Outlander QOTW: When Tradition Attacks

qotw 20

It’s Sunday … and our first Sunday out of the Droughtlander Wasteland.  That means, it is time for the Outlander Question of the Week. So many really just wonderful things to talk about and so I think this week I’ll start with the most obvious…

The spanking. I’ve been reading reviews today and there are a lot of people who just have thrown Jamie out the door, never to be spoken to again. They call him abusive and accuse him of being a perpetrator of domestic violence.

I do not now, nor I have ever seen it that way and I think if you said that to Jamie he’d just be appalled that you think he’d do something like that out of anger.

It isn’t as if he came home from a long day of cattle rustling to find that Claire had burned the parritch and then threw the bowl in the floor, shattering it and covering the floor in burned parritch; grabbed her by the hair and forced her down and made her eat the parritch off the floor.

What Jamie did wasn’t from a place of anger. He even said that if it had just been him, their little fight by the river (which Sam and Cait just KILLED by the way)  and the subsequent forgiveness would have settled the matter, for him it had. But that wasn’t going to cut it with Dougal and the rest of the men. And I have to say, if the punishment had been up to Dougal … well let’s just say, I think the story may have ended there.

Now, show only people don’t know this so I’m going to tell them,  in the book, Jamie straight up tells her what’s going to happen if she doesn’t stay put:

“It’s verra dangerous, and I’ll not have ye there, Claire. I shall be busy, and if it comes to it, I can’t fight and protect you at the same time.” Seeing my mutinous look, he dropped his hand to the saddlebag and began rummaging.

“What are you looking for?”
“Rope. If ye wilna do as I say, I shall tie ye to a tree until I come back.”
“You wouldn’t!”
“Aye, I would!” Plainly he meant it. I gave in with bad grace, and reluctantly reined in my horse. Jamie leaned to kiss me glancingly on the the cheek, already turning to go.

“Take care, Sassenach. You’ve your dirk? Good. I shall come back as soon as I can. Oh, one more thing.”
“What’s that?” I said sullenly.

“If you leave that copse before I come for ye, I’ll tan your bare arse wi’ my sword belt. Ye wouldna enjoy walking all the way to Bargrennan. Remember,” he said, pinching my cheek gently, “I dinna make idle threats.”

He didn’t, either. I rode slowly toward the grove, looking back to watch him racing away, bent low over the saddle, one with the horse, the ends of his plaid flying behind.

~Diana Gabaldon, Outlander

Now, Claire was planning on high tailing it to Craigh Na Dun and heading on home so the threat, as far as she was concerned, was moot anyway. But she clearly says, in her own voice, the she understood the threat and she knew it wasn’t idle.

And let’s not forget, she doesn’t just say “Ok Jamie, you’re right, here strap my arse.” She fights back and does her own damage and after a couple days of cold shoulder she tells him in no uncertain terms just exactly how things are and how they are going to be. Terms to which Jamie readily agrees, and keeps his promise for, well…decades.

I get that people are feeling as if she got punished for being sexually assaulted, and I think in part they are right. It just fried Jamie to see of all people, Black Jack Randall standing behind his wife’s bare arse. And he is certain that if she had just stayed her behind where he told her to, none of that would have happened.  He isn’t blaming her for Black Jack’s actions, but for leaving the place where she would be safe.

And I am not saying that Jamie didn’t feel a little justified in what he did. And I am certainly not saying that even though this was the way Jamie was raised to believe things were done when wives disobeyed and scared the living shit out of you, that he had NO choice. He had a choice, I’m just saying it isn’t the same as men who beat their wives from a place of anger. For Jamie this was about justice and duty. He was wrong, but that doesn’t change the fact that that is where he was coming from.

But here’s what I am saying. Jamie is not abusive. Abusers engage in a pattern of behavior, are unable to learn, grow, or change. I am saying that the lesson that he intended to teach Claire, which was to feel the impact of her actions, was something he accidentally learned by his action here. He certainly felt the impact of his actions, and learned from it.

