Gender, Fantasy, and Empowerment in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander

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My thesis for completion of a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at DePaul University, Chicago, IL.

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Gender, Fantasy, and Empowerment in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander

  1. 1. GENDER, FANTASY, AND EMPOWERMENT IN DIANA GABALDON’S OUTLANDER A Thesis Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts August, 2009 BY Melissa Ormond Department of Liberal Studies College of Liberal Arts and Sciences DePaul University Chicago, Illinois
  2. 2. Introduction Diana Gabaldons Outlander is the story of Claire and Jamie, an unlikely couplefrom two different historical and social settings who found love in the most unlikely ofcircumstances. Claire and Frank, who spent the first seven years of their marriageseparated 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 1741Scotland 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 castleis full of intrigue, Highland tradition, and espionage. In order to keep Claire safe from thesadistic 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 themarriage as she is already married to Frank, and knows she must escape back to thestones in order to return to her own time. After several failed escape attempts, one ofwhich puts Jamie’s life in jeopardy, Claire begins to acknowledge her love for the youngScot while dealing with the guilt and betrayal these feelings evoke when contemplatingher love for and marriage with Frank. When Claire opens up to Jamie about her past, hetakes her back to the stones and tells her to return to Frank and 1945. Once presentedwith the option, Claire decides to remain in 1741 as she can not bear the thought of losingJamie, as she is already suffering from the loss of Frank. Outlander is a tale of love andadventure, but the inner logic of the story brings to question ideals of masculinity andfemininity, empowerment and fantasy, that lie at the heart of the story. It is more than justa story of love; it is a story of what that love represents. 2
  3. 3. In order to better understand the complexity of the choice that Claire made on thatfateful 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 manysimilar characteristics. To begin with, it is important to understand that Diana Gabaldonwas writing Outlander in the last 80s and early 90s, therefore she is using two differentbut related historical masculinities in order to set up a contrast between the twomasculinities, as well as a contrast between those two ideals of masculinity and themodern ideal of masculinity on display during the years of her writing. The contrastbetween Diana’s modern notions of masculinity and those she represents in the book andthe extent of that contrast could be used to explain why Diana would return to earlierforms of masculinity for her writing. Not only does she set the bulk of her story in theeighteenth century, but further complicates gender ideals by also setting the story in postWWII Europe. Perhaps confusion over appropriate gender roles and masculine ideals thatwere found in the late 80s and early 90s led to the important question of ‘what is the idealmale’ and ‘how can I represent him?’ One can not diminish Diana’s choice to use the 18thcentury and post WWII in order to represent manly ideals through the characters of Jamieand 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. Inhis 1996 book The Image of Man, George Mosse sets out to define normativemasculinity, or as he termed the notion, the ‘manly ideal.’ This masculinity was 3
  4. 4. influenced by Greek ideals of beauty and grace, and “at the center…lay a renewedemphasis upon the perfectibility of the male body, which became an outward sign of aman’s moral superiority and inner strength of character” (Glover 59). Emphasis wasplaced on self-control, restraint, and discipline, and was greatly influenced by 18thcentury notions of masculinity. As Mosse argues, “masculinity was regarded as of onepiece from its very beginning: body and soul, outward appearance and inward virtue weresupposed to form one harmonious whole, a perfect construct where every part was in itsplace” (5). This was a high ideal to live up to, and became even more conflicted with theemergence of the New Woman after WWI who many thought threatened the existingideals of masculinity. As an 18th century Scottish Highlander, Jamie’s masculinity would have beeninfluenced by a number of factors, including a quest for national unity and identity, idealsof progress and civilization, the patriarchal traditions of the clan-based society, elementsof revived chivalry, and the refashioning of the gentleman as masculine. The romanticnostalgia surrounding the Scottish Highlanders and the Battle of Culloden that came outof the Romantic Movement can not help but influence modern notions of 18th centurymasculinity. The works of Sir Walter Scott, the Poems of Ossian, and any number offeature and documentary films surrounding the Battle of Culloden have helped to portraythe 18th century Scottish Highlander as both tragic and heroic, the “noble savage” whowas 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 bythe 18th century a new ideal of masculinity began to emerge that combined thecharacteristics of the gentleman with elements of revived chivalry. Men were now 4
  5. 5. distinguished by their civility and etiquette. Men of battle became men of conversationand 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 becamean important characteristic of a gentleman (Harvey 301). Elements of both restraint andgallantry abounded at the same time as characteristics of chivalric manliness such asbravery and loyalty. The use of chivalry as a manly ideal provided an opportunity tointegrate national identity with ideals of progress, as “the male body was thought tosymbolize society’s need for order and progress, as well as middle-class virtues such asself-control and moderation” (Mosse 9). An element of restraint was a common characteristic of the ‘Polite Gentleman’ of1660-1760. According to Karen Harvey, “the polite gentleman strove for restraint…waseasy 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 ofmasculinity as it can also be found in post WWII ideals of masculinity where men likeWinston Churchill “insisted that English masculinity was signified by a personal stylerooted in bourgeois restraint and understatement” (Francis 649). Both Jamie and Frank,though separated by almost 200 years, exhibit attributes of restraint, although in differentcontexts. Frank’s restraint seems to stem from what he deems proper behavior for anEnglish gentleman, while Jamie’s restraint appears more in line with chivalry. Thecharacteristic of restraint will come into question again when analyzing Claire’s level ofintimacy with both of her husbands. From the start of their complex relationship, Jamie takes on the role of Claire’sprotector. While Claire may be physically responsible for saving Jamie’s life from his 5
