His parents having died during the war - his father aboard his plane, his mother under the bombardments - Roger is taken in by his great-uncle, the Reverend Réginald Wakefield, who raises him in the Protestant faith with all the love and benevolence possible, helped in this by Mrs Graham, her housekeeper, also head of the druidesses of Craigh na Dun and clairvoyant in her spare time.
A strange universe in which the young Roger will draw a taste for knowledge, a particularly high moral sense, and a tendency to attachment to somewhat outdated values.
If there is one character in the saga who deserves to be looked at, it is Roger Mackenzie!
From the shy child, raised by the Reverend Wakefield to the death of his parents, to the captain under the orders of Jamie Fraser at the approach of the American revolution of the 18th century, there is much to say about the evolution of the character .
When we meet Roger for the first time, he is this adorable and a little effaced little boy, playing with his plane and assisting, without understanding, the drama that is played out before him during the reappearance of Claire after 3 years of absence unexplained.
We find him an adult in 1968, a graduate of Oxford University and one of the youngest professors in the history department. The reverend has just died and he is again an orphan. We are presented to him as a sensitive, generous and particularly learned man.
We first approach it through his attachment to Claire and Brianna without yet knowing that it is an integral part of a story that he first seeks to understand and then to complete.
In love with Brianna, he will accompany her in her quest for a truth to say the least painful about the disappearance of Claire and the reasons for the arguments with Frank that ensued.
Historian, he knows where and how to look. He also knows that the weight of the past can be difficult to live with when one is personally involved. He warns Brianna of the risk of learning more about her story, but never abandons her, even when reality makes the situation tense, even dramatic. He is not a man to run away.
He is also a fine psychologist, allowing Brianna and her mother to keep a link so that the past and future history can be woven. He's the one who encourages Bree to have more patience to hear what her mother has to say. He's the one who gives Claire the courage to speak. He is the warm and courageous matchmaker they so badly needed.
And then, soon enough, he discovers that he is involved in this temporal imbroglio. He is a descendant of the MacKenzie through the secret sleeping arrangements of Warchief Dougal MacKenzie and the troubling time traveler and intriguing Jacobite, Geillis Duncan. It is breathtaking as a heritage, especially for a historian!
In a way, this sudden truth about his lineage seems easier to accept for Roger than Brianna's about a Highlander father who died on the Culloden moor two centuries ago.
Is it because Roger is an orphan and the idea of learning about his past predominates over stupor? Is it because Mrs. Graham's education has left part of her acceptance of the mysterious and the inexplicable? Or maybe he sees it as a way to stay with Brianna and have a role to play in her life.
We do not have time to dwell on the reasons which push Roger to get involved with as much passion and constancy because the actions and the dramas are linked.
So of course, we just spent time with the Scottish clans at a time when the qualities of a man had to be courage, strength and fighting spirit.
At the same time, Roger may appear weak, even a little annoying, closer to a Frank Randall than to a Jamie Fraser. But in the present context, Roger's qualities are priceless and Claire entrusts it to Jamie (during the episode 'Perpetual adoration'), without Roger, nothing would have been possible to find him over time.
Because indeed, everything is accelerating. Roger therefore finds Jamie's trace, and Claire goes to meet him, leaving her life, her job, and her daughter, now an orphan. Shortly after he asked Brianna for marriage, but she refused.
He is therefore alone, idle, and depositary of a secret knowledge which is knitted in all the meshes of time and in which he feels powerless.
But finally Bree crosses the stones and it is too much for Roger who decides to follow her.
So we will say what we want, but for a little history professor, warm in one of the most prestigious British universities, you have a man, right?
And this is where his ordeal begins.
Because yes ... Roger's journey is certainly the most painful there is!
Despite the violence suffered by all the other protagonists, none found as many pitfalls in their path as Roger MacKenzie, as if he had to prove, again and again, that he was worthy of being accepted by the Fraser family… as if he had to pay a high price for the past actions of Dougal and Geillis.
Anyway, it all starts with the crossing on Bonnet's boat during which Roger meets his grandmother, Morag MacKenzie and where he will realize that life hangs by a thread, his own and that of others.
Then he finds Bree, but she pushes him away. Why ? A trifle if you want my opinion! This man who has just crossed 2 centuries and a ocean for her, is going up the suspenders because he kept secret (a few days) the announcement of the death of his parents 200 years earlier ?! This man who had to run after him because she herself didn't tell him anything about the same subject and his plans ?! This man without whom nothing would have been possible? The sentence is cruel to say the least!
And yet he doesn't turn his back on her. No. Always constant, he returns under the thumb of a terrifying Steven Bonnet to find gems for their return, both of them.
Roger is no longer the little professor of 20th century history. He is already an 18th century adventurer and his love for Bree is well worth that of Jamie for Claire. He has proven it twice.
Yet history will not give him any gifts because, paying the price for the misunderstanding of some and the secrecy of others, he is beaten almost to death by a furious Jamie, sold like cattle to a tribe of poorly employed Indians , lugged on not far from 1000 kilometers through a bushy forest, struck; humiliated, locked up, forgotten. Many would have thrown in the towel, at a minimum.
