Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Reply To: OK, let's do this: The Beating and Issues of Consent

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I think you nailed it in terms of the “unreliable narrator” illustration, CelticGlamazon.

The first time I read the beating scene, I was unprepared for it. I was actually quite bothered by the violent argument before that, when Jamie calls her a “bitch” and she tries to kick him. It seemed like this romantic, tender relationship was turning into a horror story! Marry the wonderful guy, wake up with a monster.

But after reading through later sections of the book, I revisited the scenes and had a totally different interpretation. They were still challenging, but now I saw it as examples that these characters are not perfect or idealized, but are real, flawed humans. They become more vulnerable and honest with each other. Jamie was angry, but also embarrassed that his wife ignored him and put everyone at risk. He’s trying to break through to her, but he’s also afraid for her and putting himself at grave risk for her. In her turn, Claire doesn’t take things seriously yet and doesn’t respect Jamie or appreciate what he goes through for her. She is starting to realize she owes him greater commitment, as well.

So, when Claire says she was “beaten within an inch of her life” I think the first time I believed what she said at face value. But what she was really saying was that she suffered a humiliating and painful strapping, so the emotional hurt is what she’s really describing in an emotional manner. She wasn’t beaten within an inch of her life: she was sore the next day, but walked and rode. It was the emotional weight of the strapping she was speaking to. When Black Jack punched her in the gut, she said she was as shocked at someone hurting her on purpose as she was the pain of the blow. Now she is hurt by her new husband and lover hurting her in such a backwards (to her) manner. They both feel hurt, humiliated, violated and have to work their way through those feelings to a new understanding. To her credit, Claire forgives Jamie on their walk the next day—which is a greater act than I could manage, I’m sure!