  6. 6. battle injuries upon their first meeting, he never acts like an injured patient. He is insteadstubborn 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 anyonehere, so long as I’m with ye” (66). During the 18th century ideals of honor became “less amatter 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 ScottishHighlanders who were viewed by some as “paragons of domestic virtue and familialaffection, embodying all the social virtues most cherished by so-called civilized Britons”(Shields 922). If Juliet Shields’ argument is correct, perhaps Frank, the ‘so-calledcivilized Briton,’ and Jamie, the savage Highlander, where not very different after all. After her first acknowledged intimacy with Jamie while nursing his battlewounds, an intimacy a WWII nurse would have been accustomed to avoiding, the nextoccasion Claire has to see her young patient is during ‘Hall’ the following evening. Theyoung girl Laoghaire, one of Jamie’s many suitors, is brought before the ‘Hall’ by herfather who demands she be punished for her loose behavior (behavior which remainsambiguous to the reader). Before the guards punish the girl, Jamie parts the crowd andoffers 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 offeredto take the punishment for a girl he admits to have never spoken to. Jamie’s response issimple, “it would have shamed the lass, to be beaten in Hall. Easier for me” (83). Byoffering to take the punishment for a young, albeit not necessarily innocent girl, Jamieemphasizes his own importance in the ideals of honor and chivalry, displaying as Julie 6
  7. 7. Shields argues, that “Highlanders [are] the most courageous and compassionate ofsoldiers” (935).Franklin Wolverton Randall, professional historian If Jamie represented an example of Mosse’s ‘manly ideal,’ then Frank, a scholarborn in the twentieth-century, is characteristic of post WWII ideals of masculinity, suchas the self-disciplined family man and companionate husband. However, in conflict theirideals of masculinity, both men love the same post WWII New Woman, Claire. Both menare 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 similaritiesbetween the two men. Granted, the character of Frank is not as thoroughly transparent ashe is absent throughout most of the story, yet one can make a generalization regardingFrank’s masculinity based on the information supplied. Ideals of masculinity “can take on human shapes most easily through theobjectification of beauty” (Mosse 6). Claire’s descriptions of both men can be seen interms 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’’ framemeasuring in at approx 6’2’’. Jamie is both a Scottish gentleman and outlaw sought bythe 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. Jamieat 23 is both younger than Claire’s 27 and Frank’s 38. Whether it is his age or a result ofhis upbringing, Jamie is a virgin upon first meeting Claire, but not only is he a virgin; he 7
  8. 8. 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 andopen with her at all times. Conversely, Frank, who is obviously the more sexuallyexperienced of the two men, is considerate and more skilled, yet he lacks the opennessthat Jamie so easily conveys. Frank is reserved and almost too polished at times. Jamie isthe 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 arewilling to except Claire’s conflicted fidelity. For example, in the opening pages Frankassures Claire that any acts of adultery that may have taken place during the war areforgivable and he is willing to move past them. Likewise, Jamie, always aware ofClaire’s first husband, is able to accept what Claire shared with Frank and brings newmeaning to the nature of love and obligation. However accepting Frank may appear, hedoes apparently have his limits as he expresses some animosity towards the idea ofadopting a child – “I couldn’t feel properly toward a child that’s not… well, not of myblood. No doubt that’s ridiculous and selfish of me…” (26). While Frank on the surfaceseems secure enough in his relationship to be able to except Claire’s possible infidelity hedoes not seem as secure in himself – “I want to keep you to myself. I’m afraid a childfrom outside, one we had no real relationship with, would seem an intruder, and I’dresent it,” which is a problem Jamie seems to lack (26). Eighteenth-century ideals of masculinity, though different from those of WWIand II, did influence modern ideals of masculinity. In his book Image of Man, GeorgeMosse 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, 8
  9. 9. typical and acceptable ways of behaving and acting within the social setting of the pastcenturies” (4). If this argument holds true, it could be argued that Jamie would havesubsequently affected Frank’s ideal of masculinity. As stated, the men do have a fewcharacteristics in common, but it could be argued their differences are directly influencedby the mind-set of their times. If Claire had the British ‘New Woman’ in the background while growing up, thenit can be argued that Frank was also susceptible to the influence of this post-warmovement. 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 hersex 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’ did1920’s men find emasculating, and how could this ideal of femininity have influencedFrank as a child? Was it the female entrance into the workplace, their ability to vote, orwas it something less obvious? “With her short hair, mannish clothes, and the cigarettedangling from her lips, [the New Woman] seemed to efface gender,” and this alone couldthreaten 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 ashe became an adult? Born in 1908, pre-war notions of masculinity may not have influenced Frank aswould the great changes towards masculinity after the influence of WWI. As GeorgeMosse argued “the masculine stereotype was created during a period of revolution andwar…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 9
  10. 10. militaristic in nature, with a form of hyper-masculinity that would have been commonduring the 18th century. The glorification of war, death, and manliness was commonamong writers and poets at the time and often influenced British movements such theBoy Scouts and the Boys Brigade. Yet at the same time as this hyper-masculinity was afear in the threat the ‘New Woman’ played to British imperial pride. The battle betweenthe hyper-masculine and the effeminate that played out in the years following the warmay have influenced ideals of masculinity in both Frank and Claire as men faced thetransition from soldiers to domesticated family men. While married before the start of WWII, Frank’s masculinity seems to mimic thatof post WWII notions of masculinity than the hyper-masculinity of WWI. The romanticlanguages of heroic masculinity suffered a blow after WWII as the reassertion of thedomestic family man took center stage. Characteristics such as self-discipline andrestraint were favored over those of strength and honor as nations sought to “rebuild apeaceful, traditional, and normative society that would erase the memories of theconflict” (Mosse 182). Yet with this push towards the domestic male one can not help butquestion whether this new ideal of masculinity was less valued than the previous ideals.According to Francis Martin, “the domesticated male…was accorded much less respectthan 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, abookworm, 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 10
