of her time-travel she begins to question whether she had “actually chosen to come to this particular time because it offered some sort of haven from [the] whirling maelstrom” of the travel (94). Does the use of fate in Outlander diminish the empowerment of Claire’s decision? It could be argued that fate only brought her to the head of the crossroads; it was her power of choice that made her turn left or right.
But how much choice does Claire really have? She tries to escape numerous times but ends up doing more harm than good. Is she an example of the “strong woman [that] seldom fares well, or if she does it is at the man’s expense, and thus at her own,” that Ann Douglas describes in her article “Punishing the Liberated Woman: Soft-Porn Culture” (25)? Ultimately Claire is never able to make it back to Craigh na Dun on her own in order to make a decision; she is only given that choice through the actions of Jamie. Jamie gives Claire the power to decide. Does this diminish the strength of the empowerment fantasy that Claire’s choice gives to female readers or even to Claire herself? The importance of being chosen conveys a notion of power for the choosier. As Kay Mussel analyzes the ideal of being chosen, she argues that “romances offer a vicarious fantasy or recapitulation of the exquisite moment of being chosen” (136). Does then power come with Claire’s decision – not just empowerment but physical strength? It is only after Claire chooses Jamie that she exhibits great physical strength as seen in her rescuing of Jamie from Wentworth Prison and the killing of the wolf. Perhaps it is Jamie’s love that gives Claire her physical strength. As Williamson argues, the hero “has fallen in love with the heroine because of who she is, because of the very heroic qualities that caused her to fall in love with him,” heroic qualities such as strength, courage, and honor (129).
By traveling back in time Claire makes a life for herself that includes power and respect. She has the heart and soul of a loving man who says what he thinks and does not hold back. She has the respect of those around her as she is able to take on the task of becoming the doctor of Castle Leoch which gives her a sense of empowerment – “to take responsibility for the welfare of others made me feel less victimized by the whims of whatever impossible fate had brought [her] here” (103). She is able to speak her mind while living a life of no barriers which could be seen as rather refreshing for a woman who prior to ending up in the 18th century was trying to be what she thought she was suppose to be according to societal standards. Claire doesn’t just sit in her sphere of domestication but rather makes her own sphere, her own story. It is her actions that bring her through the stones, her actions that bring her to Castle Leoch, her actions that require her to marry the young Scotsman, and her decision to stay. She is not one of the fairy- tale heroines who “were about waiting and being won…far from setting out on their won quests,” rather she is the anti-fairy tale heroine (Crusie, Scribbling Women). Claire’s quest changes her life and allows her to be rewarded for opening herself up to the power of the stones.
Interwar ideals of femininity
Claire’s quest ultimately began in 1918, the year that marked both the end of WWI and a time of interwar masculine and feminine ideals. While she was born in England, after her parent’s death she spent most of her youth traveling the country with her Uncle Lamb. Not being raised in England during this period may have influenced her lack of domestification which was a highly desirable quality to be found in women during this time. Magazines such as Woman’s Own (first published in 1932) and Good Housekeeping (British edition first published in 1922) were very popular during the interwar period in England, and could have been easily found in most homes. Claire would have spent the years after her parents death (approx. 1923-1937) traveling to such places as the Middle East and South America with her uncle therefore the domestication of Englishness that was so prevalent after WWI may not have affected her upbringing and therefore could explain her rebellious nature against the societal constraints put against her as a professor’s wife:
At first, everything had gone quite well on our visit to Mr. Bainbridge’s home the afternoon before. I had been demure, genteel, intelligent but self-effacing, well groomed, and quietly dressed – everything the Perfect Don’s Wife should be. Until the tea was served…Dropping the teapot was a perfectly normal reaction… It was my exclaiming ‘Bloody fucking hell!’ … that had made Frank glare at me across the scones…Frank’s attempts to excuse my language on grounds that I had been stationed in a field hospital for the better part of two years. “I’m afraid my wife picked up a number of, er, colorful expressions from the Yanks and such,’ Frank offered, with a nervous smile.” (10)
An interesting aspect to the nature of Claire is the argument that she serves as an example of a contemporary heroine – career minded, independent, rebellious, and spirited – to the point that she seems out of place in both 1741 and 1945. She has “traits and qualities traditionally reserved for the heroes in other types of fiction: honor, loyalty, integrity, courage, intelligence, and good old-fashioned grit” (Williamson 128). And she also has the complicated characteristic of saying exactly what she thinks at that particular moment as witnessed in the Bambridge incident. Even when in the year 1741, Claire struggles to filter what she says in order to be less inconspicuous. When doctoring up Jamie’s wounds upon first meeting him she yells “come back her, you…oh, you go-damned bloody bastard” while struggling with his bandage (54-5). Claire seems to fit the mold of the contemporary heroine who is both independent and aggressive (Crusie, Romancing Reality).
