remarks & analyzes



 When chapter 26 and episode 12 begin, a cycle seems to end. Jamie once left his land in the trial to return alongside Claire ̧ the one who symbolizes renewal. A new page is written between the anguish of an uncertain future and the happiness of a consolidated union: "Whatever problems we had to face - and I knew there were many - we were together. Forever. And that was enough" (Chapter 26).


From chapter 26 to the first pages of chapter 33 ̧ from the land found to the land again abandoned ̧ Lallybroch is the land of uprooting. A place of remembrance ̧ a place of carelessness or suffering ̧ this family home is the silent witness of a quartet that dialogues with memories and mobilizes the past to prepare for the future: Jamie ̧ Claire ̧ Ian and Jenny.


The book is the time of recollection and introspection: what happens when nothing happens? one might ask. The dense and detailed pages on the life of an estate of which Jamie is the laird are a capture of the moment that plunges the reader into the familiar intimacy of these four characters through a suspended narrative.


The series is part of a more conflictual approach: Jamie continues his transformation ̧ after that of the boy into a man ̧ and before the perfect completion of the proscribed as war chief in the second season ̧ it is the turn of the son heir in laird, confronted with the double female charisma of his sister and his wife.


In both media, books and television, the evocative space of memory that Lallybroch represents is conducive to the development of deep and sensitive themes.


Through remembrance ̧ are mobilized the transmission ̧ filiation ̧ memory ̧ inheritance and identity.


Other ideas, more rooted in the materiality of the world, such as the management of a domain ̧ relations with tenants or the English danger, are also discussed.


And the family is the seat of strong passions ̧ sometimes violent ̧ often unconscious ̧ always loving.


All these themes have the common point of talking about fragility, finitude and rootedness.

Chapters 26 to 32 The Thistle and the Tartan and Episode 12 Season 1 


By Fany Alice 


Illustrations: Valérie Gay-Corajoud 

or the time regained

What is immediately revealed from the first pages and scenes are the representations of four characters who interact and evolve in their relationship to oneself and to others.


We first have Jenny and Jamie ̧ whose "motives of their plot had been distended by absence and suspicion, then by marriage" (Chapter 27) ̧ who exchange in continuous pain and love before calming down in fraternal forgiveness.


Claire and Ian united in the same complicity of the spouse brought before the altar by a determined Fraser ̧ sharing a tender indulgence for the excessive temperament of this endearing siblings.


Jenny and Claire ̧ two women separated by opposing roots ̧ that of the earth for one ̧ that of the spirit for the other ̧ but who find themselves in the love of the same man: "Jamie's sister, Jamie's wife; Jamie was the central, unexpressed point around which our thoughts revolved" (Chapter 27).


Jamie and Claire ̧ whose desire is no longer so much the desire but the need for each other that is expressed in a succession of romantic scenes anchored in the quiet beauty of the place. They are permanently "enveloped in contentment" (chapter 31). It is probably no coincidence that no sex scene is described in these chapters ̧ nor in the series ̧ contrasting with the anthology cleverly proposed by the author since the marriage. The alchemy of spirits succeeds that of bodies and enriches it with oaths of unwavering fidelity that announce the central question of the whole saga: how far are they willing to go out of love for each other? In the promises of eternity that they then offer themselves ̧ the two lovers write the emotional framework in which their actions and choices will be inscribed forever.


Jenny and Ian, an alternative to the duo formed by Claire and Jamie, symbolizing another solid, deep, loving but predictable marriage, wise and protected.


Finally ̧ Jamie and Ian, two brothers who have chosen each other, have grown up together and retain for each other a kindness that pulls them upwards. Friendship is rooted in the family bond born from marriage to Jenny. The common descent of the Murrays and Frasers is a promise of continuity in this spiritual kinship of which Little Ian ̧ one day ̧ will bear the name and hope.

If these four characters are constantly connected to each other in both media ̧ in a sense of belonging that consolidates the foundations of their common history ̧ it is because the time spent in Lallybroch represents a pause in the narrative that temporarily suspends the course of the plot.


But if the narrative of the book is that of the quiet continuity of everyday life ̧ that of the series is built on the mode of iterative break.