  11. 11. exotic and primitive places with her uncle, how could a woman such as Claire easily andcomfortably settle down to the life of a scholar’s wife? While they had been marriedseven years prior to the start of the book, all but nine months of those seven years werespent away from each other, while Claire nursed injured and dying soldiers on the battleline. 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’swife 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 doesone account for his questionable lack of consideration towards Claire? It could be arguedthat at times Frank seems inconsiderate to Claire’s interests as he becomes so focused onhis 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 ofthe companionate marriage, “in which teamwork and partnership were to replaceunquestioned patriarchal authority as the basis of domestic life” (Francis 644). PerhapsFrank, like so many men following WWII, found the ideals of the companionate marriagehard to live up to; perhaps the same could possibly be said of Claire. If Claire also foundthe ideals of domestication hard to live up to, perhaps Tania Modelski is on to somethingwhen she argues “one of the great attractions of the rake was that he seemed to provide 11
  12. 12. an exciting alternative to the staid domestic ‘pleasures’ which all god women weresupposed to want” (19).Eroticizing of male violence – The Warrior Hero During a recent conversation with a friend of mine, the progress of my thesiswriting came up for discussion. Since this particular friend had read Outlander and mostof the following books in the series, I asked her why she thought Claire chose Jamie, andwhy as a reader she liked her decision. She had a few general suggestions but the one thatcaught me the most was “because he is a bad boy, and who doesn’t like a bad boy?” Thatled to the question – is Jamie really a ‘bad boy,’ or are modern notions of masculinitysuch 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 necessarilymake 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 andpossible sociopath – overall a bad man. This is an incredibly complicated question. There is no denying that upon firstmeeting Jamie, Claire sees him as dangerous. After being kidnapped, she is forced into astrange home where she first encounters a very young Jamie who is sporting a rathernasty wound inflicted during a confrontation with British redcoats. After tending as bestas she can to his wounds, Claire is forced into the saddle in front of her patient, andridden off in the middle of the night, to both an unknown destination and an unknownfate. While Jamie appears to display a lack of civility towards Claire when he tells her ifshe does not get back into the saddle after momentarily stopping to rest the horses, that “I 12
  13. 13. shall pick you up and sling ye over my shoulder” (52), it is an ironic statement as it isquickly 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 aflask of whiskey to help with her stomach pains (53). However, one can not disregard the fact that ideals of masculinity have indeedvaried throughout the years, and during a violent time such as the years leading up to theBattle of Culloden in Scotland, violent men could not be judged by the same merits asmen today; as argued by sociologist Michael Kimmel, “all wars…are meditations onmasculinity” (72). Claire seems to realize this argument as she speaks with Jamie shortlyafter their first meeting, joking, “obstruction, escape, and theft…you sound a rightdangerous character” (61). History has a violent past and this could account for thepopularity of historical romance novels and their heroes. Do readers enjoy them becausethey remind us of our brutal past, or the reality of our present? Is the ‘bad boy’ historicalromance 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 violenceof their time, a time of war, brutality, and injustice. With that being said, Jamie does not necessarily fall into the typical warrior-heromold of historical romance either. For starters, Jamie reinvents the romance of thevirginal heroine by being a virgin himself. He is not sexually experienced as manyhistorical romance heroes are, even though he is attractive and highly desirable to thewomen in the Castle of Leoch. Jamie’s lack of sexual experience has a deep influence onClaire’s own sexual awakening, as she experiences what it is feels like to be wanted bothbody and soul. As Williamson argues, “while [the hero’s] desire for [the heroine] might 13
  14. 14. be strictly sexual at first, once the physical bonding takes place, sex is not enough; hemust possess her heart and soul, even while he in turn becomes possessed” (130). Thispossession is all the more powerful because both Jamie and Claire had never experiencedit before. Jamie gives his whole self to Claire – “seems I canna possess your soul withoutlosing my own” (320). Claire never needs to tame Jamie or force him into openinghimself to her; Jamie is always capable of expressing his emotions. He is a combinationof the sensitive, modern man and the warrior-hero. While Jamie may be less sexuallyexperienced 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 rightfrom the beginning and seems to fall somewhere between the alpha and beta male, ahybrid warrior gentleman with manly characteristics of aristocratic honor. The prototypical romance alpha male “represents patriarchal power in all its gloryby being the richest, or the strongest, or the most beautiful, or the most masculine, andmost 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 awhole, or more generally the heroine, and to carry the burden of responsibility for hisactions. One of the attractive aspects of the romance alpha male is the idea that while thehero gives off a tough-guy persona, he is ultimately emotionally driven, and in the endcomes to rely on his heroine to complete him, such as Claire completing Jamie byrescuing his soul after his imprisonment. As Radway argued in her book, Reading the 14