Could Claire and her short, unruly hair be seen as a representation of the ‘New Woman’? While Claire was only a child during the years of the British ‘New Woman’ or ‘flapper’ it is not hard to imagine that this particular feminine ideal may have affected Claire’s upbringing at the hands of her uncle. Her years spent traveling with her uncle show that she is a woman brought up to enjoy adventure. She is a woman who enjoys sex and love, and a woman who speaks her mind and stands up for herself even against those stronger than her. There is a wonderful scene shortly after traveling back in time that Claire reprimands a group of armed and presumably dangerous Scottish warriors who have just kidnapped her:
“Is it hurting now?”
“It is,” he said, shortly.
“Good,” I said, completely provoked. “You deserve it. Maybe that will teach you to go haring round the countryside kidnapping young women and k-killing people…” (56)
However there are problems with classifying Claire as a product of the ‘New Woman’ she would have been familiar with.
For one, the kidnapping of Claire by the Scottish clansmen could be seen as an attempt to put the feisty woman in her right place. A lesson such as when a woman attempts to step outside her constructed gender roles, she can face retribution at the hands of men. Even more complicated is the lack of a mother in Claire’s life. Claire was raised by her uncle, an uncle who would have been familiar with the New Woman movement or the British flapper. Could his fist hand knowledge of this type of femininity have influenced his raising of Claire? After the death of his brother and sister-in-law, Quentin Lambert Beauchamp (Uncle Lamb) is put in charge of Claire and promptly enrolled her in a proper boarding school for young girls. Whether he did this out of necessity because he did not want to be responsible for dragging a young child with him on his expeditions, or whether he truly believed the proper place for a young British girl was at boarding school where she would learn discipline and domestication can be debated. What is known for sure is Claire’s adamant rejection of such a future and Lamb’s dislike of conflict. His comment to Claire after she refuses to go to boarding school is interesting:
Uncle Lamb, who hated personal conflict of any kind, had sighed in exasperations, then finally shrugged and tossed his better judgment out the window along with my newly purchased straw boater.
“Ruddy thing,” he muttered, seeing it rolling merrily away in the rearview mirror as we roared down the drive in high gear. “Always loathed hats on women, anyways.” He had glanced down at me, fixing me with a fierce glare.
“One thing,” he said, in awful tones. “You are not to play dolls with my Persian grave figurines. Anything else, but not that. Got it?” (5)
While it may be a bit of a stretch, Lamb’s dislike of women in hats, his questionable belief in young girls playing with dolls, and his acceptance of Claire’s rejection of boarding school in place of traveling the world with him brings to mind the problematic nature of the British New Woman.
The family, as Michele Adams argues in her article “Boys and Men In Families: The Domestic Production of Gender, Power, and Privilege,” is “the main institution for both production and reproduction of polarized gender values” (233). It is not difficult to then understand Claire’s ideals of gender and gender relations. Claire does not seem to fall into the prescribed gender roles of her time. She does not abide by the notions of separate spheres. Granted, this was likely influenced by the addition of women into the work place during the war, however her upbringing with Uncle Lamb was also a powerful factor. “It is not just birth parents…who socialize children with gendered expectations, but also grandparents, extended family members…most studies find that grandparents, uncles, and other adult men are more likely to relate to boys than to girls, and demand more gender conformity from children” (Adams 235). Therefore it could be argued that Uncle Lamb’s influence on Claire was strong indeed.
