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Diana Gabaldon’s Defense of Frank Randall

This is a copy of Diana Gabaldon’s document, in Defense of Frank Randall. I am only posting it here for those who may have trouble locating the compu-serve document or have trouble reading it. I am posting it as an exact copy and giving complete credit to Diana Gabaldon!  This is a copy of her original response to the matter of whether Frank Randall cheated on Claire.  It seems to be an age old question which many still argue over.

 

Hello everyone!
As this discussion has come VERY close to boiling over several times,
I was asked off list to please clarify some things with Diana. [She and Doug] are currently enjoying some down-time away from home, but I emailed Diana with the following questions, and she was gracious enough (in an effort to avoid cyber-bloodshed!)to answer them for the list. Her answer is NOT edited by myself or the mods (who have given their permission for this LONG post; we are talking about Diana writing, correct?) and is posted in its ntirety. So sit back with your favorite beverage and prepare to read the news straight from…er…Herself’s Mouth. Susan, H.E.

 

Nov. 12, 2005
“Dear Diana,
I’m writing because I was asked by ——(nameless individual)——to intervene in a Huge Argument being debated. (We are trying to avoid Internet bloodshed and hurt feelings!) Oddly enough, it has nothing to do with ABOSAA or rather, very little.

The very “heated” discussion is surrounding Frank’s role in his relationship with Claire upon her return from the eighteenth century.
Specifically:

1) WHY did Frank stay with Claire if he wasn’t getting the love he desired/needed? (evidenced by the affairs that he thought Claire knew nothing about) Why didn’t he just leave?

2) Was Claire “cheating” on Frank during this period because her heart still belonged to Jamie, even though she believed him dead? (Your/Claire’s perspective)

3) IS Frank the “pathetic slime-ball” a couple of people have labeled him? (Not my opinion or my words, by the way–just relating the questions). ” — Thanks, Susan. 

 

Nov. 13, 2005 Diana’s reply:

“As to L’Affaire Frank…
Geez Louise. You guys. 
Of course Frank isn’t “a pathetic slimeball.” Where do they come up with these ideas? (My personal guess would be that the people holding this particular opinion are possibly not that fond of their own SO,
and would trade him in for Jamie in a heartbeat. Ergo, they project things onto Frank. But that’s only a guess.)

Look. In the books, we see Claire and Frank’s relationship only from Claire’s point of view. Which is understandably a trifle biased, following her return through the stones. What we see prior to her disappearance is an awkward but affectionate relationship between two people who are married, but who are effectively strangers-they’ve barely seen each other in six years, and have been back together for only a few days. They’re feeling each other out, trying to reestablish the connection they once had, and struggling to overcome the fact that they are now quite different people than who they once were.

 

Frank asks her diffidently at one point whether she had ever been tempted to stray during the war-assuring her that he would understand if she had. Claire-and the reader-think that his reason for doing this may well be that he had strayed, and would feel better about confessing his own transgression if she had suffered similar temptations.

Well, maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t. It’s actually not an abnormal question to ask a mate you haven’t seen in six years, and one whom you know has been working closely with hundreds of wounded (and thus possibly emotionally appealing) men, in conditions that you know are stressful, dangerous, and highly conducive to passionate, if short-lived, physical attractions.

He’s trying to ask it tactfully, but-they’re strangers. She takes offense, and he hastily drops the question. He doesn’t bring it up again, in the time they’re together-which is fairly short. So you have to draw your own conclusion there:

1) he hasn’t been having affairs himself, but can’t help a certain male feeling of curiosity/jealousy about what Claire might have been doing,

2) perhaps he had a brief fling, which he regrets, and wants to confess this to Claire, so their marriage can resume without his feeling constant guilt, or

3) he’s been screwing every woman who crossed his path, but would like to find out that Claire’s had her own affairs, so he can throw it back at her in case she ever finds out.

OK. There is NO evidence favoring any one of these three alternatives. None. Any one of them is as likely as another. The reader’s conclusions depend on the reader-and each reader brings his or her own experiences and background to the act of reading.

Now, Claire disappears. No warning, no trace, no nothing. What do you reckon happened, when she didn’t come back? A police search, no leads-and probably deep suspicion of the husband, who is the Most Likely Suspect. So Frank’s left panicked, then grief-stricken, while probably being interrogated and threatened about his wife’s disappearance. But this must obviously have all died down in the next three years, and Frank begins to rebuild his life.

Does the rebuilding involve any kind of relationship with women, or a woman? Quite possibly; he’s a handsome, personable man, with friends who would think it their duty to introduce him to women.

BUT.

Claire comes back. Filthy, malnourished, and hysterical, if not outright demented. And, of course, pregnant. She tells him an unbelievable story, presumably the product of a disordered mind, the result of whatever horrible abduction/captivity/rape has resulted in her present condition. She tells him to leave her.

Does he leave her? No. Does he produce another woman and explain that actually, dear, while you were gone, Mary and I. No. He replies shortly that no one but a cad would leave a woman in her condition.

So, OK. HE doesn’t think he’s a cad. Why on earth should anybody else? He does stay with Claire, not only while she’s recovering, but thereafter. There’s no hint that he’s pursuing a love affair started while she was gone; in fact, he takes her to Boston, so that no hint of scandal will attend Bree’s birth. If he did have some relationship
while she was gone, plainly he’s broken it off (and perhaps the removal to Boston is to make such a break more definite-we don’t know, because we don’t know what he was doing during those three years).