  15. 15. Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature, what readers liked the most abouttheir romance hero is when the hero recognized “his own deep feelings for the heroineand 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 bothClaire and the readers that without Claire, Jamie is simply a shell of a man, whosuccumbs to fever and hallucinations after telling Claire to go back to Frank. Another possible reason that the emotional alpha male has become such a popularplot device in romance fiction may have to do with medieval constructions of masculinityand chivalry, which are apparent in 18th century ideals of masculinity. According toJeffrey Cohen, “gender theorists have argued that the identity we unreflectively assumeto be our own does not arise from some central, determinate self, but is rather a collectionof behaviors, expressions, and material signifiers in which we are dressed by the culturalmoment that enables our coming into being” (Medieval Masculinities). The ideology ofmasculinity is then seen as one that is changeable, adaptive, and constructed by society.Theorists have found a close relationship between medieval masculinity and a heroicmale identity. These medieval anatomic and physiological ideas established strict genderroles for each sex. “Though what constitutes manhood has varying definitions accordingto 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’smasculinity as well as a sign of feminine weakness. Men were never to show aninclination towards a more feminine side, which would include weeping. A medievalhero was an embodiment of hyper-masculinity with impossible standards for ordinary 15
  16. 16. men, thus a present day hero who shows he is more than just an alpha male, but capableof emotions, becomes that much more appealing. As a reader of romance fiction, and a fan of emotional, alpha males, Frantz arguesthat the emotions of an alpha male serve a greater purpose than just to show that men areindeed capable of showing emotion. To Frantz, “the more barriers the man breaksthrough to express his love for the heroine, the more that expression of love can betrusted…if the hero has to overcome his very nature in order to express his love, that loveis that much more valuable” (3). It is not enough for the male to verbally express his lovefor the heroine, but must take it one step further in order to prove his love, similar to theidea of a medieval knight taking up a challenge in order to prove their masculinity andmanhood. Is it not enough that Jamie declares his love for Claire, but must give up hisbody to Black Jack Randall in order to save her and prove his undying love? Is it thenthe action of weeping that proves the emotion of love? Without the action can theemotion of an alpha male truly be trusted? And furthermore, do these particular actions ofthe alpha male align him more with the profile of a beta male, or in the case of Jamie, ahybrid alpha/beta male? In popular romance fiction the beta male and alpha male are not all that differentfrom one another. The beta male is attractive, strong, and confident, but with one strikingdifference from the alpha male – the beta male is often in touch with his feelings and hasno problem expressing them. If readers were able to view a hero, who had all the positivecharacteristics of an alpha male (strength, dominance, protectiveness), and all the positivecharacteristics of a beta male (sensitivity and love of family), wouldn’t this be an ideal ofthe perfect male hero? Would Jamie, who seems to have all of the above characteristics, 16
  17. 17. serve as an example of this perfect male hero? The ultimate appeal of the emotional alphamale could be that it is an attractive balance between the alpha and beta males and thatthis 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 andmasculine, but equally capable of unusual tenderness, gentleness, and concern for herpleasure” (81). This type of hero brings a deeper meaning to the ideal of intimacybetween the hero and heroine.Intimacy Claire’s occupation as a nurse, especially a nurse during war time, would haveprepared her for a certain level of distance when dealing with wounded soldiers. Shewould have understood the importance of being unattached and unemotional whendealing with patients, so from her first encounter with Jamie it would be an easyassumption to make that she would distance herself from him, treating him as simply apatient. But below the surface there is a strong level of intimacy between the two, moreso 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 furtherstrengthened during her first night at Castle Leoch. While thinking of Frank she begins 17
  18. 18. sobbing. Jamie takes her onto his lap and strokes her neck and back in an effort to calmher. He doesn’t leave the room or demand she stop crying, rather he nurtures her in a veryloving way. This particular scene between Jamie and Claire conveys more intimacy andemotion than any of the previous scenes between Claire and Frank. Though her first encounter with Jamie, while under duress, would fall into thisideal of distanced care, her subsequent encounters are questionable. After her firstacknowledgement of the intimacy forming between her and Jamie, and her witnessing ofJamie’s honorable actions during ‘Hall,’ Claire seeks out Jamie’s company, under theguise of needing to remove his bandages and check his wounds. While there is no doubtthat Claire is a talented and dutiful nurse, one can not help but question the real motivesbehind Claire’s desire to find Jamie, especially considering once she does find him, shespends their time together laying in the grass discussing Jamie’s past, and leaves withouteven checking his shoulder. As she is walking away she is “thinking about men who livedin cold and ate grass” and readers can already see her falling for this young Scottishoutlaw, even if she may be oblivious to it, however, that is not to belittle Claire’srelationship with her first husband (89). Frank was Claire’s first love. She had every intention of being married to him forlife, as she is an extremely loyal and honest person. Claire knows that by staying withJamie she is ultimately being disloyal to Frank. It is an act of betrayal, but one she makesout of love. Once Claire begins to realize the depth of her feelings towards Jamie, she isundoubtedly 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 18
  19. 19. 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 timeafter her last failed escape attempt, she realizes that what she is doing with Jamie, whilenecessary 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 Frankthat is the main barrier of the story, or as Pamela Regis argues, the forth narrative elementof romance fiction, that must be overcome through the “point of ritual death” followed byrecognition (14). Claire’s decision to stay with Jamie reconciled the struggle to achieve a ‘balanceof power’ between Jamie, Claire and Frank. As Jennifer Crusie argues, the “balance ofpower” must be achieved “so that the commitment that takes place at the end of the bookis not a surrender but a pact” (Romancing Reality). When Jamie brings Claire to thestanding stones, and gives her the power of choice, Claire’s final parting words to Jamieare not ‘I love you,’ as one might expect. Instead of further betraying both Frank andJamie, Claire warns Jamie of the danger of the Jacobite uprising and begs Jamie to stayout of it. As Claire tries to reconcile her two marriages, her promises, and her duty toboth her husbands, her decision seems to be made almost subconsciously: 19
