This analysis is based on the confrontation between the episodes of the series and the books of Diana Gabaldon. References to books and quotes are based on French editions and do not correspond to pagination in English.
I wanted to change a thematic ticket rather than an episode; what better than the body of Jamie, to inaugurate these thematic notes that I propose to write? King of men, hero of the series, romantic lover, Jamie is a breathtaking presence and a body as magnified as tortured. Analysis…
THE BODY PUNCHED: JAMIE SACRIFIES.
JAMIE'S BACK: AN ELEMENT OF PORTRAIT
The back of Jamie is scarified and the multiple references to these marks contribute to draw the portrait of our fierce Highlander; he does not know the extent of his wounds, but refuses to show it (so Jamie refuses Alec to see his back and feels pity, while Claire's compassion leads to their immediate mutual trust):
'Uh ... that ... I did not want to take off my shirt in front of Alec. [...]
I do not know if you can understand ... what happened to me is part of me as well as my red hair or the way I walk. People know it but do not think about it, it does not change the way they treat me.
He looked up at me to make sure I was following well.
- But if they saw with their own eyes the aftermath of the flogging it would be ...
- ... more intimidating, maybe. I think ... if Alec saw the scars, he could not see me without thinking about my back. ' (Vol.1 Outlander)
Indeed, from episode 2, Leoch, Jamie is the one who was savagely whipped. His back is mutilated from the shoulders to the lower back. This particularity will become a form of identity for Jamie who will be defined at the beginning of the saga as the victim of the savagery of Black Jack Randall, and will establish a form of intimacy between Claire and Jamie who have just come from meet :
'In fact, the other night, I had only seen one shoulder. In fact scars covered the entire back of the neck at the waist. Most had faded to leave only a thin white stripe. But the deeper ones formed clear blisters across the muscles. I thought with regret that he must have had a superb back. The skin was soft and smooth, bones and muscles cast graceful shadows. Under the broad, square shoulders, the shoulder-blades drew a crisp, hilly furrow. (Vol.1 Outlander)
What is striking is the disproportion of the sentence (a double flogging a week apart) in relation to the crime charged. The back of Jamie, it is at the same time the witness of the relations existing between Jamie and his executioner, but also that of his courage, his sense of the honor, and the symbol of a whole nation oppressed by the English invader .
Small anecdote: it takes almost five hours for makeup artists to pose and then deposit the prosthesis on the back scarified Jamie. The filming sessions are arranged in such a way that Sam Heughan turns the episodes where his back is seen once the makeup is set, which means that he has had to wear the prosthesis for several days in a row ... which limits the time makeup!
The back of Jamie is also the witness of the conflict with BJR; at their first meeting at Lallybroch, Jamie is tied to the porch and beaten with a whip; then Randall will whip him himself in Fort Williams where Jamie was sent after his arrest. It is even a recurrent topic of discussion between the two men. So, when Jamie comes to get Claire kidnapped by the British, BJR asks to see his back, then, when he is his prey in Wentworth, he talks about scars as his most beautiful work of art.
But Jamie's back is also the affirmation of his orphan's pain, this indelible mark of his father's death, since it is during his second flogging, which Brian witnesses, that he finds death by the dreadful spectacle and the fear of having lost his son infamously, hung by his wrists at the gallows like a vulgar thief.
The back of Jamie is also an object used by Dougal, erasing the personality of Jamie to make it a showcase serving his ambitions Jacobites when, at the time of the rents, he shows his nephew to stir up the hatred of sharecroppers of the clan. It is the object that serves the ambitions of Dougal, and also shows how strong the clan's hold is on him. Jamie is wanted, and must be saved only by the clemency of his uncles who agree to hide him on MacKenzie lands; he seems to be chained to this family when he aspires only to found his own and to return to his own land at Lallybroch.
Paradoxically, Jamie, if he is not ashamed of being flogged and bearing the marks of this infamy, does not want to be reduced to this mutilated back; so, he says he would have refused Claire's care in the presence of old Alec, because he does not want to draw pity on him, and continue to be considered a man.
PASSION OF JAMIE
Episode 16 of Season 1, To ransom a man's soul, is generally considered to be the most unbearable episode of all, starring Jamie's rape by the infamous Black Jack Randall. Constituting a diptych with episode 15, he staged Jamie facing extreme suffering leading to the confines of madness.
It is rare that the rape of a man is represented and shown so raw, and the episode spares us no detail. BJR's deviance, harshness, violence, lack of compassion are masterfully brought by Tobias Menzies while Jamie, the indestructible, titan, is a toy in his hands.
