AKA: Top 5 Dragonfly Moments!
As always, we begin: This is a spoiledy spoilfest spoilerific spoil-mania John Spoildy MacSpoilerdermus Spoilberg article. Don’t read it if you don’t want to know what happens in Dragonfly in Amber.
“Alive, and one. We are one, and while we love, death will never touch us.”
-Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber
Okay, I know I’ve given Miss Gabaldon a tough time over some of her structural choices in Dragonfly in Amber, the second book in the Outlander series (see: first two articles, B Story Problem and WTF Bree!). But let’s give her this, shall we? Her prose is absolutely gorgeous. Considering the fact that this is an American woman who had never been to Scotland—I’m going to repeat that, because I didn’t believe it when I first read it—never been to Scotland when she wrote Outlander. We’re talking George RR Martin/ JRR Tolkien/ Isaac Asimov- level world-building ability here. And sci-fi is, after all, 90% about the world building.
Now my husband is already convinced that I’m only reviewing this show so I can “research” shirtless pictures of Sam Heughan for a couple hours every night, but I swear that’s not it. Well, not all of it. Wait, did I say “husband”?
Sorry, Sam. I should have told you. I’m so ashamed.
But that’s not why I review Outlander. It’s not why we’ve all read it, nor why some of us have returned, loyal foot soldiers, to read it again and again. Thomas Wolfe wrote, “A stone. A leaf. An unfound door. Gone, and by the wind grieved. Ghost, come back again.” He wrote that in 1929 in Look Homeward, Angel, considered by many to be the greatest American novel. Why? Because it is the most human of desires—to return to a time that calls to us, a place that feels like home. Even though it may be a place we have never even seen.
There are a lot of novels set in the Highlands of Scotland. (Seriously, a lot. Like, it’s kind of creepy. And weird. A little bit weird.) But Outlander is the one that sings to us.
So herewith, the five moments from Dragonfly in Amber, as embodied in Diana Gabaldon’s gorgeous writing, that absolutely MUST be in the second season of the Starz series for it to work. These aren’t necessarily pertinent plot points– ie: Mary is raped– that must be there, because that’s fairly obvious.
Instead, these are five character-defining moments between our two protagonists, Claire and Jaime, that define their journey in a way that the emotional arcs of their characters would be incomplete without.
Agree with me? Don’t agree with me? Want to add your own? Let me know in the comments below. (Also, even though I have not got permission to do so and might get sued, I’m going to illustrate it with some gorgeous fan art I’ve found on the Internet. Thanks in advance to the artists over at Deviantart. Someone please hire these talented people to illustrate something.)
( Photo credit: Natira)
1 “You’ll lie with me now,” he said quietly. “And I shall use ye as I must. And if you’ll have your revenge for it, then take it and welcome, for my soul is yours, in all the black corners of it.”
Jamie and Claire’s marriage meets its first true test of Dragonfly about a third of the way through the book, during the France section, when Jamie stays out all night debauching with his friends, only to return in the morning reeking of booze, perfume and vomit. After a long scene in which the world’s least-comfortable bath is described at length, and in which Jamie declines to elaborate about how he got scratches on his upper thigh and hickeys on his neck, Claire dumps a pot of cold water on his head and outright accuses him of sleeping with hookers.
It’s a big fight, and it ends with them both tearfully apologizing and proclaiming their allegiance to each other. But something else is revealed here as well. Jamie is realizing that after his rape at Wentworth Prison, sex has taken on a dirty element for him that it never had before. Jamie’s lust for Claire, teased out of him the night before by the purveyors of the world’s oldest profession, has made him fearful that there is something dark and sordid in his heart. “I thought at the first that Jack Randall had stolen a bit of my soul,” he admits. “And then I knew that it was worse than that. All of it was my own, and had been all along; it was only he’d shown it to me, and made me know it for myself.”
Can Claire, whose passion for her husband rivals his, convince him that their sexual attraction is healthy? That in the end, it might be the only tool she has to keep him safe? This will be the challenge Jamie will confront in this book, an important step in his healing.
(photo credit: Ladameblanche)
2 “I charge ye, then, by your oath to me and your word to my mother—find the men.”
Murtagh, AKA the adorable Scottish version of John Gielgud in Arthur, who might just be my favorite character in this whole damn thing, comes to Jamie sick with grief after Claire and Mary were attacked in the street because he failed to protect them. (Never mind that he was whacked over the head before even realizing they were being attacked; he feels he should have somehow stopped it anyhow.)
