Why Does Claire Still Wear Frank’s Ring?

This question has been asked many times… As usual the best (and longest!) answer comes from Diana herself.

“Q: Several of us read and reread the books, discussing them and trying to figure out why Claire and Jamie did what they did or reacted the way they did. We all have one question, though: Why was it so important to Claire to take back Frank’s wedding ring at the end of Drums? None of us would have taken it back! Can you explain what your thinking was on this point? Even given Claire’s history with Frank, her love for Jamie was so great, why would she feel the need to have any ring other than his?”

“A: I’m tempted to say that this is one of those things that you either see or you don’t see—but I’ll try to explain. Yes, Claire has history with Frank—a lot of history, and very mixed, in terms of joy and pain. He was her first love, her first husband, and when she married him, she did so with the full intention of being married to him for life. She is, after all, a very loyal and honest person. For her to have “left” him and chosen to stay with Jamie was an act of betrayal, and she knows it. Frank did nothing wrong; his only “crime” was not to be Jamie. You figure it’s fine to forswear your vows and run off with somebody else, just because they’re more attractive than the person you married? Claire doesn’t.

Granted, the circumstances were extremely pressing, and she had overwhelming reasons—emotional as well as physical—to do what she did, but it was betrayal, and the knowledge of it nags at her now and then through the two early books (remember her dreaming of Frank and the miniature portraits?). “Her feelings of guilt and her loyalty to Frank are what cause her to press Jamie not to kill Jack Randall, in order to save Frank’s life.

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Later, when she goes back, pregnant and emotionally shattered, it’s Frank who picks up the pieces and glues their life back together. He accepts Brianna fully as his own—which is not something that every man could do; he supports Claire in her decision to become a doctor, appreciating (even as he envies) her sense of destiny. This is pretty much the admirable behavior of an honorable man, and Claire both knows and appreciates it.

Now, in terms of their personal and sexual relationship… she abandoned him, and came back only by necessity, carrying the child of a man with whom she obviously remains in love. You figure this was easy for Frank to accept? He’s a man with a lot of compassion—but he’s very human. He makes repeated efforts at their marriage—and so does Claire—but the simmering rage at her betrayal is still there, underneath. Since he can’t or won’t admit the truth of her story, they can never discuss it fully, never resolve the situation; “Jamie Fraser is always the ghost that haunts their marriage. Small wonder if Frank takes lovers now and then—as either revenge, or simply as refuge.

Okay. So this is a difficult, complex relationship. The difficulties and guilts don’t mean that there is nothing of value between them. The love they once had for each other is still there, augmented and supported by their united feelings for Brianna, diminished and eroded by the memory of their betrayals of each other—but still a pillar, standing like a desert rock, twisted and shaped by wind and rain.

If Claire were capable of simply walking away from this sort of history and feeling, abandoning a huge piece of her life and identity, just because she was now in a different place… well, she wouldn’t be capable of loving Jamie in the whole-hearted way that she does. She wouldn’t be a whole person.”

“As it is, she’s now relieved of the guilt of her flawed relationship with Frank, and free to treasure the memory of its good moments. Jamie, being the whole-hearted person he is, is aware of this, and wants her to know that he’s able to accept the knowledge of what she shared with another man—the one thing Frank couldn’t do. This has something to do with the nature of love and the concept of obligation as part of love. While Roger is contemplating the issue explicitly “Love? Obligation? How the hell could you have love without obligation?” he wondered), Jamie and Claire are living it implicitly.

For her to refuse Frank’s ring, and essentially reject all he was, to deny the value of thirty years of a complex but valuable relationship—well, that would be both dishonest and petty. And neither Claire nor Jamie is small in mind or heart.”

Why Does Jamie Have To Suffer In Outlander

It’s a reasonable question. None of us (I hope!) don’t want to see Jamie suffer, so why is the book, Outlander, written that way?  Here is Diana’s response to this very question.

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   “ One of my male readers, a book reviewer, recently sent me a message on Twitter, saying that he’d just finished reading OUTLANDER and enjoyed it a lot “until the prison chapters.”  I tweeted back that I’d be kind of worried about him if he’d _enjoyed_ the Wentworth Prison part, to which he said, “but why put our hero through such pain and suffering? :)”, adding in the next, “I know I’m late to the #Outlander party & you’ve probably already addressed this; but that was intense emotional, physical pain.”

My first impulse was to reply, “Well, _yeah_…”—but it was a serious question, and deserved a real answer, which took some thought.

The simple answer is just that that’s what I saw happening.   That’s not really a satisfactory answer for a reader, though.  I “see” things happening, because the subconscious part of my mind is digging things out of the compost and shipping them up into my visual cortex.  The waybill with the tracking number comes along much later—and only if I look for it.

(Let me make a brief distinction here about the components of writing.  There’s What Happens, and there’s How You Get It On The Page.   “How” is the craft part of writing:  How do I convey a sense of action, of tension, of tenderness, of curiosity, of awe?  How do I make people turn the page?  (An important consideration, if you tend to write books with a lot of pages…) How do I explain?

Now, the craft part—the actual putting of words on the page—that’s pretty conscious; it has to be.  You’re making a million (not exaggerating) decisions on every page.   Whose viewpoint is this?  Where are we?  What time of day is it?  Who’s speaking here?  What do they sound like?  Does what this person said make sense?  That chair over there—should it be a chair?  Ought it perhaps to be a low stool?  Or a nursing chair?  Someone just kicked it…ought it to break when it hits the wall?  Did the person who kicked it hurt his foot?  What did he say ¬then?   The chair/stool made a dent in the wall, shall I mention that?  No, it will interfere with the person who’s laughing at him…are they convulsed with mirth?  No, too much, are they going pink in the face with the effort not to laugh?  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, to quote the King of Siam.