Visually, this episode is of great strength, appealing to our common culture and representations of human sacrifice, incarnated in the person of Christ, clearly appealing to the usual images of crucifixion.
From the nail of the Passion ....
Everything begins with crucifixion; finally, crucifixion, the word is usurped ... since it is not a question of the cross properly speaking, but of the torture of nails, or nails of the Passion. Let's play a little here on words. Passion: etymologically, passion is synonymous with suffering (physical, and by moral extension); it is the same root as in the term 'patient' (the one who is cured for his sufferings), and the same term as to speak of an immense love ... But what does Jamie do if it is not to sacrifice himself and to resolve himself to the worst sufferings for love, and spare Claire?
The highlight here is twofold: it marks Jamie as being tortured, but also, and perhaps most importantly, the nail puts him on the table, makes him a prisoner of BJR, preventing any potential escape. This left hand (that of the heart) is crushed and chained to the table of his executioner.
One can not here, of course, not think about the suffering of Christ on the cross, for example with this detail of the Isenheim altarpiece painted by Grünewald (circa 1510-1515, museum of Colmar): palm open to the sky, pierced by the nail, fingers spread, twisted and stretched on the wood ...
Thus mutilated, Jamie becomes the property of his executioner. The hand crushed, mutilated, pierced, will remain a handicap for the rest of his days, and all will bring him back to this wound: hammer blows, he will keep the stiffness of the fingers, difficulties to hold his sword, to write, which will eventually lead to amputation.
... At the pedestrian
Pietà, El Greco
(1571-1576, musée de Philadelphie)
Another Christian reference, the scene of Pietà (or lamentation); visually, the nakedness of Jamie, who opposes BJR's clothes (note here the color, the Virgin wearing a red dress in the Pietà like that of El Greco below), the halo of the hair scattered around the face to the eyes closed, the languid position against the stiffness, the suffering of the tortured, the mutilated hand ... everything brings us back to this image of death. The body is white, the face livid; the emphasis is on the naked torso.
This reference only accentuates the idea that Jamie is the tortured lamb, who chose to sacrifice himself for love for Humanity, reduced here to Claire's only person.
Except that ... Jamie is not dead, BJR does not cry, love is not maternal but perversion. Jamie's purity stands in stark contrast to BJR's emotional and not just visual horror. This image is therefore all the more unbearable for the spectators because it contains only violence and perversion.
... going through the flank injury.
Of course, this is not transfixion in the Biblical sense of the word, nor is the nail in the hand directly one of the five wounds inflicted on Jesus during the crucifixion. Nevertheless, a rapprochement is needed here, in view of the images and the symbolic significance, with the Christic sacrifice.
First of all, it is not a transfixion in the strict sense since Jamie does not have flesh pierced; he is rather branded like a slave, which would make him the property of BJR. On the other hand, he inflicts himself this wound, certainly under the pressure of Randall, but he is the author. Finally, it is on the left flank that it is marked, and not on the right as the wound of Jesus. A brand under the heart ... I let you appreciate the symbolic ...
These references to Jesus should not encourage us to see Jamie as a prophet, even if he will become the spokesman of the Scottish oppressed many times: leader of his clan, leader of the Battle of Culloden, spokesperson prisoners in Ardsmuir, rebellious printer and traitor to the crown in Edinburgh and claiming justice for Scotland, landowner in Carolina, then again warlord during the American Revolution ...
JAMIE, ON THE FRONTIER BETWEEN PAIN AND PLEASURE
WARNING: I know I'm venturing here, evoking here the episode of rape, on a slippery and dangerous path. Let those who are not ready go their way ... This part contains only remarks and hypotheses formulated from my reading of the books and my viewing of the series.
These are not reflections reflecting my thought on a subject that everyone abhors and condemns.
PAIN AND ENJOYMENT
We know since episode 9, The reckoning, that Jamie (like Claire, for that matter) take pleasure in pain. The experimentation of the abolition of the border between pain and pleasure comes early in the relationship between our two lovers, and the sexuality of Jamie is built in this complex relationship to pain. Their reconciliation with the episode of spanking is very eloquent on the subject:
'He spread my thighs from his knee and slid into me with a single stroke. He made a sound that was almost a rattle and gripped me a little harder.
- You are mine, mo duinne, he said softly. To me alone, today and forever. To me and you can not do anything anymore.
I tried to move away to catch my breath, but he penetrated even deeper into me.