When he first comes to Jamie and confesses his guilt, asking for his just punishment—death—Jaime insists that it’s not his fault. But as Murtagh describes his deep-seeded guilt, Jamie begins to realize two things. One is that Murtagh doesn’t want to be let off the hook. He needs to be held culpable for his actions and given a suitable sentence, or he’ll never forgive himself. And the second thing that Jamie realizes is that only he can dole out that justice, because the men look to Jamie as their leader. Even though Murtagh has known Jamie since he was a baby, he is no longer simply the beloved and befuddled uncle. Their relationship has taken a significant and irrevocable turn.
Jamie must assert his authority over his men, and doing so in this instance will pay off in spades later when he leads his men into battle. He charages Murtagh to find the attempted rapists and kill them. His forcefulness as a leader will be needed again, and very soon.
(photo credit: Darya-shnykina)
3 “I do feel my heart’s blood leave me, when I look at you.”
Jamie confronting Claire about sleeping with King Louis of France ends up being a scene about much more than infidelity. Because the truth is, Jamie never suspects that Claire slept with the king out of any kind of passion, and he believes her immediately when she explains that she would have done much worse to get him out of the Bastille.
No, what this scene is really about is Claire letting go of the anger she harbored toward Jamie for the death of their child Faith. And for Jamie, it’s about coming to terms, finally and fully, with the rape he suffered at the end of Outlander, and specifically with the survivors’ guilt so many rape victims feel that they were somehow complicit in the rape because they were aroused during it. This was the cruelest part of Jack Randall’s torture of Jamie– the psychological damage that he did to him by making him feel guilty for feeling pleasure. Deep down, Jamie was afraid that if the same had happened to Claire, he wouldn’t be able to forgive her. And now, confronted with the evidence that she willingly slept with another, he needs to determine whether or not that’s true.
Can she forgive him for fighting a duel with Jack Randall that upset her so much it may have caused her miscarriage? Can he forgive her for doing with Louis what he did with Jack—allowing herself to be taken by another? Do they still trust each other? Do they still love each other? Can their marriage survive? At the beginning of this scene, Claire and Jamie stand on one side of a threshold—one that many marriages would never be able to cross. But because they do, because they end up reaffirming their love for each other, we can see how much they have grown.
(photo credit: Leabharlann)
4 “Healing comes from the healed; not from the physician. That much, Raymond had taught me.”
This little revelation during the second section of the book, where Claire and Jaime have returned to Lallybroch from France but have not yet been called to fight with Prince Charles, is a huge character-defining moment for Claire. Because Claire lives and dies by science, and her frustration with the 18th century is that science was not only unknown, what was known of it was not respected. We’ve already seen her in season one (in a scene that was transplanted from elsewhere) come up against the popular wisdom of the day when treating sickness, which was basically, “Let the priest bleed the patients and say a bunch of prayers over them while they die anyway.”
In this section, Claire is treating young Rabbie McNab, who suffers from seizures. Without medicine, there’s not a whole lot Claire can do for him, but she at least knows what his mother does not—Rabbie’s condition is not fatal. What the McNabs need from her, then, is the belief that he will be all right. So she reaches into her pocket and hands him some charmstones Raymond had given her. “It will protect him…” she tell them. “from… from devils.” Claire has finally discovered what the Highlands had to teach her. Sometimes faith is the best medicine.
(photo credit: Leabharlann )
5 “Weel, grieve for me and ye will, Dougal,” he said, when he’d finished. “And I’m glad for it. But ye canna grieve ‘til I be deid, can ye? I would die by your hand, mo caraidh, not in the hands of the strangers.”
So why does Diana Gabaldon spend several pages during a key battle in the fight of the Jacobites against the British, and with only 15% of the book left, detailing the painful and terribly sad death of… some guy named Rupert? Who is Rupert? Well, Rupert is Dougal’s best friend, apparently, but not for long, because Rupert isn’t going to make it out of this church.
And damned if Rupert is going to be killed by those British injuries. They’re not good enough to take him. Rupert would rather Dougal finish the job. Dougal is worthy of dying for. This is what screenwriting teachers call “the whiff of death” (see Snyder, Blake). And what exactly is dying here… besides Rupert? Our certainty, of course. The certainty that we’re going to win.
Not win the battle of the Jacobites—that’s already sealed by history. But that we personally—the readers, and Jamie and Claire, our avatars– will win in our rooting for our protagonists to undo what we already know, namely that Claire will be knocking on 50 at the beginning and end of this book and will not have lived her life with Jamie.
We leave Dragonfly in Amber knowing that Claire and Jamie may very well see each other again (and if you’ve read on, well, then you’ve read on), but don’t get it twisted. They’ll never get those years back. They’ll never have more children. They’ll never be young together again. War will take that from them, and it will never give it back. Gone, and by the wind grieved. Claire’s love for Jaime will have to wait a long time, suspended in amber.
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