Characters who have lost their usual mobility since arriving at Lallybroch ̧ they are available for the time of meditation and reflection. In the book ̧ the writing illustrates the time suspended in the languor of the descriptions ̧ the observation ̧ the details. Time is given to time ̧ to understand each other ̧ to love each other ̧ to recognize oneself ̧ meditating on the meaning of life. These pages tell of the innocuous, the passing of time, the ordinary that flows in a continuity of the sensitive and humble approach of each one towards the other three. "Life is short. The days are long," Diderot wrote.


From then on ̧ in order to account for the resonance of the intimate voices of the characters ̧ the book establishes a special relationship with the reader ̧ sometimes invited to connivance to share the psychological interiority of each one ̧ sometimes put in a situation of distancing.


Thus, bucolic strolls, romantic reveries such as the hours of everyday life or family scenes open on a latent, almost hidden interiority of the characters. It results in a great modesty in the proposed moments, where the reader is invited to become an accomplice and then to eclipse himself in a hushed decency letting his imagination invent the sequel.


Like Claire ̧ immediate witness of the dispute between the brother and sister on her arrival in Lallybroch but who discreetly moves away (chapter 26).


Like this romantic intimacy between Claire and Jamie whose connivance with the reader stops at the preliminaries ̧ Jamie chastely ending the pages of the chapter on a suggestive "I am looking for a haystack" that says little more (chapter 27).


Like this door that closes on Ian and Jenny carried away by the tears of the secrets revealed about Jenny's guilt in her confrontation with Randall (chapter 29): "We left the room in silence, leaving them together in front of the dying fire" admits Claire ̧ dragging the reader in her wake.


Or this time when it is Ian and Jenny who suddenly dodge, transported by the erotic parallel of the feminine sensations of the presence in itself of a man or a baby ̧ with the laconic injunction "you take care of the fire ̧ Jamie" suggesting a need for intimacy as long as imperative (Chapter 30).


If a peculiarity of these seven long chapters lies in the absence of unexpected ̧ the series, on the other hand, invests a dramatic tension on passages that are devoid of it in the book: the authority of Jamie contradicted by Claire on their arrival, the mistreatment of the young Rabbie or the collection of taxes (and even beyond in episode 13, with the arrival of the Guard and the announcement of the supposed sterility of Claire).

The first scene of reunion between Jamie and Jenny is very shattering in both media ̧ but the gradual clearance of the remaining misunderstandings is built on the mode of intimate confidence throughout the chapters while the animosity is palpable within the siblings in episode 12, feeding on the slightest subject of discord of everyday life, until the final reconciliation on the paternal grave.


The series therefore works in fits and starts to emotionally charge events so that the revelations that escape from them constitute moments of rupture and evolution of the characters. Jamie is constantly abused and judged.


True, Jenny is described in the book as having a strong moral ascendancy over her brother, but the emphasis is on a maternal and protective posture, which in no way taints Jamie's authority at the head of the estate that he unequivocally assumes: "Jamie was everywhere: in the office with the account books, in the fields with the tenants, in the stable with Ian, making up for lost time," says Claire (Chapter 28). The sister is familiar with the brother but respectful of the laird. Similarly, Claire is gentle and soothing, an accomplice of every moment during these chapters, an admiring witness to her husband's commitment to the estate, aware of his natural vocation as a chef: "You were born for this, weren't you, Jamie?" (Chapter 30).


Conversely ̧ in episode 12 ̧ Claire and Jenny rudoient ̧ scold ̧ tance Jamie. The tone rises. Its legitimacy as a laird is thwarted. Its decisions are being called into question. The camera often lingers on The scowling profile of Jenny ̧ torn with burning thoughts ̧ perplexed by an English sister-in-law who does not know how to hold a house and a brother who always seems as little filled with temperance. It was not until the final scene around her father's grave that Jenny launched a "Welcome Home Laird Broch Tuarach" that was no longer tinged with ironic condescension. Until then ̧ two women with a strong temperament ̧ whom he loves and respects ̧ place him in front of a reality that he flees: he is not up to Brian Fraser.

Despite these distinct approaches, the common backdrop of the two media remains the same: family memory ̧ around the emblematic figure of the late father ̧ and what aggregates there ̧ namely transmission ̧ identity ̧ filiation ̧ inheritance.  


It is an opportunity for Jamie and Jenny to confront the painful memories ̧ the questions hanging over the poorly extinguished fires in order to hope for appeasement and surpassing oneself. It is therefore through this vacant time, waiting time ̧ of couples who chat and servants who are busy ̧ that sufferings flow behind words, interfere in agreed exchanges, reveal themselves in silences or looks.  


