Thursday, October 1, 2015

M.O.S. #2 - Jamie and Claire Fraser

Today is a special day because I present the first guest post ever on Reel Cathedral! Though I certainly hope it will not by the last. My own dear cousin Erika Rhodes submits the second piece in my M.O.S. (Marriage on Screen) series. Today she delves deeply into the marriage of Jamie and Claire Fraser, the two leads in Starz's series Outlander, adapted from Diana Gabaldon's massively epic novel series.

For my first post, and to know more about why I started this series, click HERE
********** SPOILERS **********

I'm very excited and grateful to write a little something as tribute to one of my all-time favorite, dreamy fictional couples.
When we are first introduced to Claire she is a married woman in post World World II. She has spent years as an army combat nurse and is at home amongst the dying and the wounded. Healing is what she knows best. Sadly, she and her husband, Frank Randall, who served in the war as well, have had very few meetings over the years. Time and experience changes people. Allthough they love each other in their own way, their marriage isn't quite the same as before the war. Fate seems to decide for them that they are not meant to continue their marriage. On their second "honeymoon" in Scotland, Claire finds herself transported to 1743 Scotland after an encounter with a mysterious and magical circle of stones. 

That same day, she meets the infamous James Fraser through a series of shocking events among the rough Scottish Highlands. Their meeting is quite significant to their relationship because it reveals their characters in a honest and genuine way. Claire proves herself to the band of Scots by repairing Jamie's arm and mending his wounds, a skill greatly appreciated in the 18th century, and Jamie, soon after, promises that she need not be scared of him or anyone else as long as she is with him.
From the beginning, Jamie and Claire are sincere to each other. Without needing to put it into words, they have one another's back. I, personally, find it quite endearing that they begin their relationship through a friendship. There is no obligation, just the simple enjoyment of one another's presence. Trust is easily given through honesty, and that is what I deeply appreciate about their romance. 

Although Jamie and Claire hardly know the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the full identity of one another, their mutual sincerity gives birth to a friendship based on unconditional love. While they find the other physically attractive, it's the appreciation of one another's company and thoughts that binds them together in loyalty. Their personalities find harmony in sharing stories and opinions and experiences. While Claire's stubborn tongue and independent nature is unusual in this time period, it is thrilling to watch as she meets her match in Jamie's equally fiesty, yet more quiet and enduring strength. 

Although still a young man, Jamie has learned patience and perseverance through the wise teacher of experience. Having been brought up by a father of strong moral and religious values, Jamie is not a man easily ruled by his flesh. His upright character and strong respect towards others is captivating as such qualities are rare to be seen amongst many men of the Scottish clans. Naturally, Claire finds her place with Jamie as he is the only male who treats her in equal respect. At the same time, Jamie is strong enough in his own mind to challenge Claire, to question her where he deems necessary in a reverent fashion. As true friends do, they are iron to one another, blazing thought against thought, action against action, constantly weighing and striking, but with gentleness and sincerity rather than mere force. 

Additionally, Jamie is not afraid to follow Claire's lead when it becomes a matter of right and wrong. In the episode 3, we find Jamie teaming up with Claire in a spontaneous rescue attempt to free a disobedient boy from enduring the full punishment for stealing: ripping his own ear nailed to the pillory in the public square. Claire's defiant actions in saving the boy reveals to Jamie that she is not quite accustomed to the unusual traditions of 18th century Scotland. It also reveals to him her heart that is full of compassion and kindness to those considered less, a quality they both share. 
While Claire holds Jamie in high esteem, she is still faithful in heart to her husband. Thus, she completely unravels when she finds herself pushed into a corner - be released into the hands of the sadist Black Jack Randall or marry James Fraser and present the legal documentation needed to revoke her British citizenship and obligation to meet the summoned request of Captain Randall. 

While Jamie diligently prepares appropriate wedding ceremony details and attire for their last-minute union, Claire is drinking herself sick to escape the reality of not only legally marrying Jamie, but having to physically become one with him. On their wedding night, every fear is released and Claire becomes a Fraser in all respects. While there are plenty of viewers who want to oogle over the steamy sex scenes of Episode 7, I want to loudly applaud the portrayal of true manhood by James Fraser. In this episode, both know they must have intercourse. They are obliged to follow through with the contract. Jamie, in all honesty, refuses to see Claire (or anyone for that matter) in the hands of Black Jack and, thus is willing to do what is necessary for her safety, but not by force. This is an unheard twist on the generalized view of sex, which is often only thought of as pleasure for the man's sake. 

Diana Gabaldon seems to totally redefine sex within this fictional relationship as for the sake and safety of the woman. Wow, let's just take that in for a moment! In addition to this, Jamie is a virgin on the night of the wedding. His innocence is charming, but it is his patience and gentleness towards Claire in their marriage bed that is even more captivating. He takes his time and allows Claire to relax and to feel safe within his presence. Instead of demanding or hurrying, he wants to, once again, win her trust, but this time on a more intimate level. So, they chat for hours; she, asking questions about him, and he, sharing more stories from his life. For hours, he makes her smile and laugh, which is absolutely adorable. By the time they begin to touch one another, Claire has already handed over her heart. She trusts him. Pleasure comes quite easily after that.

