New Beginnings: How Wisdom & Resilience Will Help Jamie Fraser Survive
Outlander Season 3 is a time of potential rebirth for Jamie Fraser. Here’s a look at how his wisdom & resilience might help him find his way.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead. If you don’t want to know anything past Outlander Season 2 on STARZ, bookmark this post for reading at the end of Season 4. However, if you’re OK with discussions about Voyager and Drums of Autumn, please proceed.
Proverbs and sayings help us understand our humanity—our frailty, despair, strength, judgment, wisdom and resilience. Take this adage, for example, attributed to Taoism’s Lao Tzu, “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” Nowhere is this more clear than with our Scottish hero, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.
Jamie sheds his skin, and various scars where possible, to reinvent himself, time after time, moving through and around one painful ending after another to forge a new beginning. Blessed with charm, good looks, mental and physical strength, skill with weapons and an excellent education, he seems at times to also have the luck of the Irish, always finding the resources and grace to move forward, even in the absence of any blessings we can see.
As he adopts each new persona, Jamie reveals a new shade of his soul. It’s the sum of those shades—of outlaw, strong warrior and leader, perceptive husband and father, and resilient victim and prisoner, to name a few—that earns Jamie Fraser the moniker King of Men. A closer look at the extraordinary Jamie and his life filled with the pain and joy of life also might earn him the name the King of New Beginnings.
As Sam Heughan said in the AOL BUILD interview, “Outlander Season 3 is a new beginning for the show.” And both Seasons 3 and 4 of the STARZ TV Outlander series will hold many new beginnings for Heughan’s character, Highlander Jamie Fraser—some that will prove much more significant than others. The qualities that have held him in good stead as he has adopted one new persona after the next—wisdom and resilience—are the same ones that will help him navigate others in the future.
In the Outlander books, snippets of Jamie’s life are shared through various means, from his own words to his relationships with others—his friends and his family, wives and children. In his early life, he finds himself in situations not uncommon to an 18th-century Highlander. He loses a brother and becomes an orphan with only his sister Jenny remaining as immediate family. These painful endings lead him from the role of son and brother to Laird of Clan Fraser.
As a young adult with strong ties to his extended family, the Clan MacKenzie, Jamie finds himself at odds with some of his relatives and also with their common enemy, the British. His education and intellect serve him well, but Jamie can’t seem to escape the dastardly British officer Black Jack Randall who takes a particular interest in him and brands him an outlaw. In addition to dodging this sadistic man’s interpretation of British law, Jamie has to maneuver his way through the political scheming inherent in the Scottish Clan system.
Lucky for Jamie, he meets and marries Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp along the way who, among many other helpful actions, later helps him gain a pardon. The story gets really complicated here. Claire tells no one that she is a time traveler who, in the 1940s, touched a buzzing stone in Scotland and was transported back to the 18th century nor that she left behind a husband on the other side of the stone, but that’s a topic for another day. Trying to cover her tracks brings Claire under suspicion from both the MacKenzies, who take her under their wing, and the English because she also has a run-in with Black Jack. In marrying her to keep her safe from Black Jack, Jamie officially takes on the role of protector that he has unofficially filled since they first met.
His physical strength, worthy of gladiator status, plays a large role in his protection of those he loves. His attempt to protect Jenny led to one of four floggings, one that brought him to within an inch of his life. On top of rescuing Claire more than once, to protect her he gives his body to Black Jack who physically and mentally tortures and brutalizes him. (I still can’t watch those scenes and, forewarned, skipped that part of the book.) We see Jamie at his lowest point, in unfamiliar territory, a victim. He wants to die and I was sure he would. But it’s not his time and, true to Tzu, his horrible suffering leads to multiple new beginnings, forcibly brought back from the brink of death by Claire, a life with her in a new country, their first child on the way, and a mission to help change the course of history.
We watch as their best laid plans fail and we weep when their child is stillborn. We really, really weep when the end is near and Jamie saves Claire by sending her and their unborn second child back to the future. We know he is prepared to die in battle but, alas, God has other plans for him.