The whole crystallizes at the turn of the places of memory ̧ paintings of children immortalized by the mother ̧ stories shared with family or strongly connoted objects. 


Lallybroch thus imposes itself from the first scenes of the series ̧ architectural and solid ̧ in front of Claire and Jamie on foot ̧ descended from horse ̧ submerged by the massive height that emerges from it and the coat of arms of the Fraser clan. It's the father's building ̧ "his sweat and blood are on these stones," Jamie proudly confesses to Claire during the episode. 


Other places evoke the past ̧ such as the arch at the entrance of Lallybroch where Jamie was chained and whipped ̧ the mill where he swam as a child ̧ the family cemetery and the Broch Tuarach tower. Some objects are charged with emotions: in the book ̧ it is the snake Sawny ̧ of the box containing the family jewels, the pearl necklace brought back from Leoch Castle; in the series ̧ we remember the book of the father ̧ of the place of his boots and the Viking sword of the tenth century which contains the memorial lineage of the clan. 



The memory is omnipresent in both media ̧ sometimes in the form of flashback in the series when it comes to remembering Randall's bestiality. The book is eminently more prolific ̧ delighting in the funny details of Jamie's awakening in love with Dougal's daughters or paternal punishments.  

So what is the functional usefulness of the memory at this moment of the story about the construction of the characters ̧ and especially about Jamie ̧ in his relationship with himself and with his sister or wife?


By suspending the narrative in time and space ̧ the work does not only fulfill the function of discovering a social, historical and cultural reality that constitutes the life of a laird and his relatives in eighteenth-century Scotland. It puts Jamie in perspective to invest in the present moment and project himself into the future.


Vis-à-vis Claire ̧ it is for Jamie to ask her to be the custodian of her past history ̧ to appropriate it ̧ because the benevolent listening of a beloved and loving woman allows her to heal her wounds and to consider herself positively despite an uncertain future. The memory then comes to lodge in a back and forth between past and present ̧ as the logical translation of a mechanism at work in the past that would explain the present.


Thus ̧ the memory of the big brother William and the father recalls the strength of a bond and an emotion whose intensity Jamie relives in the present for the one who is alive and well at his side ̧ Claire: the past makes explicit things hitherto implicit.


It is by thinking of William and the carved snake ̧ Sawny ̧ that Jamie finds the words to confess his love to Claire ̧ "the main reason" of the marriage (Chapter 27); it is by thinking of his father that Jamie takes Claire with him in a shared narrative ̧ the past containing the clues of the inevitability of his love for her: to Claire who wonders if Brian Fraser would have loved her ̧ Jamie concludes as follows: "He would have thought that I had finally found some good sens. (...) He would have loved you very much ». (Chapter 29). Jamie rereads his own story and gives it a meaning ̧ between construction and reconstruction.


Vis-à-vis Jenny ̧ the memory is painful but it shelters a hidden energy that allows the brother and sister to accept this part of themselves hitherto repressed. Here it generates a guilt shared equally among the siblings that Jenny summarizes as follows: "And if your life is a suitable exchange for my honor, tell me why my honor is not a suitable exchange for your life?" (Chapter 26). Both have a frozen representation of the past event, with Jamie failing in his duty to protect Jenny triggering Randall's sadistic retaliation for his mockery of his helplessness. They then engage in an actualization of the memory that expurgates the painful element to retain only the noble part of what he says about each other: an incredible sense of sacrifice carried by an infinite fraternal love.


Changing the meaning and arrangement of a memory – transforming it into a driving event in a rewriting that is an anticipation of the experience to come offering the precious gift of resilience, so indispensable to Wentworth ̧ this is the challenge of the creative reconstruction of memory at this moment in history.


Vis-à-vis himself ̧ Jamie summons the memory around the founding figure of his personality: his father. Know where he comes from to understand who he is. The childhood memories evoked with Claire ̧ Jenny and Ian illuminate and consolidate Jamie's identity ̧ show ̧ understanding ̧ justifying his projection into the future ̧ what he has been and what he becomes: a lively and impetuous boy ̧ now a courageous and responsible man.


In the book as in the series ̧ Jamie is at the crossroads ̧ in a psychic structuring in search of an ideal of conduct inspired by paternal principles: temperance ̧ management of frustration ̧ realism. And it is no coincidence that memories and representation of the father flock to Lallybroch. It is the place of memory par excellence that connects the past to the future through a representation of oneself and a construction in filiation.