Besides, his meeting with Father Alexandre Ferigault shows him bitter and disillusioned. He still doesn't know why Jamie slaughtered him like this. Is it because Bree asked him to? He does not know why it was sold. He does not know why he is so mistreated. He only knows one thing. He suffers. Any flame in him seems to have gone out. From now on, what he wants is to survive and regain the comfort of the 20th century. It's possible ! He noticed the circle of stones, he has a gem. Nothing can stop him from the moment he manages to escape from his prison.
Yes but here it is. He can save the priest from a slow and painful death. He can shorten this agony. He can choose humanity, compassion. He can still save two souls ... that of the priest and his own. All he has to do is reverse.
And it’s here, precisely at this moment, that Roger’s true personality is essential. It is no longer a specific century. He is no longer on a personal quest. It is no longer on a linear and historic journey. No, he is the man who brings his beliefs and actions into conformity.
This choice of a life against his is like crossing other stones. Not the stones of time! But that of faith.
It’s for this man that Jamie and Claire are risking their lives. And it’s for this man that young Ian swaps his place. It is this man finally, who abandons the stones and finds Bree another 1000 kilometers away ... and the child who will be his, he decided so.
Roger is transformed. Neither more learned, nor more radiant, nor even, more in love! But Roger, whole, defined, as if he had just ended a ritual of tribal passage leading the adolescent to adulthood.
His scars running over his face, his eyes filled with new landscapes, his seasoned soul, he is ready for life in the 18th century with the woman he loves ...
Wouldn't he have deserved this ordeal to come to an end?
But Diana Gabaldon decided otherwise. Maybe in his eyes, Roger still had to prove himself. Perhaps having set the bar so high for Jamie, it seemed important to him to show the full worth of his future son-in-law. Who knows.
Because Roger MacKenzie, says the thrush, remains so little adapted to the time and the region in which he lives from now on. Neither hunter, nor warrior, nor even farmer ... his only real talent is his voice with which he imports the songs of a distant century. He sings Roger, for his wife on his wedding night, for his son with amazed eyes, for the recalcitrant Browns. He sings for weddings and funerals. Like no one, he sings. That might be enough! But of course, for Jamie, this stepfather who is not easy to please, it will never count, especially since the latter does not hear anything about music and that Roger must already be forgiven for to be Presbyterian.
He becomes captain however, not thanks to his talent, but so that Jamie can protect him, he is not so foolish as not to understand him. He also became a recruiter for the colonial militia, but his first decision was challenged. He becomes Jemmie’s father, but Jocasta suggests he’s only to touch the legacy. There would be enough to abandon everything, right?
Yet it holds, again and again, it holds.
And it was during a dangerous mission for which he volunteered that he was struck by his ancestor, Moragh's husband, then delivered as a traitor to the British army, and finally hanged as such.
Will the horror never end?
Fate plays Roger with as much cruelty and injustice as the Gods of ancient Greece did with the terrorized populations.
And that's where Roger’s trauma arises as he comes back to life at Fraser’s Ridge.
It’s the rope around his neck of course, as well as the bag over his head as well as the hand slipped into the rope at the last moment! Above all, it is the loneliness of unjust suffering.
It’s like the end of a Stations of the Cross which overwhelms him more than reason and makes his voice sink into his depths.
Like Jamie after Wentworth, Roger must now return from hell by the mere force of his will. He must find the light that could give meaning to all his suffering, because even if the body would be safe, the soul, it is always on the brink.
This meaning could be the incredible experience of the elasticity of time and what it represents for a historian! It could be his attachment to the Christian values that preach the importance of life. It could be so many things! But in the end, nothing is more important than this love he has for his wife. His wife for whom he risked everything and for whom, he returns, once again, to the world of the living.
Roger MacKenzie, who eventually became the equivalent of a Highlander, exiled through space and time, named Son of the Fraser family.
Roger Wakefield also, a Christian who accomplished his Way of the Cross through the steep mountains of North America until his crucifixion - here replaced by a hanging -
Roger Mac finally, having crossed the stones into hell, resurrected and returned to his family. Besides, the stones are not mistaken, since they do not let it start again.
And this man that he has become, having found his place in this new world, will therefore be able to play his role and be part of history on the move.
He saves Jamie from an excruciating death when he is bitten by a snake, caring for him, watching over him, carrying him and having the idea of bringing back the head of the rattlesnake with which Brianna will be able to make a makeshift syringe.
He allows this atrociously burnt Dutch girl to die without further pain by accompanying her to a rapid end in a gesture full of love and compassion.
He stands by Jamie during the ambush against Stephen Bonnet, then catches him on the beach and knocks him out, finally, to hand him over to the authorities.
And finally, he kills, for Claire ... ignoring his religious beliefs, his revulsion against revenge ... because he promised Jamie to be by his side.
Ultimately. Roger, Captain MacKenzie, is an accomplished man.
For people who have not read the books beyond volume 5, I stop here ... But know already that Roger's evolution is far from ending there!