The postwar period (the time that Claire would have been growing up with her uncle) for women was a time of great growth and change. Not only did women receive the right to vote, but the workplace saw a growth in the number of female workers. “Young women shortened their skirts, bobbed their hair, danced fast dances, drank and smoked, and petted in the back seats of motor cars” (Raub 120). After World War I “the ‘new woman’ came into her own and through her high visibility and appearance – as much as by her demand for equality- challenged all men (Mosse 147). She was sexually experienced and more keen to promiscuity than her parent’s generation. This idea of promiscuity comes up fairly early in Outlander and as is to be seen, was not as uncommon as some may suspect.
While on their second honeymoon Frank questions whether or not Claire had a lover in the six years they were separated by the war:
“It’s only…well, you know Claire, and it was six years. And we saw each other only three times, and only just for the day that last time. It wouldn’t be unusual if…I mean, everyone knows doctors and nurses are under tremendous stress during emergencies, and…well, I…it’s just that…well, I’d understand, you know, if anything, er, of a spontaneous nature…” (15)
Frank’s acceptance of Claire’s possible adultery is a common theme throughout Outlander and its’ subsequent books, yet one can not help but question his apparent lack of emotion to this situation. Was adultery after WWII more common than one may think? According to Claire Langhamer, “The post-war years saw a gradual shift in attitudes (toleration) towards adultery, reflecting the changing nature of the marital relationship across social classes” so it is possible to argue that Frank’s response to the strange man outside Claire’s window may not have been that uncommon (102). According to Roderick Phillips, “in England, adultery had been the ground alleged in 56% of the divorces granted in 1940, but it rose to 71% of divorces in 1947 when divorces peaked” (211). These statistics would led one to believe that wartime adultery was more common than adultery in times of peace, but perhaps not as acceptable, as “the percentage of divorces obtained by men increased” (Roderick 211). Yet what of Frank and his fidelity? Does his questionable acceptance of Claire’s possible adultery implicate a lack of fidelity on his part? There is no doubt that this very question crosses Claire’s mind later that night while “listening to his [Frank’s] regular deep breathing besides me, that I began to wonder. As I had said, there was no evidence whatsoever to imply unfaithfulness on my part. My part. But six years, as he’d said, was a long time” (16). Claire’s internal debate over this issue, as well as her guilt over her subsequent betrayal is what draw readers to her. As Tania Modelski argues, the popularity of romance novels and their heroines is “that they speak to very real problems and tensions in women’s lives” (14). Perhaps this gives the reader an opportunity to analyze these problems in the safety of their own home by identifying with the heroine. When we analyze issues of reader identification, we can not help but also look at reader attachment to both the hero and heroine.
Reader attachment – Hero or Heroine?
Could reader attachment to a romance hero be a product of 20th century ideals of masculinity? If, as Michael Kimmel argues, “American men were more confused in the 1980s that ever before,” does that confusion also encompass women (292)? Were women of the 80s just as confused as the men? And if so, what was a female’s ideal of masculinity and did Diana Galbadon’s representations of men fill this role? The year following the release of Outlander marked a time of change for the dynamics of masculinity. Instead of re-electing George Bush, whose fear of being viewed as a wimp left him knee deep in the Florida swamps trying to out-macho those around him, Americans elected a man “whose warm camaraderie with his contemporaneous running mate gave friendship a political valence, and a husband whose partnership-marriage with a career-orientated, savvy lawyer withstood publicly expressed difficulties” (Kimmel 298). However, this was a confusing time for men; all the more evident by the contradictory messages found in men’s magazines and self-help books. Fear of being seen as a wimp, or a “henpecked husband” as some came to view Bill Clinton, led to a “mythopetic men’s movement, which promoted a drum-beating, chest thumping return to wilderness” in order to reclaim some measure of macho masculinity” (Adams 242). It would be a naive assumption that these attitude shifts in men did not directly influence or affect the female population. However, how much influence do these shifting ideals of masculinity when put into the context of popular romance fiction have?