  20. 20. 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 onemoment next to the rocks, Claire faced her past, present, and future and accepted thepower of choice that was given to her by the man she loves. She is resigned to the guiltshe will always feel towards Frank, but has to live with the love Jamie has given her – “abalance of power defined by their own terms” (Romancing Reality). Is the strength of the love between Claire and Jamie powerful and passionateenough to make her forget about her marriage bonds to Frank? Or perhaps, forget is notthe right word – does it allow her to set aside one set of marriage bonds for another? It isclear that the love between Claire and Jamie is intense enough for them to risk their livesin 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 outsiderobserving Claire and Frank during their ‘second honeymoon’ one can not help butquestion the intimacy of the couple. The ideal of companionate marriage was highlypromoted following WWII as “social and cultural authorities sought to make marriage 20
  21. 21. and the home more attractive to both women and men” (Francis 644). Perhaps this notionof ‘companionate marriage’ did not require the same levels of openness as previousrelationships had. Even before their marriage, Jamie opens up to Claire in a way thatmakes 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 therelationship; 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 apowerful scene, especially given the fact that Jamie goes out of his way to not show hisback 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 forcedby 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 evidenceof wrongdoing. Claire rejects Dougals offer as “absurd” and “ridiculous” but one can nothelp but wonder whether her rejection of the marriage proposal is based on anythingother than her loyalty to Frank. It has become obvious to those around her, and to thereader, that Claire has entered into a rather intimate relationship with Jamie, one that isquestionable for a married lady. Later that night when she is contemplating Dougal’soffer she is anything but cold to the idea: 21
  22. 22. 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 anymove 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 kissingLaoghaire she reacts questionably and in a way some may see as a bit jealous. It may takeClaire some time before she is able to both realize and accept her love for Jamie, but fansof Outlander do not need as much time to appreciate all that Jamie brings to the ideals ofmasculinity and romance.Reader empowerment To modern readers, James Alexander Malcolm McKenzie Frasier seems anenigma of what an 18th century Scottish warrior may have been. As a female reader ofromance fiction, am I meant to feel ashamed or guilty that I enjoy reading about a herosuch as Jamie who uses his strength, agility, honor, and power to rescue the heroine in atime of distress? Does the fact that I enjoy reading about a hero who rushes in on a whitehorse to save the damsel make me antifeminist? Being rescued by the strong hero doesnot represent a lack of strength in the heroine, or the female reader who enjoys suchsituations. Rather I find the enjoyment of this plot device as empowering itself. As awoman it takes great strength to put both your life and your soul in the arms of another 22
  23. 23. and ask them to protect and love you. Perhaps the story of Claire can be seen asempowering to a female reader. Not only does Claire physically rescue Jamie on twooccasions (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 andmentally 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. AsJennifer Crusie argues, “romance fiction insists that women be front and center,demonstrating over and over again that women can solve their own problems” (Defeatingthe Critic). Not only do readers get to relish in the power afforded them through Claire’sphysical strength, but also in the power given them by Claire’s decision. It is not Frank orJamie who are given the power to decide if they want Claire, rather it is Claire who hasthe 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 ittruly a choice made under the device of her own power, or is it simply her fate to chooseJamie? Before traveling through the stones, Claire has her palm read by Mrs. Grahamwhile at the Vicar’s home. While looking at Claire’s hand, Mrs. Graham begins to furrowher brow which causes Claire to ask, “is my fate too horrible to be revealed” to whichMrs. Graham replies, “it’s not your fate is in your hand. Only the seed of it…the lines inyour hand change, ye know. At another point in your life, they may be quite differentthan they are now” (22). Mrs. Graham then goes on to explain the division of Claire’smarriage line: 23
  24. 24. “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 neverreally 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 – themeeting point of the two divided line – the fork in the road; the tallest stone itself isvertically split or forked into two halves. Suppose it was Claire’s fate to find herselfstanding at the crossroads, believing she truly loves two different men, and knowing thatit was her fate to make a decision. Once she begins to recall certain sensations of hertime-travel she begins to question whether she had “actually chosen to come to thisparticular time because it offered some sort of haven from [the] whirling maelstrom” ofthe travel (94). Does the use of fate in Outlander diminish the empowerment of Claire’sdecision? It could be argued that fate only brought her to the head of the crossroads; itwas her power of choice that made her turn left or right. But how much choice does Claire really have? She tries to escape numerous timesbut 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 AnnDouglas 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 inorder 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 24
  25. 25. empowerment fantasy that Claire’s choice gives to female readers or even to Claireherself? The importance of being chosen conveys a notion of power for the choosier. AsKay Mussel analyzes the ideal of being chosen, she argues that “romances offer avicarious fantasy or recapitulation of the exquisite moment of being chosen” (136). Doesthen power come with Claire’s decision – not just empowerment but physical strength? Itis only after Claire chooses Jamie that she exhibits great physical strength as seen in herrescuing of Jamie from Wentworth Prison and the killing of the wolf. Perhaps it isJamie’s love that gives Claire her physical strength. As Williamson argues, the hero “hasfallen in love with the heroine because of who she is, because of the very heroic qualitiesthat caused her to fall in love with him,” heroic qualities such as strength, courage, andhonor (129). By traveling back in time Claire makes a life for herself that includes power andrespect. She has the heart and soul of a loving man who says what he thinks and does nothold back. She has the respect of those around her as she is able to take on the task ofbecoming the doctor of Castle Leoch which gives her a sense of empowerment – “to takeresponsibility for the welfare of others made me feel less victimized by the whims ofwhatever impossible fate had brought [her] here” (103). She is able to speak her mindwhile living a life of no barriers which could be seen as rather refreshing for a womanwho prior to ending up in the 18th century was trying to be what she thought she wassuppose to be according to societal standards. Claire doesn’t just sit in her sphere ofdomestication but rather makes her own sphere, her own story. It is her actions that bringher through the stones, her actions that bring her to Castle Leoch, her actions that requireher to marry the young Scotsman, and her decision to stay. She is not one of the fairy- 25