'I want to possess you, Sassenach,' he murmured, body and soul.
He hammered my loins in an inexorable coming and going, each assault tearing my insides.
- you will call me 'master', Sassenach.
His soft voice was laden with a threat of revenge for what I had done to him. [...]
- No ! I gasped. Stopped ! I beg you, you hurt me! [...]
He carried me beyond pain, into a universe of pure sensations.
- Yes ! I cried. O my God Jamie, yes!
He grabbed my hair and forced me to look at him, triumphantly.
'Yes, Sassenach,' he growled, responding to my movements rather than my words. See how I ride you!
His hands fell on my breasts and kneaded without softness. All his weight rested on my hips while he arched the reins to penetrate me even more. I screamed as he stifled, crushing his lips on mine. It was not a kiss but another form of assault, forcing me to open my mouth, twisting my lips, scraping my skin with the thick hairs of his beard he rushed harder and faster, as if he wanted to penetrate my soul as well as my body. Body and soul. He achieved his goal and a furious passion arose from the ashes of surrender. I hoisted myself up and bit his lips, tasting his blood.
I felt his teeth in my neck and buried my nails in his back. I lacerated it from the neck to the buttocks, spurring it so that it screams in turn. We tore ourselves up, desperate, clawing, biting, each trying to attract the other, consumed by the desire to be one. (The Thistle and the Tartan, pp. 484-485)
And when they are reunited in episode A. Malcolm (season 3), after 20 years of separation, Claire will ask her not to be gentle with her: 'Do it now, and do not be gentle', in need to feel his body live intensely. Which does not mean that the sexual act between Claire and Jamie is inevitably sadistic ...: 'In fact, it was very sweet, pampering me like a quail egg [...]. He knew how to be gentle [...]. He enjoys in the arms, restraining himself so as not to hurt me. '
With Claire and Jamie, violence is a given in the search for ecstasy, but it is not the engine nor the end. It allows the exultation of the body and the jubilation of the spirit in given circumstances, but remains far from systematic.
This episode 16, To ransom a man's soul, is, for many spectators, difficult or even impossible to watch, and, once is not customary, the series goes further than the author in his book. Moreover, it was hard for the actors, Sam Heughan first, much more than for Tobias Menzies who would be, according to the media, on the extreme side of these scenes. The rape of Jamie by BJR is shown without complacency or restraint, in a visual way by referring widely to the Christian images of the Passion as we said above.
Nevertheless, these episodes 15 and 16 of season 1 are more complex, showing both the perverse personality of BJR and the complex one of Jamie. I will not dwell here on BJR, since it is not my subject, but Jamie, and the complex relationship he has with pain and pleasure, the dissociation between body and mind.
But let's go back to the episode of rape.
When Jamie mentions, at Lallybroch (episode 9, season 1), how he was whipped and why the second time, he seems to admit the idea of sodomy on the physical plane, saying he would have relapsed but that his honor refused to do so.
I will not dwell on the abuse, but I was challenged by the fact that Jamie felt pleasure not in the rape itself but in the sodomy inflicted by BJR. A great manipulative pervert, BJR leads Jamie to the breaking of the boundary between pain and enjoyment, replacing Jamie's mind with Claire. But we have seen that for our couple of heroes, the border is tenuous between these two sensations.
If Jamie ends up enduring what BJR is doing to him, it's because he manages to split into two rainy universes what his body feels and what his mind refuses.
Jamie will also be more traumatized by having been able to have fun with BJR than by being raped by him. The body is only a detail, the honor is much greater and much more important. Now, having fun, Jamie feels like he's betrayed
'- The ... the first time he was very sweet. He coated me with oil, slowly penetrating my skin, massaging my whole body ... massaging me gently. I could not help but be excited. I did not want to think about you, Claire. It was ... a blasphemy. [...]
He made me suffer, then stopped until I was excited again ... then all of a sudden, he inflicted me a terrible pain and penetrated me brutally. And all this time, he spoke to me about you, so that I keep you constantly in mind. I struggled, mentally, to get away from him, to separate my mind from my body, but each time the pain caught me again and again, crushing all the mental obstacles that I was setting in his path. My God, I tried so hard, Claire, but ... [...] That's because everything is now tied in my head. Claire, I can not think about you, or even kiss you or touch your hand, without being invaded again by fear, pain or nausea. I stay there thinking that I'm going to die without your caresses, but as soon as you touch me, I want to vomit shame and disgust of myself [...]
