For week four we read the second half of part three. The first half was primarily about Claire and Jamie and their relationship growing and thriving, whilst getting to know each other, but also getting to know themselves. This section is also a lot about their relationship but explores different and somewhat darker themes.
Firstly, it is so refreshing to see the man in the relationship as the least experienced sexually. In many books, and other forms of popular culture too, often the girl or the woman is the least experienced and has to be guided by the man. Virginity is often portrayed as more sacred for women, and something to cherish for longer. Of course, Claire is not a virgin and we found out previously that Jamie is. At the start of this section Jamie asks Claire about what is normal, and how to approach certain situations, and it is so nice to see this kind of gender role reversal. Claire thinks no less of Jamie for being inexperienced, and Jamie is not intimidated by Claire’s previous sexual experiences. It’s strange that it takes a historical fiction novel to show this, but I love that about this novel. Gabaldon makes sure Claire is not afraid to act as the modern woman she is.
Outlander is funny. I don’t know why this surprised me so much, but I love Jamie’s sense of humour. Jamie makes jokes about men being made in God’s image and suggests that God Himself must also have a cock, because Jamie feels like God Himself when he is with Claire. Claire also jokes about hedgehogs making love carefully, a contemporary joke from the future. It’s so funny to see Claire’s modern thoughts on the old society and how she approaches humour.
We later see Rupert and the others giving Claire a self-defence lesson on how to use her dirk. Little did they know that it would come in handy so soon. Claire and Jamie take a break from the others and are getting busy when they are approached by redcoats and Jamie is held at gunpoint. Claire is forced to use her newly established skills to kill one of them as he tries to rape her. It’s great to see Claire wielding some power, but it was also really interesting to see how the struggle affected them both mentally. It seems Jamie is mad at himself for being unable to protect Claire. I think this encounter makes them both resent each other a little, and it takes a little while for them to talk about it and get over it.
Claire finally remembers that her plan was to plan an escape on this trip and does so when she is left alone in a copse. She doesn’t get very far until she is caught by the English and taken to Randall at Fort William. Randall also attempts to rape Claire – this shows just how women were treated in the eighteenth century – but good ol’ Jamie comes to the rescue with the great line “I’ll thank ye to take your hands off my wife.” We are also introduced to Randall’s “difficulties,” as Claire calls it. It appears Randall is only attracted to women if there’s a huge power struggle that he is controlling.
When they escape Fort William, and are back on the road, Jamie explains one night that Claire ought to be punished for going against her orders (she was told to stay in the copse). Claire and Jamie have a fantastic argument about her role and the ‘power’ he has over her as his wife. Claire yells “I am your property; it only matters to you because you think I belong to you.” You fucking tell him, Claire! As huge Jamie fans, what we want is for Jamie to declare that of course he was in the wrong, of course a man should never beat a woman, no matter what, and they kiss and make up. Alas, Jamie is a product of his time where women were socially and legally a man’s property, to do with as he liked. Unfortunately for us feminists out there, Claire could not beat him and she did succumb to his beatings. She didn’t let him completely get away with it however. She did fight him back, and made herself clear that it was to never happen again. Jamie eventually agrees and I take a sigh of relief. Thank goodness, Jamie!
We also hear about Jamie’s past a little more. We learn that when he was last at Fort William, Randall had offered Jamie two choices: to be raped or endure a second lashing. Though he admits to considering it, Jamie turns down Randall’s offer and accepts the lashing. We also find out that it is then that Jamie’s father died: watching him being beaten almost to death. Surely Jamie feels guilty for this.
At the end of this part they return to Castle Leoch. Claire worries that Jamie and Laoghaire have feelings for one another, and worries about Jamie’s motives for marrying her, that their marriage is a marriage only of convenience, and not of love. Jamie reassures her that their marriage was of course one of convenience but that there is far more to it than that. It ends with Jamie giving Claire a wedding ring, and her putting it on that hand that does not have her old wedding ring on. It just shows her love and devotation to Jamie, but also her devotation to Frank and unwillingness to forget him or let him go.