  26. 26. tale heroines who “were about waiting and being won…far from setting out on their wonquests,” rather she is the anti-fairy tale heroine (Crusie, Scribbling Women). Claire’squest changes her life and allows her to be rewarded for opening herself up to the powerof the stones.Interwar ideals of femininity Claire’s quest ultimately began in 1918, the year that marked both the end ofWWI and a time of interwar masculine and feminine ideals. While she was born inEngland, after her parent’s death she spent most of her youth traveling the country withher Uncle Lamb. Not being raised in England during this period may have influenced herlack of domestification which was a highly desirable quality to be found in women duringthis time. Magazines such as Woman’s Own (first published in 1932) and GoodHousekeeping (British edition first published in 1922) were very popular during theinterwar period in England, and could have been easily found in most homes. Clairewould have spent the years after her parents death (approx. 1923-1937) traveling to suchplaces as the Middle East and South America with her uncle therefore the domesticationof Englishness that was so prevalent after WWI may not have affected her upbringingand therefore could explain her rebellious nature against the societal constraints putagainst 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... 26
  27. 27. 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 anexample 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 andqualities traditionally reserved for the heroes in other types of fiction: honor, loyalty,integrity, courage, intelligence, and good old-fashioned grit” (Williamson 128). And shealso has the complicated characteristic of saying exactly what she thinks at that particularmoment as witnessed in the Bambridge incident. Even when in the year 1741, Clairestruggles to filter what she says in order to be less inconspicuous. When doctoring upJamie’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 themold 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 ‘NewWoman’? 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 affectedClaire’s upbringing at the hands of her uncle. Her years spent traveling with her uncleshow that she is a woman brought up to enjoy adventure. She is a woman who enjoys sexand love, and a woman who speaks her mind and stands up for herself even against those 27
  28. 28. stronger than her. There is a wonderful scene shortly after traveling back in time thatClaire reprimands a group of armed and presumably dangerous Scottish warriors whohave 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 anattempt to put the feisty woman in her right place. A lesson such as when a womanattempts to step outside her constructed gender roles, she can face retribution at the handsof men. Even more complicated is the lack of a mother in Claire’s life. Claire was raisedby her uncle, an uncle who would have been familiar with the New Woman movement orthe British flapper. Could his fist hand knowledge of this type of femininity haveinfluenced his raising of Claire? After the death of his brother and sister-in-law, QuentinLambert Beauchamp (Uncle Lamb) is put in charge of Claire and promptly enrolled herin a proper boarding school for young girls. Whether he did this out of necessity becausehe 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 boardingschool where she would learn discipline and domestication can be debated. What is 28
  29. 29. known for sure is Claire’s adamant rejection of such a future and Lamb’s dislike ofconflict. 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 questionablebelief in young girls playing with dolls, and his acceptance of Claire’s rejection ofboarding school in place of traveling the world with him brings to mind the problematicnature 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 forboth production and reproduction of polarized gender values” (233). It is not difficult tothen understand Claire’s ideals of gender and gender relations. Claire does not seem tofall into the prescribed gender roles of her time. She does not abide by the notions ofseparate spheres. Granted, this was likely influenced by the addition of women into thework place during the war, however her upbringing with Uncle Lamb was also apowerful factor. “It is not just birth parents…who socialize children with genderedexpectations, but also grandparents, extended family members…most studies find that 29
  30. 30. 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 beargued that Uncle Lamb’s influence on Claire was strong indeed. The postwar period (the time that Claire would have been growing up with heruncle) for women was a time of great growth and change. Not only did women receivethe 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 andsmoked, 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 – asmuch as by her demand for equality- challenged all men (Mosse 147). She was sexuallyexperienced and more keen to promiscuity than her parent’s generation. This idea ofpromiscuity comes up fairly early in Outlander and as is to be seen, was not asuncommon as some may suspect. While on their second honeymoon Frank questions whether or not Claire had alover 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 throughoutOutlander and its’ subsequent books, yet one can not help but question his apparent lackof emotion to this situation. Was adultery after WWII more common than one may think? 30
