The idea of home is of course closely linked with the idea of house, but home has less to do with a place, a building itself and refers more to the heart of family life, it is a place of reassuring comfort. Thus, in episode 13 season 2, Jamie recalls that his father built Lallybroch with his own hands: ‘my father, he built this place, his blood and sweat are in this stone’. He is emphasizing here his courage and the value of this family heritage. In contrast, after they get reunited, Claire says to Jamie: ‘I want us to build a home together’, here referring to their renewed intimacy and the need to share a roof at last, a quiet and safe shelter.
But enough semantics, let’s focus now on what seems to be one the series' main themes, the quest for home, and what home means in Outlander.
As early as episode 1 season 1, Claire tells us of her childhood, her 'unusual upbringing’ as Geillis Duncan later puts it in episode 3 season 1, spent travelling all over the world with her uncle, an archeologist, and she doesn’t seem to ‘know where home is exactly’(episode 9 season 2) .We first meet her right after the end of World War Two, where she had been a combat nurse, in Scotland with her husband Franck on a second honeymoon after five years apart. And for the first time in her life she is thinking of settling down, of having a home of her own
And so, in front of a shop window in Inverness she is filled with nostalgia at the idea of never even having owned a vase, suddenly realizing she had never ‘lived in any place long enough to justify having such a simple thing, and how at that moment I wanted nothing so much in all the world than to have a vase of my very own’. And episode 12 season 1 is a wonderful and touching call back to this wish: Lord and Lady Broch Tuarag welcome their share croppers at Lallybroch and Claire is offered a vase filled with wild flowers. She looks at it with such gratitude, a fulfilled look that she then turns on Jamie by her side; she finally has her vase, she finally found a real home, a haven of peace and love.
It is also in this very same episode that she confesses her love to Jamie for the first time, after saying that she felt there like home: ‘‘I’m beginning to feel like I actually belong here’. Lallybroch will always be a landmark, a caring home where you can heal your wounds. It’s there Jamie was sent back to heal by Jenny and Ian after the battle of Culloden, and it is there that Claire and Jamie return after the cruel loss of their daughter Faith in Paris, there that the peaceful routine of family life ‘worked like a tonic on our battered souls’, episode 8 season 2.
Claire’s return to Lallybroch in 1968 is heartbreaking, all those memories of happy days resurfacing. Lallybroch, now abandoned and in ruins, appears as a lost paradise. However, during Claire’s search in the archives she learns that the house remained the property of the Fraser family for several generations thanks to the deed of saisine Jamie had written just before Culloden. It is an obvious solace for Claire, and reading beyond the 5th book we know that Lallybroch will come back to life in the 20th century thanks to Roger and Brianna. Thus, Lallybroch is undeniably the house that best combines these two concepts of ‘house’ and ‘home’ in Outlander – ‘house’ as a beautiful building built stone by stone by Brian Fraser and passed down from generation to generation, but also a ‘home’, the welcoming setting of family ties and life.
Of course, Lallybroch is not the only important house in the series, we can mention Castle Leoch, cousin Jared’s house in Paris or the Randalls’ house in Boston. But at Castle Leoch for example, Claire never feels at home, she is considered as a stranger, a Sassenach, an outlander, arousing constant suspicion – what if she were a spy for the English? Jamie himself doesn’t feel at home. He stays there only because there is a price on his head and Castle Leoch is the safest place for him under the protection of his uncle Colum, the chief of clan MacKenzie. Well aware of this temporary situation, Jamie repetedly expresses his wish to go back home to Lallybroch.
Thus, even before having an insight of this place, we knew how important it was. It was so important that Jamie had Claire’s wedding ring fashioned from his key to Lallybroch, and had hoped to tell her about it once at Lallybroch together ‘so you’d know the place is as much yours as mine’ (episode 9 saison1). So, for Jamie this ring is not just the symbol of their union and all the love he feels for her but also his deepest wish that Claire be now part, not only of his intimacy, but also of his family history and that she takes roots in it.
After settling so naturally and willingly at Lallybroch, we easily understand how disoriented Claire must have felt when she first arrived in Boston (episode 1 season 3). After the unrecoverable loss of the love of her life, she has to start a new life that she hasn't chosen and make hers a new house. This house symbolically first appears empty, almost too big. It is progressively furnished, decorated, filling itself with everyday objects - but never one single vase – and, if you have a closer look, mostly with Franck's things, his study occupying a central place. This new house seems more like his own, a home where he hopes Claire will forget the years spent with Jamie, a home to start afresh with the approaching birth of the baby.
This house has been a home for Franck probably and for Brianna who grows up in it.
Yet, Claire seems to have found there nothng more than a house since, apart from the happiness of raising her child, she will mostly experience there intimate frustrations, grievances, bitterness and a deep solitude.
As for the luxury house of Jamie's cousin Jared, a rich wine dealer in Paris, it witnessed some of the most painful moments in their married life along with all sorts of manipulations and betrayals. This house is another temporary place before a necessary and almost life-saving return to Scotland.
Later, the arrival in America after a nighmarish voyage as well as Marsali's pregnancy is the opportunity for the Fraser family to finally settle. And this is when Fraser's Ridge really makes sense : settling down, building together, recreating a sense of community like at Lallybroch, giving it your name. Indeed, Jamie, like his father before him in Scotland, builds his own house with hard work and sweat. Like at Lallybroch, Jamie wants to gather all the people he loves, to have by his side families working on his land. Jamie becomes once again the landowner that he used to be back there. In episode 6 season 4 he proudly says to Willie ' Fraser's Ridge is mine'.
Moreover, the choice of Fraser's Ridge was like love at first sight, a place chosen with Claire, a place built together to stay together, at last. Jamie carries Claire over the threshold, as if carrying his newly bred wife while they are a mature couple, thus making all those years spent apart disappear in an instant. And Claire looks at him, admirative and tender, so grateful and happy with the great prospects now laying in front of them. Her words 'it's perfect' express all of this.
In comparison, River Run, Jocasta Cameron's gorgeous plantation is symbolically ambiguous. Indeed, it is a welcoming place for Jamie and Claire before founding Fraser's Ridge, and for Brianna during her parents' absence, but it also stands for the financial success of a social class taking advantage of slavery, a institutionalized system not questionned yet. Thus, despite its splendour, Claire never feels at ease there and Jamie refuses to become his aunt's successor at the head of the estate. River Run lacks that extra spirit which changes a house into a home.
Finally, the concept of home is also sometimes simply expressed through the love we feel for one another. The character of Fergus embodies this idea : he, the French child without a family who is adopted, raised and loved by Claire and Jamie as their own son from France to Scotland and from Scotland to America. It's far more than a home that Fergus finds with them, far more than the promise that he will ' always have a home with you' (episode 8 season 2), it's the love of a family, his home is where they are.
In episode 9 season 1, when Jamie explains he doesn't suffer so much at the idea of maybe never being able to go back to Lallybroch because he now has Claire at his side, he declares 'you are my home now'. How beautiful ! As long as they are together he feels protected, happy, whole. Because in fact, no matter the stones, the bricks, the framework, no matter the place, the only true home is where the heart is.