Popular romance fiction gives female readers an opportunity to leave any judgmental attitudes behind. They do not need to worry about men’s confusion or ever-shifting masculine movements. They can sit back and enjoy different representations of ideal masculinity in a non-judgmental atmosphere; in their own home with the company of their own mind. Perhaps this is what is most empowering for female readers — popular romance gives them a safe place to embrace their femininity without losing their strengths as it allows them to remain in their own private sphere. It allows readers to extract themselves from a time of confusing gender roles and just be. As Janice Radway argues in her “New Introduction” to Reading the Romance, the Smithton women “willingly acknowledge that what they enjoy most about romance reading is the opportunity to project themselves into the story, to become the heroine” (67). If this is true than it could be argued that readers are able to view the hero through a gender neutral lens, therefore leaving all preconceived notions of masculinity in reality.
Can the argument be made that there is a definitive answer as to whether the reader identifies with the hero or the heroine of a romance story? While author Laura Kinsale argues that the “hero carries the book” and the heroine is simply a “placeholder,” Janice Radway argues that the heroine is front and center in the story, “through which women try to imagine themselves at they often are not in day-to-day existence, that is, as happy and content” (32; 151). This notion that women who read romance fiction are not happy and/or content is ludicrous; however the point that the romance readers can identity with the heroine is valid. Linda Barlow argues that the romance reader is more likely to identify with the heroine, because it gives readers an opportunity to identify with a character who may have been lacking in power at the beginning, but who “cast[s] away her fears, fac[es] her demons, and tak[es] that actions that initiate her into her own considerable power” (48)
Whether the romance reader identifies with the hero or heroine is optional, what is interesting is how these individual identifications influence the readers’ sense of empowerment – physical, emotional, freedom of choice, and independence. For example, what sense of empowerment does a reader who identifies with the hero find? Does a reader who identifies with Jamie find as Laura Kinsale argues that they “can experience the sensation of living inside a body suffused with masculine power and grace” while “explor[ing] anger and ruthlessness and passion and pride and honor and gentleness and vulnerability” (37)? In the case of Jamie, a reader is able to vicariously take on the heroic qualities of an 18th century Scottish Highlander, whether the reader is male or female. Even more interesting is Jamie’s assessment of Claire, a post WWII ‘New Woman.’ Not only does hero identification allow the reader to view the heroine through the hero’s eyes, but also allows the reader to judge the hero’s assumptions of the heroine and the type of woman she represents. This is all the more interesting in the case of Jamie and Claire as readers are not only allowed to view Claire through Jamie’s eyes but are also able to analyze the type of woman she represents and how different that type of woman was to those of the 18th century ideal. Readers are able to see a clear picture of what a possible post WWII woman represented because Jamie’s judgments of Claire are not influence by modern ideals of gender.
Or are they? Is Diana Galbadon writing a commentary on what she thinks 18th century and post WWII ideals of femininity and masculinity were, which would make it difficult to argue would not have been influenced by modern ideals, especially those of the late 80s? If this is the case, does Claire then become a caricature of what a modern woman believes a post WWII ‘New Woman’ should be? And is so, does this diminish the perception of a hero identified reader? Jamie’s perception (and therefore the perception of a hero identified reader) of Claire and what she represents as a post WWII woman would be influenced by Diana’s modern perceptions of femininity and therefore may not be accurate.
And what of the female readers of popular romance fiction who find themselves identifying with the heroine? What fantasy of empowerment does this identification stir? Does the female reader identify with the heroine only as far as to “think about what she would have done in the heroine’s place” as Laura Kinsale argues, or is it much deeper than that (32)? Linda Barlow has argued that a female reader will identify with the heroine of a story because this encourages readers “to cope with [their] fears” while Suzanne Simmons Guntrum argues that the heroine identification allows the reader to “experience the broad range of emotions…associated with the roller coaster ride of falling in love” (49; 153). However this argument put forth by Guntrum could also apply to hero identification as she takes this into account. Perhaps readers who identify with Claire are given the opportunity to experience the heartache of betrayal and obligation. In the beginning Claire continuously second guesses and denies her true feelings for Jamie, ultimately punishing herself. Does the reader share in the anguish of this punishment?