The narrative, however, differs between the book and the series. In the first ̧ the introspective dimension dominates around a double convocation of memories ̧ those of joyful and carefree childhood and those of guilt in the death of the father. In episode 12 ̧ the bias is demonstrative according to the confrontations between Jamie and Jenny or the story revealed to Claire of the circumstances of Brian Fraser's death in Fort William ̧ story that appears chronologically earlier in the book ̧ at the time of Claire's reconciliation and forgiveness for Jamie's domestic violence.


The time of childhood is not absent from the mental representations of the episode but it is summoned in a roundabout way through a painting of Jamie emotionally breaking with his portrait of previous episodes. Critics have castigated this diminished representation in the face of the character of Claire inversely sublimated as a strong and domineering woman. The scripted intentions, however, seem more subtle and complex: Jamie is in a kind of mental regression that has more to do with his late father than with his wife.


Because the return to Lallybroch brings space and time back to the Jamie before his 19 years ̧ before the arrival of the English soldiers and Randall ̧ four years back. Jamie is an "idiot ̧ no smarter than he was four years ago," Jenny says after their confrontational reunion. His escapades and intemperances ̧ his loss of control ̧ his drunkenness ̧ his irritability or his untimely decisions described in episode 12 are a reminder of the Jamie of yesteryear ̧ of the time of carelessness and unbridled youth where he could afford irresponsibility because the father watched ̧ affectionate but strict ̧ to calm the son's ardor and punish excesses. In this episode ̧ Jamie is situated between continuity and rupture ̧ in the excess of the child that he was but without the father at his side ̧ past and present clashed to simulate the future in a search for fidelity to the paternal teachings.


Claire is also responsible for reminding him of the disciplinary framework of yesteryear ̧ a day when she suddenly makes him fall out of bed to tell him disturbing truths. But Brian Fraser is no longer there to show the way – it's up to Jamie to replace him – to lecture himself and act accordingly, creatively reappropriating the ethical and moral legacy left by the father. In this episode we understand that Jamie is not responsible for the death of Brian Fraser in Fort William. But he symbolically kills his father in Lallybroch.

In the book ̧ the memory of the father is draped at first sight with an apparent insignificance as to its content. It is a banal childhood memory filled with the antics of a turbulent kid ̧ the complicity of his friend Ian ̧ and the growing exasperation of the father determined to punish this indomitable youth (Chapter 29). Laughter and tenderness fuse to the rhythm of the story reconstructed by everyone in the common room ̧ after dinner.


Who better than Freud to speak of what he calls the "screen memory" and which he describes as a memory that "owes its value to memory not to its own content, but to the relationship between this content and other repressed content" (The Interpretation of Dreams ̧ 1899)? We remember ̧ we assemble the different pieces of remembrance ̧ we comment ̧ fine and reconstitute but the essential remains buried. The banality of the story is interposed between the ease of thinking about the father and the impossibility of approaching him under his traumatic dimension: moments of carefree childhood relieved of the emotional load of a guilty memory. Until the screen cracks: "Dad always said you would kill him, Jamie," Jenny says. "The joy faded from Jamie's face and he looked at his big hands resting on his lap. Yes, he said quietly. - Well, I did, didn't I?' (Chapter 29). It is through this innocuous approach to memories selected for their lightness that the truths reflecting the true psychological state of the characters end up being revealed. The past ensures continuity with the present and plans for the future in the confession and then the forgiveness shared between the brother and sister: "It was not your fault, and maybe not mine either" (Chapter 29) can conclude Jamie.


Book or series ̧ the general impression is that Jamie's personality and his relationship to the world are clearly strengthened at the end of this stage in the family home: his unconditional love for his wife ̧ his sense of sacrifice between conscience and duty ̧ his questioning about good and evil ̧ about the morality of his choices. And this, in the tutelary shadow of the father: "It's strange ̧ when he was alive, I didn't pay much attention to him. But once he's dead, the things he told me have a lot more influence," he confesses to Claire (Chapter 29).


This sentence recalls what Goethe wrote in Faust: "What you inherited from your fathers, acquire it if you want to possess it." It seems that Jamie has long been in a passive reception of paternal commandments before moving on to the next stage of assimilation gained only through the experience and maturity of recent years.