After their wedding night, Jamie and Claire's relationship changes. Still founded upon their mutal respect and admiration, their relationship evolves into a genuine romance. It is so refreshing to see a relationship on screen blossom after marriage. In our modern culture, we want to see all the hot sex scenes and fiery chemistry before a man and woman decide to commit. In this on-screen relationship, commitment was the key to nurturing an unforgettable romance. Jamie and Claire spend much time together as newlyweds, taking in each other's bodies, sharing more intimately of their own thoughts on matters, and spending sweet moments in the Highlands. Jamie is even surprised by this kind of warm-hearted union he and Claire have developed and asks Claire if what they have is usual between married couples. It is in every way a sincere marriage, one not easily found and one, especially, not easily nurtured.
While Claire has become unintentionally swept away by this man, she still remembers her intentions to return to her first husband. During a complicated venture with Jamie and the others, Claire discovers herself alone for a moment and within reach of Craigh na Dun, the magical circle of stones that transported her to 1743. In the excitement of the moment, she runs to touch the stones and return to her future home. Before she is able to do so, a British regiment spots her and bring her into custody - into the clutches of Black Jack! It is an encounter that leaves her almost raped by the Captain were it not for Jamie's last-minute arrival to rescue her. Even within the safety of his arms again, Claire finds bitterness and hurt within their marriage. Jamie, not yet aware of Claire's true identity and home, is wounded by her refusal to stay where he had told her and also by her recklessness in putting herself in harm's way. I guess this is where you can say the newlyweds have their first real married fight! They even manage to spit some choice words at each other, all the while creating a pretty intense scene for their Scottish friends to witness. 

"Ye're tearin' my guts out, Claire." Jamie says, exasperated by their arguing. The realization that marriage literally cuts you to the heart in every aspect suddenly dawns on him. As any couple comes to realize, you cannot control the other. You cannot even demand love, submission, or trust. There are times in every hard-won marriage that you find yourself completely exhausted and undone by what love does to you to allow trust to be built. As Jamie says, for him there was no choice; that was falling in love.

Jamie has yet to learn his lesson even after their argument. That evening, by the traditions he has known well, he punishes Claire for her disobedience by whipping her with his belt. It is expected of husbands in this period to keep their wives in submission. Unfortunately for him, it yields more bitter fruit in their marriage. Claire immediately draws up a wall between them. She even refuses him the pleasure of their marriage bed. Jamie isn't accustomed to such an unyielding and stubborn spirit as Claire. His heart breaks underneath the strain and he quickly learns that keeping with tradition for the sake of tradition and treating his wife like a child does not make for a healthy marriage. In whole-hearted (and, perhaps, a little desperate) humility, Jamie takes his sword and swears to Claire (in true Scottish fashion, of course) that if he ever lays hands on her in that manner again then he may be struck by his own sword. The scene of reconciliation in episode 9, The Reckoning, occurs as most things do in their relationship: very intense, but incredibly raw and honest.

As both of them learn, love, trust, and sex cannot be demanded. Such things require the absolute and total surrender of one's own ego. Humility, honesty, vulnerability, and patience are the tools needed to make a marriage blend in harmony. Later on, when Claire finally finds herself with no choice but to tell Jamie the truth about who she is, the stones, and her life in the future, Jamie selflessly decides to give Claire the chance to return to her true home and safely brings her to Craigh na Dun. In that moment, Claire recognizes the gift of such self-sacrificing love. She relinquishes her fragmented life in the future to embrace her new life and identity in the past as Jamie's wife.
While Jamie and Claire are tested at every turn of their story, it is Jamie's rape by Black Jack that stands as the ultimate test to Jamie and Claire's love (although, for those who have read the series, there are events just as challenging, if not moreso, to their relationship later on). There can hardly be anything more traumatic than rape. The shock of being broken on such an intimate and vulnerable level is deeply wounding. Gabaldon had no mercy on Jamie when she penned this disturbing fate for him. And, yet, it is in this vile and dark brokenness that Jamie and Claire demonstrate that unconditional love always wins. 

After Claire, Murtagh (Jamie's godfather), and the rest of their Scottish troupe rescue Jamie from Wentworth Prison and Black Jack, we find Jamie unnervingly changed. His spirit is darkened and he wishes for his life to end. He won't look or speak to Claire. In every single way, he is a shattered man. He carries the shame of not only being raped by Black Jack, but also having willingly given himself over to Jack's disturbing and manipulative words and desires. Although Claire finds herself able to mend the physical damage done to Jamie's body, the battle for Jamie's soul appears hopeless. Yet, Claire does not abandon him. She pursues his heart, even against his own will, to discover what truly occurred between her husband and Black Jack in the depths of Wentworth Prison. Claire acts quickly by recreating the memory from the night Jamie was violated by Black Jack. After an intense brawl and revealing arguments, Claire's passionate and persistent love finally awakens Jamie from the nightmare of his own tormented thoughts and memories.

“Oh mo nighean don, how can you have me like this?”
“I will have you anyway I can. Always.”

This scene is a powerful demonstration of what grace looks like in the face of brokenness and loss. Even Jamie cannot withstand such love that reaches out to accept him as he is. His eyes change in that moment and he reaches out for her embrace. The path towards healing and wholeness is excruciating, but anything can be endured when Love accompanies the wounded. As Claire has walked alongside many a wounded and dying soldier in her life, she is made ready to do that and more for the man who promised her the protection of his body and the faithfulness of his heart.

Through every obstacle from within and outside themselves, Jamie and Claire's story stands as a testament for enduring and unconditional love. I find myself deeply inspired in my own marriage by Jamie and Claire because their story highlights such timeless values. In our current time, when marriage is being tested on more challenging levels, may we find the strength to pursue fidelity through equal honesty and grace. 
I conclude this post with a powerful, tear-worthy fan video of Jamie and Claire, which is put to an appropriately-selected song, Blood I Bled, by the Staves.

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