Even before Claire makes the ultimate decision to stay with Jamie, and honor their marriage vows, she questions what Jamie’s idea of marriage was while he recants the story of Dougal and his wife Maura who lived very separate lives – Maura stayed on the estate, raising the children and taking care of the home, while Dougal stayed close to his brother Colum. Claire begins to wonder “whether this was Jamie’s idea of marriage; separate lives, joining only infrequently for the breeding of children” (328). Though Claire comes to realize that Jamie’s ideal marriage is very different from her assumption, one can not help but question whether this would have been Claire’s ideal marriage, or whether this would have been the ideal marriage of her time. The rise of ‘companionate marriage’ following WWII focused on communication and shared interests, yet still maintained the separate spheres of the gender roles, as Claire Langhamer argues, “the male breadwinner model persisted despite a growth in the number of married women workers and a discourse of marital ‘equality’” (90). Ultimately, Claire and Jamie write their own ideal marriage which conveys to readers that though not all marriages are perfect, happiness is possible even in the worst of circumstances.
According to Pamela Regis, “romance novels end happily. Readers insist on it. The happy ending is the one formal feature of the romance novel that virtually everyone can identify with” (9). In the case of Outlander, the end of the novel is not Claire’s decision to stay with Jamie, which actually happens at about the ¾ part of the novel, but rather Claire saving Jamie and overcoming the barrier of his rape and humiliation. However this is not the only barrier of the story. The first ¾ of the book cumulate when Jamie brings Claire back to Craigh na Dun and she overcomes the barrier of guilt and loyalty to her first husband by making the decision to remain with Jamie. The final ¼ of the book deals with the barrier that the actions of Jack Randall allow Jamie to put up. Once Claire is able to free Jamie from his own inner demons she in a very figurative way “cheats ritual death…and is freed to live. Her freedom is a large part of what readers celebrate at the end of the romance” (Regis 15). In the end Claire saves Jamie’s soul which he has already given to her, yet the rest is left open for interpretation when Claire says to Jamie,
“I have a gift for you”…he turned toward me and his hand slid, large and sure, over the plan of my still-flat stomach. “Have you, now?” he said. And the world was all around us, new with possibility. (627)
When analyzing one of the reasons readers may be fond of Claire’s choice to stay with Jamie instead of going back to her first husband, Frank, one can not discount the lack of emotional attachment readers may feel towards Frank. While Frank does seem to be a loving and caring husband to Claire, and there is no doubt of Claire’s loyalty and love of Frank, most of our view of Frank is through Claire’s eyes. The physical Frank is only a secondary player in this story; it is Claire’s feelings towards Frank that make up a major character. As readers we have Jamie, Claire, and Claire’s representation of Frank. It is obvious that a reader would feel a greater sense of emotional attachment to Jamie, therefore require the happier ending of Claire choosing Jamie – if she had made the other decision readers may have felt a sense of loss; as Regis pointed out readers require the happy ending (9).
Modern ideals of gender
One perspective of Diana Galbadon’s use of the 18th century and post WWII to represent masculine/feminine ideals is that it serves as a direct commentary of 1980s and 1990s gender roles. As stated earlier, it is an unlikely assumption that modern masculinity had no effect on Diana Galbadon’s writing of Outlander. Perhaps Jamie is the anti 1990’s weekend warrior. He doesn’t need to spend his weekends thumping his chest in the middle of the woods to reclaim his masculinity because he never lost it.
