Sassenach

As you’ve gleaned most likely from my other posts, the Outlander series of books written by Diana Gabaldon is a favorite of mine. Today’s post is dedicated to Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser, the heroine of the Outlander saga.

In reality, the lovely and talented Caitriona Balfe is playing Claire in the Outlander Starz production set to premiere in the summer of 2014. Although Outlander is a story told in first person through Claire’s eyes, I believe the actress playing her has been slightly eclipsed by the actor playing her Scottish lover, Sam Heughan. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if Ms. Balfe was actually grateful for the respite before the storm, i.e. her rising stardom once the show airs.

Now, there may be several fans who read this blog  who may disagree with my opinion above, but I stand by it. It makes sense, after all, because the part of Jamie was cast early on and most of the fans are women (about 99% to be exact). Once the show airs, that number may drop to 80% because of Ron Moore’s male fan factor. He’s the executive producer helming the project and bringing the Outlander novels to full life. His Battlestar Galactica and Helix fans should help bolster that male count.

If you’ve never read the series, you should know Claire is a married combat nurse from 1945 who magically – mysteriously – astrologically – scientifically travels back to 1743 Scotland. You have to read the novels (all of them) to understand how and why she and only a few others are able to do it. But even after reading, you’re still left with a bit of chin scratching. If modern women today could figure it out, they’d be several disappearances reported in the Highlands.

Claire. What can we say about her? She’s smart. Resourceful. Brave. She has a head of hair with a waywardness about it. She’s handy to have around if your shoulder gets knocked out of joint or you need a nasty broadsword wound sewed up. She’s lost and out of place, out of time, but not out of her league.

One observation I’d like to make relates to The Greatest Generation. Civilian soldiers, doctors and nurses were born on the battlefields of World War II. Young people were faced with horrific decisions to take and to save lives. Not everyone was able to evolve into the kind of person he or she needed to be to survive and ultimately to win the war. Claire was one of the people who triumphed.

I believe it’s the main reason she is able to evolve and adapt to living in 1743. She has in her history, a childhood living with her Uncle Lamb – an archaeologist who travelled around the world and lived in a tent. While that experience certainly ingrains ‘roughing it skills,’ it’s her experiences from WWII that guide her to do the things she must in the 18th century – to endure, to aid, to adapt, and eventually to love.

Putting aside Jamie’s strapping good looks, his Highland regalia, and burnished hair that always seems to be captured in a ray of sunshine perfectly highlighting it, he is a man of an older century. True, he’s well-educated, has a unique upbringing, and possesses a power of restraint rarely practiced by men of his time or ours. But he is still old-fashioned and by no means ‘broken in.’

You could simply call their love – destiny, but Claire doesn’t fall in love with the impressive shell of the man. She falls for him ‘hook, line, and sinker’ with all his foibles, enemies, and legal troubles of which the man has several.

Discounting the dangers Jamie brings to the relationship, Claire comes packing with a metaphysical suitcase of her own. Most notably, her modern sensibilities interfere with their relationship – to the detriment of both Jamie and herself on more than one occasion, but that’s what makes the Outlander saga so thrilling. It is never an easy road for Jamie and Claire, and Diana takes them and the reader to unexpected places.

The following two poems, featuring stills from various sources, pay tribute to the complex woman of the series. Though she dons many roles from combat nurse, time traveler, witch, sister, herbalist, murderer to savior, I’ve selected her roles as wife and lover as my inspiration.

But no matter what role she takes on, one word sums her up best: Sassenach, a derogatory term used instead as an endearment.

A Season of Faces explores the sides of Claire as Frank Randall’s wife, from their loving relationship to their painful separation after she travels through time. Claire is left not knowing if she will ever see him again.

The many emotions of Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe).
The many emotions of Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe).

A Season of Emotions explores the journey Claire’s relationship takes with Jamie Fraser, from being first his captive to eventually a loving wife. It’s a tentative journey,  forcing her to let go of the past.

The many faces of Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe).
The many faces of Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe).

10 thoughts on “Sassenach

  1. I love it of course. Your observations on the issues her modern sensibilities cause both characters is spot on. Some fans often accuse her of being impulsive and I really wasn’t sure that was an accurate portrayal. I think is being out of time that colors her choices. Great job!

    1. Thanks, Beth. I think she survives much longer than a woman of the 21st century would have. I was going to make that point in the blog, but decided to leave it for another day!

      1. Really! I give an essay assignment to students during our readings on the holocaust. “If you didn’t know where you were going or how long what would you take if you could bring in a single bag of items?” Would they Survive? Not bloody likely

      2. I will argue that she is a bit impulsive at times and I don’t think that has anything to do with time travel. It’s just part of her personality to mostly act first and consider later. It’s a theme that continues through all the books. Jamie, at the point we meet him in Outlander, has mostly learned he can’t afford to do that.

  2. Very erudite as usual! The one thing I think the trailer doesn’t quite do justice to at the moment is Claire’s ability to take charge and cope. Understandable but I’m really looking forward to badass Claire.

    1. Agreed because they keep recycling scenes from earlier in the book/show, thus I had to ‘cheat’ with Claire’s Summer emotion in the poem. We’ll have to wait and see how Claire’s love scenes with Jamie differ from those with Frank.

    1. Thanks, Connie. Claire does gives as good as she takes, doesn’t she? Can’t wait for her character to shine and Caitriona’s career to soar once the show airs.

  3. “Claire. What can we say about her?”
    Candida — I hope you don’t mind…but I’ve memorized that paragraph & plan to quote it at every opportunity. …giving you credit of course 😉

    Wonderful blog…enjoying every post!

    1. Be my guest, Kate. I could have written a dissertation on the subject of Claire, but it is only a blog. I had to edit myself wa-a-a-y down to the basics. So glad you liked it enough to make a comment and memorize part of it!

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