And to perfect this feeling of completion ̧ the memory of his ancestry now allows Jamie to project himself into his descendants despite Claire's supposed sterility. Certainly ̧ Jenny's pregnancy helps to release effusions; but to give oneself time to remember that one is the link in a chain ̧ to understand that one now takes the place of the father to make the inheritance received grow ̧ favor the desire to generate in turn.

The matrix of the future settles well alongside the past in these long chapters. Several details or objects are not only triggers of the secret thoughts of the characters but also symbols containing the narrative of the chapters, see volumes, to come: the bracelets of Murtagh ̧ the sporran of Jamie which Claire will inherit to Wentworth ̧ the snake Sawny created by one William and offered to another William twenty years later ̧ the allusion to Jamie's smile in his sleep ̧ that we will find in Brianna ̧ and of course ̧ the phrase "the blood of my own heart" (Chapter 29). Finally ̧ no doubt ̧ little Faith was conceived during this autumn conducive to fulfilling loves.


Alongside this sensitive and deep walk in the rediscovered time, lost time of childhood dear to Marcel Proust where a simple evocation, an object, a look, a word released open access to the buried, intimate and unconfessed thoughts of the characters, reveal more political and societal reflections on the links of subordination in Scotland of this eighteenth century.


The resolution of Rabbie's abuse is addressed consensually in the book, with Jenny and Claire complicit in Jamie's decisions. This event, as well as the collection of taxes, are not a pretext to fuel the latent conflict between Jamie and his sister unlike the dramatic tension instilled in the series. Beyond the immediate interest of brother/sister relationships that episode 12 highlights, these moments have another, more political function. They raise the question of obedience to the laird and more generally ̧ of the foundations of the edifice on which the allegiance of a subject to his leader rests.


This theme will be refined in successive seasons to reveal all the complexity ̧ in jamie's ambivalent relationship with bonnie Prince Charlie season 2 ̧ in his free authority but the body in the irons to Ardsmuir or Helwater in season 3 ̧ in the calculated allegiance to the British sovereign from season 4 and then in his own responsibility as leader of Frasers'Ridge.


The book is not free of questions about free will, responsibility and power: "The boy is his own son, he can do whatever he wants. And I am not God; only the laird, and it's a little lower" (Chapter 30) explains Jamie to Claire as he has just used violence to force the father to separate from his son. In a secular and patriarchal world modeled on the divine order ̧ as is still the British eighteenth century ̧ the obedience of the subject to the leader and of the child to the father is recreated on the virtuous model of the christian's obedience to God. Thus it will be conceivable for a Scottish Jacobite to disobey the king in order to better obey God to support the Catholic Prince Charlie and not the Protestant ruler George II.


But little by little, within the Christian West, new forms of allegiance based on consent are emerging, culminating in the American Revolution of 1,776. The subject/authority/God triptych is gradually unraveling while retaining Christianity, in its spiritual but no longer temporal power, as the legitimate source of man's natural and imprescriptible right: freedom ̧ property ̧ security and resistance to oppression. Four cardinal points that constitute the foundations of the American Constitution of the American Founding Fathers: from the 1,740s ̧ Jamie is already American in his relationship to men and power.


"The line between justice and brutality is very thin, Sassenach. I only hope I am on the right side of the line" (Chapter 30). Jacobite today, loyalist tomorrow, American rebel the day after... It is not the choices themselves that matter but the ethics that underpin them so that Jamie and Claire can always recognize themselves in a shared morality that welds their spirits together as much as love merges their embraced bodies. From these pages and this episode ̧ the love and spiritual partnership is given to live in the face of all the vagaries of History.


The relationship to history is therefore particular in the Outlander saga. His tragedy is a permanent lesson declined on three levels: individual, being the driving force behind the feeling of self-continuity strengthened at each trial; conjugal, as a revelation of the passionate force that unites Jamie and Claire and vice versa in their desire for mutual protection; societal, when the subject's obedience to the leader embodied by Jamie is based on exemplarity and not barbarism or fear.


And the tragic is back from the first pages of chapter 33 and can be guessed when the Guard appears ̧ suspicious and venal ̧ in episode 13. The time of wandering and anguish resumes its rights ̧ renews the thread that had until then broken on the heights of Lallybroch. "Come what may" we already want to whisper so much Claire and Jamie are now stronger than ever...