He understands that just because something has always BEEN done, doesn’t mean it NEEDS to be done. He learns that there are other ways to get your point across that don’t involve violence or humiliation. Abusers on the other hand, thrive on violence and humiliation. He understands what he did to Claire, while abusive men don’t care, and that it just isn’t the way you treat someone you love, no matter what they did or how much of your inherent bejesus they scare out of you.

And again, I’m going to give you something from the books .. and as the series progresses, you’ll see this even if you never read the book (but really, read the book) Jamie never, ever raises his hands to Claire again. That doesn’t mean they never fight again.. trust me they do. It doesn’t mean they never say mean nasty things to each other again, trust me, they do. But it does mean that this is the story of a marriage. A marriage occupied by two imperfect people who are both facing new challenges and are trying to make their way and sometimes that gets loud, and the two of them get nose to nose, and quite frankly Claire, well I’ll no’ spoil the books for ye, but this just isn’t the same as a man who beats his wife out of anger and because he enjoys inflicting pain on people.

And so, I think all in all, the scene was handled great and Sam and Cait were just perfection for me.

Your question is …what did you think? About the spanking itself and about how it was portrayed last night?


About Dede Taylor

I'm a reader of books, writer of tales, dabbler of .. things. I'm also an avid TV watcher, have been since M.A.S.H. first aired ...(that was a long time ago). I've been to the Berlin Wall (when it still was a wall), shaken hands with Ronald Reagan, and lived in Puerto Rico...among other fascinating things, and I ain't done yet.
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13 Responses to Outlander QOTW: When Tradition Attacks

  1. I feel like Sam and Cait completely NAILED the argument scene. Hands down. I also never felt in my numerous readings of the book that the “spanking scene” was one of domestic abuse or sadism (another scene Sam and Cait did a wonderful job with). Like the book and show stated (without Jamie knowing Claire’s complete background), her actions show that she comes from a “place” where things are different, i.e. more SAFE. Implying that her actions do not fully realize the dire jeopardy she put the men in to rescue her and the rippling affect they have on the rest of their lives.
    I honestly feel that if Claire was of Jamie’s time, she would have felt she got off easy with him spanking her. Because I’m sure other men of the time would have done far worse. But, because Claire is NOT of the 18th century, she feels the spanking is demeaning and primitive.


  2. Susan Durnil says:

    I thought the scenes, both the argument and the resultant spanking scene, were done just about as well as they possibly could be. Jamie didn’t take his belt to her out of anger, but because he knew the MacKenzies would have never accepted her into if he hadn’t. It would have make the make-up scene even better if they’d added the line from the book: “I don’t make idle threats and I don’t take frivolous vows.” Jamie gave her justice as he knew it – and Claire admits it in the book.

    We’ve read some thirty years of their marriage now and this was one step toward the two of them becoming the marvelous couple that they are. Marriage, and bonding with one’s spouse takes a lot of give and take, a lot of, “My parents never argued!” “MINE DID!”, trying to take each other’s backgrounds into account, but making something entirely new that is just the two of you. Jamie and Claire become something more than either of them ever could have been alone. This is just one step on that journey. And Jamie never raises his hand to her again. Not that he didn’t want to.


  3. Judy11 says:

    You made me realize the pint about Jamie learning from wht he did to Claire – that both learned a lesson from all of this and that both of them WANT to move this relationship forward ina way that works for both of them. I never was under the impression that Jamie was an abuser for his actions. It was how he saw justice. I was on the receiving end of that justice growing up (as Jamie was) but I knew why and that it was always meted out with love.


  4. Teresa Loveless says:

    Very well said. I remember being so mad when I first read this, that I threw the book. And thought later that she forgave quicker than I would have. That is the thing about Claire that I most want to be. I am too vindictive and slow to get over things. Jamie and Claire fight, get it off their chests, learn from their mistakes and move on. This was the way it was at that time. Women could be and were punished. However as you get to know Jamie, you learn that he us not abusive in any way. Did he handle it in a way that we think is wrong ? yes. Would a Scottish Highlander in the 1740s think it was wrong ? No. This is HISTORICAL FICTION not a manual for new husbands.