Diana has stated during interviews that it typically takes her two to three years to complete her novels. Since Outlander was published in 1991 a safe deduction could be made that she was probably writing the book during the years 1987-1990. While the book was being written during the years of George Bush and his macho-ism, the book was released just prior to the shift in American politics from macho to career couple. However critics have pointed out that the move did not last long as Clinton was quickly seen as the “henpecked husband hiding behind his conniving careerist wife’s business suit” (Kimmel 298). This shift in attitude may have attributed to confusion over manliness and masculinity. The years following 1992 became a time of different prescriptions of masculinity. Some men sought to “retrieve a lost manhood on a weekend retreat off in the woods where men beat drums and chant, initiate one another, and reclaim their ‘wild man’ or ‘inner warrior’ while others sought to “overturn the traditional definitions of masculinity all together, seeing in feminism or in gay liberation the possibilities of a new definition of manhood, a manhood based on compassion, trust, and nurturance (Kimmel 298). If anything can be argued it is that ideals of masculinity in the years following the release of Outlander were up for debate as “the structural foundations of traditional manhood-economic independence, geographic mobility, domestic dominance – [had] all been eroding” (Kimmel 298-9).
As Michael Kimmel questions in his 1996 book, Manhood in America, “where do men go to feel like men?” (309) If you are asking that question of men’s rights groups of the late 80s early 90s, then the answer would have something to do with “establishing the early nineteenth-century separation of spheres between women and men and by excluding from full manhood the ‘other’ men – men of color, gay men, non-native-born men – cling[ing] to the belief that a secure and confident gender identity is possible through the fulfillment of Self-Made Masculinity” (Kimmel 309). Would male readers of Outlander find the representations of masculinity written by Diana Galbadon as examples of what it feels like to me a real man? During the time of the early 90s contemporary masculinities argued that “American men and boys were becoming feminized…men are still wimps; they need to be rescued from the clutches of overprotective mothers, absent fathers, and an enervating workplace and need to rediscover themselves through a manly quest against a pitiless environment” (Kimmel 309). In Jamie, we have a man who was far from becoming feminized or being seen as a wimp, yet a man who openly displays his emotions.
Female readers of Outlander in the early 90s may have been surprised by the extent of emotion Jamie both displays and declares to Claire throughout the course of their turbulent relationship. As Michele Adams argues, men were always afraid of showing too much emotion and therefore being labeled as feminine. “Young men are encouraged to avoid displays of emotion” which can led to later problems in the marriage (238). Once these unemotional and independent young men have become married, their lack of emotions can cause marital problems. According to Michele Adams “one of the most consistent problems identified by women with respect to marriage is their husbands’ lack of communication and emotional expression” (241). If this same woman was to read about a man who has no issues with lack of emotion would she find this man to be her ideal mate?
What was the ideal mate of the 1980s? Was it the Kimmel’s representation of the ‘new man’? Though argued by many that the ‘new man’ was simply a marketing ploy which “constitute no real threat to the traditional gender order,” Rowena Chapman argues that “attempts to pass the new man off as pure media hype simply will not do…because it is clear that, in stereotypical form at lest, he exists (Handbook 281; Chapman 228-9). Could Jamie represent the ideal of the new man who is both a nurturer and slightly narcissistic? Jamie does not fit into the “narcissistic interpretation of the new man, with its stress upon style and personal consumption,” but he does bring into question ideals of patriarchy (Chapman 230). During the years Outlander was being written, “the concept of patriarchy [had] been subject to a great deal of searching critique, not least from feminists” (Tosh 45). As Tosh later argues, “hegemonic masculinity has proved to be a particularly sophisticated and adaptable development of some of the key ingredients of patriarchy” (45). This would bring into question notions of masculinity in the late 80s and early 90s. Was the ideal man one who prescribed to patriarchy? Would the new man fit this mold? Does Jamie, as a possible representation of the new man subscribe to patriarchy or is he simply a product of his time – or a representation of Diana’s time? Perhaps the character of Jamie is meant to represent all that the reader fantasies about when desiring a sense of empowerment from their male hero. As Claire states shortly after their marriage, “Jamie. Jamie was real, all right, more real than anything had ever been to me, even Frank and my life in 1945” (289) – perhaps Jamie is the real manly ideal.
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