'I will love you all my life,' he said finally. But I can not be your husband anymore and I can not be anything else for you. I want you so much that I tremble but ... God help me ... I'm afraid to touch you!
I wanted to go to him, but he stopped me with a gesture. His chin was shaking and he was making a superhuman effort to contain himself. '
I invite you to read the interview of Sam Heughan in link: Interview
The salvation of Jamie's soul will come only in the realization that the love with Claire, even if it can be done without sweetness, is an act of love, while the torture inflicted by BJR is not not love, but perversion. It is therefore not in the same approach that violence emerges in the relationship between BJR and Jamie: it is a search for the domination of the body and debasement of the spirit. It is a selfish and destructive act, while in the Claire and Jamie couple it helps to cement intimacy.
HEROISED BODY, EROTICATED BODY
Jamie is the beginner lover. He makes Claire his first sexual experiences, and we must recognize that it is far from being ridiculous despite his awkwardness that make us even more endearing. But above all, he is often put forward for the exceptional character of his physique. He is red, like many members of his family, tall, very tall, muscular. If his nose is a little long, he has extraordinary eyes and an extraordinary presence; I will not make an inventory of the admirations of Cairo on the body of Jamie, but will be satisfied here to make you discover the portrait drawn up by Diana at the time of the marriage:
'Suddenly, the door of the inn opened and the sun entered the room in the person of Jamie. If I made a beautiful bride, my future husband was, squarely resplendent. I gasped.
A Highlander in ceremonial dress is already a beautiful sight in itself, even if it is a shriveled old grandfather and lame. A young and tall Highlander standing upright and close up was a stunning sight.
His thick golden hair was brushed and fell in loops on the collar of his batiste shirt. He wore a plastron, puffed sleeves, long turned wrists, and a lace crop with a ruby pin.
His crimson and black tartan shone in color alongside the green and white MacKenzie. The flamboyant cloth, fastened to the shoulder by a round silver brooch, formed a graceful drapery held in place by a belt with silver inlays, before falling back to his black boots with a silver buckle. A sword, a dagger and a sporran in badger completed the paraphernalia.
He was tall, with square shoulders and a beautiful, smooth face, and had little to do with the muddy rider I had grown accustomed to and he was fully aware of it. '
Let's stop for a moment on this description. If Jamie was a 'back' from the beginning of the saga, it takes on a whole new aspect; Claire discovers it in the strict sense of the word, and is overthrown by the physical appearance of the man she discovers in front of her. There is, moreover, a form of complacency in this description: general appearance first, clothing, then physical, and finally Jamie's pride in feeling so beautiful and so stunning. He surpasses all others in everything; he is the sun ... Note that in the series, it will be Claire the sun of Jamie in this magnificent passage of marriage: Jamie will tell Claire that leaving the church, he was dazzled as if the sun illuminated a whole cloudy day letting pierce its rays ...
Jamie is handsome; of which act. But he is not only a beautiful object, and enjoys human and warlike qualities that make him totally irresistible. Its strength and power therefore contribute greatly to its eroticization. Hero in all splendor, he is brave and courageous; he is the one Claire calls from the beginning 'Soldier' (soldier) even before knowing his name, as a hero ready to defend his own, as during the attack by the Grant:
'If the sword was dark and sinister, the sword was superb. Much less heavy, she was just as deadly. Arabesques adorned the blue metal of the blade. Its finely carved guard was encrusted with red and blue stones. I had seen Jamie train in battle, first with the right hand with one of Dougal's men, then with Dougal himself on the left. He was gorgeous to see, fast, agile and confident, with a grace that his great size made even more impressive. [...]
- You did a great job tonight, I'm proud of you.
I turned against him and hugged him.
- But not so much as me. You were beautiful Jamie. I had never seen anything like it.
- Well, it was only a small surprise attack, Sassenach. I have known this since I was fourteen. It was a trifle. It's very different when the attackers really want your skin.
- A trifle!
His arms closed on me and one of his big hands came down dangerously low, trying to interfere under my skirts. Clearly, the fight fever was turning into a whole new kind of excitement. [...]
He rolled on me. His knee went up between my thighs and began an insistent back and forth. In spite of myself, my legs began to spread. My twenty-seven years of decency did not stand up to a millennial instinct. '
Claire, after some hesitation and despite the presence of some twenty men from the camp around them, will let him make love to her.
Heroic and sublime, then.