    • Dede Taylor says:

      Cait said in an interview that for Claire it had to do with the war. That seeing all that death made Claire realize that wallowing was a waste of precious time. So Claire dealt and moved on, because she didn’t feel like she had the luxury of wallowing. I never really thought of wallowing as luxury, but I suppose it is. And it’s kind of sad that Claire felt she couldn’t, even a little.


  5. Jeez, this is making me want to see this episode!!!! (I have to wait for the dvd’s. How will I survive this?) Your post was SPOT ON!

    I just wish everyone would read the books because it seems that the tv series does tend to ignore a lot of key points in their relationship. (One example being Jamie not discussing his own past experiences with being punished. I just read on another blog that that scene was left out. And like you said: the “idle threats” quote). Again, GREAT post.


  6. Peigi says:

    Yes to all of the above! And remember that, at this point, Jamie does not yet know where she comes from and has no frame of reference for such a woman. Some of his anger may be subconscious fear, confusion, and awe for the bold woman that she is.


  7. Millie Wesson says:

    I, like many of you, have waited with tentative anticipation to see the spanking scene. I firmly believed this would be the make or break scene for the success of our beloved Outlander’s conversion to the screen, and now I believe I was correct. We had viewed 8 episodes that stayed very close to DG’s written word, and we were not at all disappointed with the adaptation. The spanking scene, however, was talked about for six long months with many, many of you thinking it would lean towards corporal or even sexual abuse. I am absolutely thrilled with the care and thought that Ron and his fantastic team gave to this scene. We see Jamie calmly and authoritatively explain to Claire what she had done wrong and the consequences of those actions by mirroring the 18th century parenting style delivered to him by his father. We see Claire’s 20th century reaction which we viewers understand completely. The scene, however, does not lend itself in the least towards abuse but towards a lesson in life for each of the characters. Claire learns that there are consequences to her actions and she must be more aware of her actions in these times. Jamie learns, although he still doesn’t understand why, that their relationship is not “normal” for marriages he has observed on Scotland. From his lesson, he makes the decision to never physically discipline Claire again, and this choice is the beginning of outwardly proving his desire to be a good husband to his nonconformist spouse. Kudos to all involved from the powerful words of DG to the excellent acting, writing, directing, and producing of the Outlander TV company for portraying this sensitive scene in such a caring and educational way.


  8. Melinda Ray says:

    I absolutely agree with you!!!! I have been a fan for over 20 yrs and this expresses my sentiments exactly!!!!!!!!!!!


  9. First of all thank you for a very thoughtful review of a subject matter that has turned the Outlander Universe on its ear. I grew up at a time when spanking was an acceptable form of punishment, and received my share. Were they justified? Much as I hate to admit I am sure I was never receive a spanking I didn’t deserve. There are however far more damaging form of abuse that leave far deeper scars. I refer to being subjected to verbal abuse. It leaves no marks on the surface but takes years to recover your sense of self worth if you ever do. Believing this one could put forth the argument that Claire is far guiltier of abuse than Jamie.

    Remember he has had time to observe Claire’s repeated refusal to learn to respect their ways. Now in fairness there are mitigating circumstances for her attempts to escape but he doesn’t know that. He only knows she has a foul mouth and refuses to listen to anyone exposing the clan to danger in the attempt to free her as well as on-going problems with the English.

    I think he is suffering alot of guilt for exposing her to potential rape by the deserters and was trying to keep someone he loves safe. Finding her in the hands of Black Jack had to be his worse nightmare. He knows what the man is like.

    Clan justice demanded punishment and by rights Claire could have been punished publicly by Rupert or Dougal but tried to spare her that humiliation. The Outlander series is about History, a touch of Science Fiction, Adventure; but most of all it is a tale of a long term marriage and love story between two strong people who are doing the best they can. What is important is they never lose sight of the love they have for one another and a willingness to put everything on the line for eachother. Sorry this is so long but it is frustrating to hear so many people missing the messages in these books.


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