  31. 31. According to Claire Langhamer, “The post-war years saw a gradual shift in attitudes(toleration) towards adultery, reflecting the changing nature of the marital relationshipacross social classes” so it is possible to argue that Frank’s response to the strange manoutside Claire’s window may not have been that uncommon (102). According toRoderick Phillips, “in England, adultery had been the ground alleged in 56% of thedivorces 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 commonthan adultery in times of peace, but perhaps not as acceptable, as “the percentage ofdivorces 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 fidelityon his part? There is no doubt that this very question crosses Claire’s mind later that nightwhile “listening to his [Frank’s] regular deep breathing besides me, that I began towonder. As I had said, there was no evidence whatsoever to imply unfaithfulness on mypart. My part. But six years, as he’d said, was a long time” (16). Claire’s internal debateover this issue, as well as her guilt over her subsequent betrayal is what draw readers toher. 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 thisgives the reader an opportunity to analyze these problems in the safety of their own homeby identifying with the heroine. When we analyze issues of reader identification, we cannot help but also look at reader attachment to both the hero and heroine. 31
  32. 32. Reader attachment – Hero or Heroine? Could reader attachment to a romance hero be a product of 20th century ideals ofmasculinity? If, as Michael Kimmel argues, “American men were more confused in the1980s that ever before,” does that confusion also encompass women (292)? Were womenof the 80s just as confused as the men? And if so, what was a female’s ideal ofmasculinity and did Diana Galbadon’s representations of men fill this role? The yearfollowing the release of Outlander marked a time of change for the dynamics ofmasculinity. Instead of re-electing George Bush, whose fear of being viewed as a wimpleft him knee deep in the Florida swamps trying to out-macho those around him,Americans elected a man “whose warm camaraderie with his contemporaneous runningmate gave friendship a political valence, and a husband whose partnership-marriage witha career-orientated, savvy lawyer withstood publicly expressed difficulties” (Kimmel298). However, this was a confusing time for men; all the more evident by thecontradictory messages found in men’s magazines and self-help books. Fear of beingseen 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 towilderness” in order to reclaim some measure of macho masculinity” (Adams 242). Itwould be a naive assumption that these attitude shifts in men did not directly influence oraffect the female population. However, how much influence do these shifting ideals ofmasculinity when put into the context of popular romance fiction have? Popular romance fiction gives female readers an opportunity to leave anyjudgmental 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 32
  33. 33. ideal masculinity in a non-judgmental atmosphere; in their own home with the companyof 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 theirstrengths as it allows them to remain in their own private sphere. It allows readers toextract themselves from a time of confusing gender roles and just be. As Janice Radwayargues in her “New Introduction” to Reading the Romance, the Smithton women“willingly acknowledge that what they enjoy most about romance reading is theopportunity to project themselves into the story, to become the heroine” (67). If this istrue than it could be argued that readers are able to view the hero through a genderneutral lens, therefore leaving all preconceived notions of masculinity in reality. Can the argument be made that there is a definitive answer as to whether thereader identifies with the hero or the heroine of a romance story? While author LauraKinsale 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 whichwomen try to imagine themselves at they often are not in day-to-day existence, that is, ashappy and content” (32; 151). This notion that women who read romance fiction are nothappy and/or content is ludicrous; however the point that the romance readers canidentity with the heroine is valid. Linda Barlow argues that the romance reader is morelikely to identify with the heroine, because it gives readers an opportunity to identify witha character who may have been lacking in power at the beginning, but who “cast[s] awayher fears, fac[es] her demons, and tak[es] that actions that initiate her into her ownconsiderable power” (48) 33
  34. 34. Whether the romance reader identifies with the hero or heroine is optional, what isinteresting is how these individual identifications influence the readers’ sense ofempowerment – physical, emotional, freedom of choice, and independence. For example,what sense of empowerment does a reader who identifies with the hero find? Does areader who identifies with Jamie find as Laura Kinsale argues that they “can experiencethe 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 andvulnerability” (37)? In the case of Jamie, a reader is able to vicariously take on the heroicqualities 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.’ Notonly 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 ofwoman she represents. This is all the more interesting in the case of Jamie and Claire asreaders are not only allowed to view Claire through Jamie’s eyes but are also able toanalyze the type of woman she represents and how different that type of woman was tothose of the 18th century ideal. Readers are able to see a clear picture of what a possiblepost WWII woman represented because Jamie’s judgments of Claire are not influence bymodern ideals of gender. Or are they? Is Diana Galbadon writing a commentary on what she thinks 18thcentury and post WWII ideals of femininity and masculinity were, which would make itdifficult to argue would not have been influenced by modern ideals, especially those ofthe late 80s? If this is the case, does Claire then become a caricature of what a modernwoman believes a post WWII ‘New Woman’ should be? And is so, does this diminish the 34
  35. 35. perception of a hero identified reader? Jamie’s perception (and therefore the perception ofa hero identified reader) of Claire and what she represents as a post WWII woman wouldbe influenced by Diana’s modern perceptions of femininity and therefore may not beaccurate. And what of the female readers of popular romance fiction who find themselvesidentifying 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 shewould have done in the heroine’s place” as Laura Kinsale argues, or is it much deeperthan that (32)? Linda Barlow has argued that a female reader will identify with theheroine of a story because this encourages readers “to cope with [their] fears” whileSuzanne Simmons Guntrum argues that the heroine identification allows the reader to“experience the broad range of emotions…associated with the roller coaster ride offalling in love” (49; 153). However this argument put forth by Guntrum could also applyto hero identification as she takes this into account. Perhaps readers who identify withClaire are given the opportunity to experience the heartache of betrayal and obligation. Inthe 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 honortheir marriage vows, she questions what Jamie’s idea of marriage was while he recantsthe story of Dougal and his wife Maura who lived very separate lives – Maura stayed onthe estate, raising the children and taking care of the home, while Dougal stayed close tohis 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 35
