Outlander season 3, episode 2, looks at the price both Jamie and Claire pay for their families, by putting their own needs last.
It’s an old adage that having children changes you overnight. You’re suddenly responsible for another human’s life, a human that is utterly defenseless without you. The days of just thinking of yourself, of fairly carefree times with your partner, are over. There’s a new dimension to your life.
In Outlander, for the first time in their lives, both Jamie and Claire discover that their lives are now being sculpted by the children they care for more than the adults that surround them. Without each other, their lives are stunted both emotionally and physically, and the only thing saving them are their children.
The cave of despair
Jamie and Claire’s first foray into being parents was as the guardians to Fergus in season 2. Even though Fergus was largely grown and resourceful from his life on the streets of Paris, he was still a child. There was still a vulnerability and impulsivity about him.
There is nothing that wounds you more than your child being in pain especially when you have not been able to prevent it. Jamie experiences this twice. In season two, Fergus’ abuse at the hands of Black Jack is what sets the wheels of tragedy in motion for the loss of Faith. In season three, Fergus losing his arm is no less of a catalyst.
The loss of Fergus’ arm is in some way a metaphor for everything Jamie has experienced. Post Culloden, Jamie himself is armless. He can’t openly help at Lallybroch, he can’t ward off the British, he can’t protect his family and tenants. He now sees himself nothing more than a burden and risk. He’s living a half-life at best in self-imposed, solitary exile which is both filled with and devoid of emotion. For a man who lead and lived a full, physical, and rugged life, he is now truly impotent.
The cave of modern society
Even though Claire is living in a much better circumstance than Jamie and those at Lallybroch, she often finds her hands as tied as Jamie’s. She tries to let Frank in, but the reality is that neither is what the other one wants, and this takes its toll in half-hearted attempts, and the inevitable resentment, coupled with loathing.
The late 1940s through 1960s were not times where unwed mothers struck out on their own. As a woman ahead of her time in Boston, there is little place where anyone understands her, let alone provides a physical or emotional support system. Other than Joe Abernathy, who does Claire have to confide in? Despite their relationship, Joe is only a partially informed confidant; a work colleague. They bond as outsiders and fish out of water, but Joe’s doesn’t know her past. Jamie at least has Jenny; Claire truly has no one.
In some senses, Claire is living in an emotional cave where, if she closes her eyes, she’s with Jamie. Regardless, she is still in isolation. Her existence in Boston parallels Jamie’s half-life. It’s the beginning of emotional walls that are Claire’s own jail cell.
What to live for
In the end, what saves both Jamie and Claire is their children. Without Fergus and Brianna and that intrinsic feeling of bond and responsibility would each of them have completely given up. In what darker place would they have been without their children to consider?
Outlander returns next Saturday at 8:00 ET/PT on Starz.