I perceive Frank as more scarred, in a way, than cold. I think he was changed by war, and the separation from a wife that he never really had the chance to connect with or get to know.
He may have been scarred by the war and he reacted by distancing himself from others, but I still see him as an emotionally more distant person to begin with. I think it’s telling that he chose to marry a woman
who was 15 years younger than him rather than one closer to his age and more of an equal. That allows for more distance and also more dominance (for lack of a better word) over his partner.
I have my doubts that Claire would have ever been really happy with him (and vice versa), especially after her wartime experiences. She may have taken his brushing her off in the beginning, but I don’t think she would have tolerated that for long. She is too unconventional herself and too much of a take charge person to be happy as a proper “professor’s wife”.
Frank never had the opportunity to see that side of her before the war – he only saw the dazzled young woman looking at him with stars in her eyes, not the 12 year old girl who by sheer strength of will forced her Uncle to take her along with him all over the world . Claire only stayed with Frank after she came back for Brianna’s sake, and she makes it clear that she never felt part of his academic world or the people in it. I think that still would have happened even if she had never gone through the stones.
I actually do think that I originally liked Frank more after first reading Outlander and before I read the other books. He seemed like an ok but kind of dull and pedantic guy. After Claire returned to him, he came across as too much the typical privileged white male who expects his wife to fit into a neat little box as defined by society. He is clear that he is taking her back because it is the proper thing to do and he always does the proper thing. I also see him as passive agressive. He accepts Claire back, but he spends the next 20 years quietly punishing her for what he sees as her transgression.
He does take care of Brianna so Claire can become a doctor but that is more Brianna’s sake than for Claire’s. He loves Brianna, but as a father he is in the dominant role. It would have been interesting to see what happened if he had been around when Brianna matured and became more of her own person rather than Daddy’s little girl. I think he would have had some real issues with her – note his already evidenced disapproval of her associating with Joe Abernathy’s son and his solution to it of arbitrarily removing her from a situation that doesn’t meet with his approval regardless of how it might affect her.
The tragedy of Frank is that he should have married a woman who was as proper and conventional as himself and who would have understood and been happy as the type of wife he wanted. He was probably as dazzled by Claire and her differences from the women he knew as she was by him. I doubt he ever stopped to consider how those differences would play out over time. Maybe he thought he would be able to mold her into what he wanted her to be without realizing that success would destroy the qualities in her that he fell in love with to start with.
People who have a passion for life as do Claire and Jamie are hard to live with for those who don’t share that trait. That’s why the two get along so well – they understand each other in a way that Frank and Claire never could. They do a lot of good but they also wreak a lot of havoc on those who care for them.
Frank and Jenny and Ian Sr.and even Lord John Grey, have all felt the effects both good and bad of their actions just to name a few.