  36. 36. 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, orwhether this would have been the ideal marriage of her time. The rise of ‘companionatemarriage’ following WWII focused on communication and shared interests, yet stillmaintained the separate spheres of the gender roles, as Claire Langhamer argues, “themale breadwinner model persisted despite a growth in the number of married womenworkers and a discourse of marital ‘equality’” (90). Ultimately, Claire and Jamie writetheir own ideal marriage which conveys to readers that though not all marriages areperfect, 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 everyonecan identify with” (9). In the case of Outlander, the end of the novel is not Claire’sdecision to stay with Jamie, which actually happens at about the ¾ part of the novel, butrather 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 whenJamie brings Claire back to Craigh na Dun and she overcomes the barrier of guilt andloyalty to her first husband by making the decision to remain with Jamie. The final ¼ ofthe 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 readerscelebrate at the end of the romance” (Regis 15). In the end Claire saves Jamie’s soulwhich he has already given to her, yet the rest is left open for interpretation when Clairesays to Jamie, 36
  37. 37. “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 staywith Jamie instead of going back to her first husband, Frank, one can not discount thelack of emotional attachment readers may feel towards Frank. While Frank does seem tobe a loving and caring husband to Claire, and there is no doubt of Claire’s loyalty andlove of Frank, most of our view of Frank is through Claire’s eyes. The physical Frank isonly a secondary player in this story; it is Claire’s feelings towards Frank that make up amajor 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 otherdecision readers may have felt a sense of loss; as Regis pointed out readers require thehappy ending (9).Modern ideals of gender One perspective of Diana Galbadon’s use of the 18th century and post WWII torepresent masculine/feminine ideals is that it serves as a direct commentary of 1980s and1990s gender roles. As stated earlier, it is an unlikely assumption that modernmasculinity had no effect on Diana Galbadon’s writing of Outlander. Perhaps Jamie isthe anti 1990’s weekend warrior. He doesn’t need to spend his weekends thumping hischest in the middle of the woods to reclaim his masculinity because he never lost it. 37
  38. 38. Diana has stated during interviews that it typically takes her two to three years tocomplete her novels. Since Outlander was published in 1991 a safe deduction could bemade that she was probably writing the book during the years 1987-1990. While the bookwas being written during the years of George Bush and his macho-ism, the book wasreleased 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 quicklyseen as the “henpecked husband hiding behind his conniving careerist wife’s businesssuit” (Kimmel 298). This shift in attitude may have attributed to confusion overmanliness and masculinity. The years following 1992 became a time of differentprescriptions of masculinity. Some men sought to “retrieve a lost manhood on a weekendretreat off in the woods where men beat drums and chant, initiate one another, andreclaim their ‘wild man’ or ‘inner warrior’ while others sought to “overturn thetraditional definitions of masculinity all together, seeing in feminism or in gay liberationthe 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 inthe years following the release of Outlander were up for debate as “the structuralfoundations 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 domen go to feel like men?” (309) If you are asking that question of men’s rights groups ofthe late 80s early 90s, then the answer would have something to do with “establishing theearly nineteenth-century separation of spheres between women and men and byexcluding from full manhood the ‘other’ men – men of color, gay men, non-native-born 38
  39. 39. men – cling[ing] to the belief that a secure and confident gender identity is possiblethrough the fulfillment of Self-Made Masculinity” (Kimmel 309). Would male readers ofOutlander find the representations of masculinity written by Diana Galbadon as examplesof what it feels like to me a real man? During the time of the early 90s contemporarymasculinities argued that “American men and boys were becoming feminized…men arestill wimps; they need to be rescued from the clutches of overprotective mothers, absentfathers, and an enervating workplace and need to rediscover themselves through a manlyquest against a pitiless environment” (Kimmel 309). In Jamie, we have a man who wasfar from becoming feminized or being seen as a wimp, yet a man who openly displays hisemotions. Female readers of Outlander in the early 90s may have been surprised by theextent of emotion Jamie both displays and declares to Claire throughout the course oftheir turbulent relationship. As Michele Adams argues, men were always afraid ofshowing too much emotion and therefore being labeled as feminine. “Young men areencouraged 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, theirlack of emotions can cause marital problems. According to Michele Adams “one of themost 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 readabout a man who has no issues with lack of emotion would she find this man to be herideal mate? 39
  40. 40. Conclusion 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 ploywhich “constitute no real threat to the traditional gender order,” Rowena Chapmanargues that “attempts to pass the new man off as pure media hype simply will notdo…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 nurturerand slightly narcissistic? Jamie does not fit into the “narcissistic interpretation of the newman, with its stress upon style and personal consumption,” but he does bring intoquestion ideals of patriarchy (Chapman 230). During the years Outlander was beingwritten, “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 hasproved to be a particularly sophisticated and adaptable development of some of the keyingredients of patriarchy” (45). This would bring into question notions of masculinity inthe late 80s and early 90s. Was the ideal man one who prescribed to patriarchy? Wouldthe new man fit this mold? Does Jamie, as a possible representation of the new mansubscribe to patriarchy or is he simply a product of his time – or a representation ofDiana’s time? Perhaps the character of Jamie is meant to represent all that the readerfantasies about when desiring a sense of empowerment from their male hero. As Clairestates shortly after their marriage, “Jamie. Jamie was real, all right, more real thananything had ever been to me, even Frank and my life in 1945” (289) – perhaps Jamie isthe real manly ideal. 40
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