But what happens is often not conscious at all.  I saw a man, obviously exasperated beyond bearing, kick a stool with great force.  What exasperated him?  Who is the person laughing at him?  Are they doing so derisively, or are they supportive of him, but can’t help being amused by his frustration?   Those are all “What Happened?” sorts of questions, and are largely being answered as I write, again by the non-verbal subconscious.)

There always is a reason why things happen or are necessary in a story, whether I know what those things are while I’m writing or not.   So—returning to my reader’s question– what were the reasons for the terrible things that happened to Jamie in Wentworth Prison?

In part, it’s because OUTLANDER is a High Stakes story.  Almost everybody understands that you have to have something at stake for a story to be good.  And way too many thrillers and sf/f novels assume that nothing less than the Fate of the Known Universe will do, these authors mistaking scale for intensity.  No matter what the background may be, a story that focuses on the impact of events on one or two individual lives will be–generally speaking–much more engaging and emotionally intense than one where everyone is just rushing around trying to save a planet or get their hands on the fortunium bomb that could Destroy Everything!!

So OUTLANDER is a high stakes story–on an individual level–throughout.  It’s a love story, sure, and it’s all about what people will do for the sake of love.   Claire, for instance, chooses to abandon the life she knew (and was about to reclaim post-War), the safety of the 20th century (and she of all people would value that safety, having come through such a war), and the husband she’d loved.  She chooses hardship, danger, and emotional pain, in order to be with Jamie.

But love for these two is always reciprocal.  It’s not about one partner making a sacrifice for the other’s sake.   Throughout the story, they keep rescuing each other.  And the stakes are high.   Jamie marries Claire originally in order to save her from Black Jack Randall.   Would that be a striking thing to do, if Jack Randall was not, in fact, a serious threat?   He is a serious threat; we learn that from Jamie’s backstory.   The man’s a genuine sadistic psychopath, who has essentially destroyed Jamie’s family and seriously injured him, both physically and emotionally.  And here’s Jamie swearing to give Claire everything he has; the protection of his name and his clan–and the protection of his body–in order to save _her_  from this man.

He then does save her, physically and immediately, from Randall, when Randall captures her and assaults her at Fort William–even though by doing so, he puts not only himself, but everyone with him, in serious danger, _and_ does so at some emotional as well as physical cost.  “I was tied to that post, tied like an animal, and whipped ’til my blood ran…Had I not been lucky as the devil this afternoon, that’s the least that would have happened to me.  ….[But] when ye screamed, I went to you, wi’ nothing but an empty gun and my two hands.”  The stakes are higher; the threat to Jamie (and Claire) from Captain Randall is increased.

One, two, three.   The Rule of Three.  It’s one of the important underlying patterns of story-telling; one event can be striking.  The next (related) event creates resonance.  But the third brings it home—WHAM.   (That is, btw, why classic fairy tales always involve three brothers, three sisters, three fairies, etc.—and why the most classic form of joke always starts, “A priest, a minister and a rabbi…”  The climax of the story, the punchline of the joke, always comes on the third iteration.)  The third encounter with Black Jack Randall is the climax, the point where the stakes are highest.  Jamie’s been captured and seriously hurt, Claire’s come to save him, but Randall turns up and takes her captive, threatening her life.

OK.  This _has_ to be a credible threat.  Ergo, we have to have seen (and heard about) the real damage Randall has done to Jamie thus far; we have to be in no doubt whatever that he’d do real damage to Claire.  We can’t just say, “Oh, he’s _such_ a nasty person, you wouldn’t believe…”  We _have_ to believe, and therefore appreciate, the enormity of what Jamie is doing when he trades what’s left of his life for Claire’s.

And because we do believe that, we share both Jamie’s despair and Claire’s desperation.

Throughout the book, we’ve seen that love has a real cost.  Jamie and Claire have built a relationship through honest struggle, a relationship that’s _worth_ what it’s cost them.  This is the final challenge, and Jamie’s willing to pay what will apparently be the ultimate cost.

Why would I throw that away?  To have him escape rape and torture (he–and we—_know_ what’s coming) by the skin of his teeth would be to undercut his sacrifice, to make it of little moment.  (It would be like someone turning up in Gethsemane and telling Christ, “Hey, buddy, you don’t really have to do this.  Come with me, I got a secret way outta here…”)

So love has a cost, and it’s a real one.  But they do rescue each other, and Claire saves not only his life, but his soul.  (Yes, it is redemption and resurrection, and yes, there’s Christ imagery all through the story.)   His soul wouldn’t have been in danger, had he not been really and truly nearly destroyed by his sacrifice.

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i.e., had Claire shown up with reinforcements in the nick of time and saved him before he’d been put through such pain and suffering….well, then it would have been a nice, heart-warming story in which Hero and Heroine conquer evil and ride off into the sunset together.  But it wouldn’t have half the power of a story in which Jamie and Claire truly conquer _real_ evil, and thus show what real love is.  Real love has real costs–and they’re worth it.

I’ve always said all my books have a shape, and OUTLANDER’s internal geometry consists of three slightly overlapping triangles.  The apex of each triangle is one of the three emotional climaxes of the book:  1) when Claire makes her wrenching choice at the stones, 2) when she saves Jamie from Wentworth, and 3) when she saves his soul at the Abbey.  It would still be a good story, if I’d had only 1 and 2–but (see above), the Rule of Three.  A story that goes one, two, _three_ has a lot more impact than just a one-two punch.

(To answer your final question, I think not, unless you’re under twelve.  Not being snarky; I just mean that as we become adults, we learn to face the darker side of ourselves, as well as others, and it’s the dealing with such things that enlightens us and makes us know such things as truth and love.).)”