All right. From this point on, Claire’s view of Frank is definitely suspect, because her own state of mind makes it impossible for her to connect fully with him, save for brief interludes of tenderness, when they’re able to reach one another physically (like the night he makes love to her on the floor of the nursery). Yes, their relationship is
strained-we know that, because we see it. But the relationship of any new parents is strained (believe me on this ), even if the two parties aren’t on difficult terms to start with. And these two parties definitely are. 

Claire thinks he may be having affairs, but she doesn’t ever have evidence of it. Either the guy is very dang good at hiding this stuff (and unfaithful spouses almost always give themselves away)-or he isn’t having affairs. He may well be seeking companionship, sympathy, and ego-reinforcement from other women (he ain’t gettin’ a lot of those things at home-but note that he isn’t leaving, either), but it’s at least possible that he isn’t crossing the line into actual physical infidelity. Note that Claire says that now and then she forces her sexual attentions on him, trying to prove that he’s been with someone else (and thus unable to respond to her)-but that every time, he does
respond to her, even if with mutual rage. On the other hand, Frank knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that
Claire’s been unfaithful to him. At first, he most likely thinks she’s been raped, but she goes on insisting on her absurd story. If it’s true in any way-then she did it on purpose. This can’t do his feelings any good. But he stays, because only a cad would abandon a pregnant woman with no resources-and he isn’t a cad. See, all these red-eyed readers are identifying with Claire (for the excellent reason that she’s telling the story)-but they’d do better to watch Frank. He clearly has a code of honor, and by God, he’s sticking to it, dearly though it may cost him. Would a man with this kind of code then proceed to have promiscuous affairs?

Maybe-but maybe not. His own image of himself as an honorable man is probably as valuable to him as Claire is, at this point; if he won’t abandon her, he won’t abandon that image, either.

 

Now, their relationship is definitely a difficult one. On Claire’s side, there’s grief, resentment (over being parted from Jamie), the fractured feelings of giving birth to Jamie’s baby, and the struggle to build a career (which is probably not something Frank ever expected her to want to do, and wasn’t prepared for). You note that she apologizes to Frank only once, in their initial conversation after her return-at which point, she’s completely hysterical. She makes it clear that she loves Jamie more than him, even if Jamie is dead-this is Not
All That Good for a marriage. Mind, divorce was simply Not Done at this time, in either the UK or the US. A divorced woman was stigmatized, as was the child of divorced parents.

Frank-honorable man that he sees himself as-isn’t going to expose either Claire or Bree to that stigma. Besides, he’s in love with Brianna, and doesn’t want to be parted from her. To not only divorce Claire but also get custody of Bree would mean a huge, ugly, public court-case, in which he would have to accuse Claire of moral depravity, alcoholism, and anything else he could think of-and prove it. No-fault divorce hadn’t been invented; a divorce had to be approved by a judge, on the basis of strong evidence. (For the same reasons, Claire wouldn’t seek to divorce Frank.

A) She wouldn’t deprive Brianna of a father who plainly loved her,

B) she wouldn’t expose Bree to the trauma of an ugly divorce case, and

C) she’d have to prove that Frank was guilty of various horrible things. And we do see evidence that he still does love Claire. He’s angry at her, confused by what’s happened, and obviously having a hard time with everything-but he does love her. Enough to help her with her medical career, even though he doesn’t like her having it and objective enough to admire the sense of destiny that drives her to it, even though he’s somewhat jealous that he doesn’t possess that drive himself.

Frank a pathetic slimeball? Good grief. He’s the major tragic figure of the books, unsung though he is. He is-on the evidence to hand-a stand-up guy, who’s taken a horrible set of circumstances (which he didn’t cause and had nothing to do with) and done the best he could to build a family, do right by his daughter, and treasure what strands of occasional tenderness form between himself and his guilt-ridden, emotionally-distant wife.”

That help?

 

–Diana

 

On Nov. 14, 2005:
Diana wrote:
“P.S.  Forgot to note in the above that Frank, Claire, and Brianna are all Catholics.  Catholics _really_ didn’t get divorced in the ’50’s–they still don’t do it all that often, since it means excommunication.

I don’t at all understand why the anti-Frank contingent thinks Claire should have left  the marriage, though.  Why? Frank wasn’t beating her, or mentally torturing her, or otherwise behaving  badly (with, of course, the _possible_ exception that he was being unfaithful.  And that, we don’t know).  The only overwhelming reason she might have had would be to go back to Jamie–which is something that Frank obviously knows, which is why he doesn’t tell her when he finds evidence that Jamie didn’t die at Culloden.  (And while I’m sure that the anti-Frank people view this as more evidence that he’s a Bad Person, consider what he himself says in his letter to the Reverend.  True, he _didn’t_ want to lose her (i.e., he loved her), but he also didn’t want to cause her and/or Brianna additional grief and suffering by giving her an impossible choice.  She was by that time reconciled to her live in the present, doing well as a doctor, and if their marriage wasn’t great, it mostly wasn’t bad. If she knew Jamie was alive, though…either she’d choose to try to return to him, leaving her young daughter (more horrible guilt), or she’d stay for Bree’s sake, but be constantly torn by yearning for Jamie.  So Frank didn’t tell her.  He clearly had mixed motives for that, but they weren’t necessarily evil ones, at all.”

Quoted per Diana in its entirety.