I have already mentioned the fact that Jamie reminded me of an ancient hero, in other circumstances, when he is trapped in the nets of destiny. He is also the Greek Ares, the indomitable warrior god, the madman in love with a Claire-Aphrodite ... and whose destiny has some similarities with the destiny of Jamie (Arès on Wikipedia)
THE BODY AND HISTORY
Jamie's body is his identity and his story: 'We each bear the traces of our own battles' (p.386, Volume 3, Voyager) he tells Claire. This is the history of the Highlands (and the Viking origins of the Highlanders), these are the traces of conflict with BJR (injured shoulder, mutilated back and hand, chest marked with seal, thigh slashed in their ultimate duel), injury to left flank during the McDonald's duel, arm pierced by Laoghaire ....
Jamie's body is also and especially his meeting with Claire; no sooner had she arrived in 1743 than she gave him her dislocated shoulder, then she dressed her gunshot wound. It is through the body that the passion begins:
'I desired you as soon as I laid eyes on you, but I loved you when you cried in my arms and you let me comfort you, the first night to Leoch' (Vol.1 Outlander).
In episode 1, it's through her homework as a nurse that she gets in touch with Jamie. They have not spoken yet that she finds herself stuck to him to put back her dislocated shoulder; the torso is bare and the dress is torn. Then the physical contact is prolonged when they share the saddle of Jamie's horse:
'Despite the ambiguous situation, the warmth of the young man's body reassured me. He felt the wood fire, the blood and the grime, but the cool breeze of the night was sneaking under my light robe and I snuggled against him '(Outlander).
Jamie's body will now be troubled with each new contact: care after leaving the common room the night Gwyllin sings, the blanket exchanged during the gathering when their fingers brush against each other ... until the wedding where the body will be finally discovered:
'I unbuttoned his shirt, slipping my hands under the fabric and over his shoulders. I slowly brought my hands to his chest, caressing the small coarse hair and the soft protrusion of the nipples. He had stiffened, barely breathing. (Vol.1 Outlander).
Finally, the body is consumed love, consumed even: it is making love, again and again, each embrace making the bond even more indestructible and deeper feelings ...
'It always starts the same way. When I touch you, I feel like my whole arm is catching fire. I think only of one thing: to shake against me and to consume me '(Vol.1 Outlander)
SAM HEUGHAN: THE MAGNIFYING BODY
Good. Here I am when I'm going to talk about the actor who embodies the sublime Jamie, Sam Heughan. I have been struck many times by the difficulty in distinguishing, when the incarnation is perfect, the actor and the character to whom he gives life, and the fans happily mix Jamie and Sam. Elsewhere, he has been forbidden to look like Jamie, whom he considers much stronger and more courageous than himself, and this on many occasions. Except that his little playmates find them, on the contrary, that there is a lot of Jamie in Sam Heughan ...
The fact is that for many, Sam IS Jamie. I will not even put here, for the sake of impartiality, what I can feel about Sam Heughan (although I assume it perfectly ... but that's not the point). It is obvious that the members of the production could not make a better choice. Sam Heughan thus has the aesthetic qualities lent to Jamie by Diana: tall, athletic, handsome, he has both softness and hardness.
He is, with Tobias Menzies (BJR / Frank) the most naked character of the series. The contrast between the two actors is striking, just as striking is the contrast between the characters they embody. The camera gives him ample justice. Endowed with a physical Greek God, he crushes it with its imposing presence. Frank / BJR is his opposite: beardless, muscular, pale. This justifies the comparison between the two men in Claire's life, the two actors being the opposite of each other. Tobias camps an inexpressive Frank and a perverse BJR, Sam an expressive and tender Jamie. They could only be physically antinomic.
The camera likes Sam Heughan. The play of light highlights his musculature of the ancient God (we return to it), the color of his complexion, and his talent as an actor contributes, through the expressiveness of his face, to make Jamie quite stunning. The camera lingers willingly: during the wedding scene, Claire asks him to undress and we can savor Sam Heughan with the slowness of a caress, that of the hand of no less plastic Claire (Caitriona Balfe).
But one could say, out of Outlander's field, that Sam Heughan likes cameras as much as cameras like Sam Heughan. He plays perfectly with these allies, and on social networks generously shares his perfect plastic and his various projects, to the delight of his many fans (even if the feminine would probably be better suited).
If Jamie's body tells his story, what about Sam Heughan's body? What story does he tell us? He says he is perfectly at ease with his body and with nudity. It is not he who is totally naked, but Tobias Menzies in BJR. How can an actor stir up women of all ages? Is it just Jamie who transports us or Sam himself? Or both ... I'll let you choose your side!