In Season 3 Episode 2, “Surrender,” Jamie reprises two roles—outlaw, spending years of solitude alone in a cave, and leader, when he arranges his own capture and heads to prison joining other Highlanders who see him as clan chief. Later, when he is paroled, he will spend time as a groom and be forced into a relationship that secretly brings another child into his life. He is allowed to leave before the secret is revealed and, after returning home to Lallybroch, he does marry again and gains two step-children. That’s all I can force myself to say about that.
Jamie is at heart a soldier, a guardian, fiercely protecting those he loves, no matter the cost. Sometimes successful, sometimes not, his protector hat is always on. He endures it all but he is more than a mere survivor, he is resilient, with this spirit that is rarely broken. Yes, there are times when he simply wants it all to end and, at the very worst of times, to determine his own fate by ending it himself. Even at his lowest point, however, with help from others he taps into his deep well of resilience and grace and somehow manages to rise up and move forward.
I do admire Jamie’s resilience, but what I adore most is that he is a lover and a fighter. He is, in essence, a born leader with the gift of easily discerning when it’s best to negotiate and when it’s time to break out that sword.
He also has his own peculiar sense of justice and duty that leads him to do things like take the punishment of others, be it she-who-will-not-be-named or his fellow war-weary ragtag clan members in prison. His dominant protector gene landed him in the role of outlaw more than once, first in his skirmishes with the British, which led him to the life of mercenary in France. Then, when his love of his adopted son Fergus led him to break a vow to Claire, forcing a looonnnng overdue duel with Black Jack who had assaulted Fergus, he became a prisoner in the Bastille.
Then there’s Jamie the lover. One of his qualities I find particularly endearing is that he pays attention. He’s got skills and he knows how to use them (which is the reason I’ve also named him the Lass Whisperer). So when he is forced/not forced to marry Claire, it’s no surprise that he has some serious wedding planner skills, too. He wants a proper wedding, one that would make his mother proud. He enlists help from friends and family and pulls together a ceremony that stands the test of time, from a perfect dress to a candle-lit church, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him chiming in on future nuptials planning.
That wedding led Jamie to a new beginning and the role that may have been the greatest challenge for him so far, and for many humans—that of spouse. Yes, Jamie’s a virgin (but not a monk) and he accepts the wedding night advice offered. With one minor moment of being directionally-challenged, he nails it on his honeymoon—pun totally intended. On top of busting out a great toast AND a present, the family heirloom pearls, he properly consummates the marriage, Scottish-style, and then again and again (hmmm, I may have lost count).
Yes, Jamie rocked in the role of bridegroom but, as time went on, success in the role of husband proved elusive at times. After a fight over 18th-century justice for wives who misbehaved and the resulting rift in their marriage, Jamie again discerned that negotiation was the way to move forward. The best make-up_sex_ever ensued and all was right with the world.
All hail our Jamie as he travels down one path and then another, his wisdom and resilience helping him adapt in order to survive. His precious memories sustain him over time, from one new beginning to the next.
With some of those new beginnings, Jamie adopted a new nom de guerre. The first one, however, was bestowed by his brother—Sawny, a nickname for Alexander—and memorialized on a carved wooden snake. His outlaw personas that we’ve seen in Seasons 1 and 2 were my favorite—Jamie MacTavish and Red Jamie.
In “Surrender,” we saw him as The Dunbonnet (with a look that I call “Cave Jamie”) and soon we’ll see him as prison clan leader Mac Dubh (a name that will follow him for years). Upon parole from prison, he morphs into Helwater groom Alex MacKenzie.
Then there’s the name we are all waiting to see on that Print Shop sign, the one that leads Claire back to him, Alexander Malcolm. In addition to his smuggler sobriquet, Jamie Roy, a couple more fleeting monikers come and go, Captain Alessandro and Etienne Marcel de Provac Alexandre, before the Native Americans aptly name him Bear-Killer.
Seasons 3 and 4 will take us through the corresponding books and we have our collective fingers crossed that STARZ will take the series on into later books within the series. Diana Gabaldon is writing novel #9 and has announced that #10 will be the last, so it is inevitable that Jamie’s new beginnings WILL eventually end. JHRC… what will we do then, Ms. Gabaldon!?!
As with reading the Diana Gabaldon’s novels and watching the STARZ series, in life we are all on different paths. Some watchers don’t read, at least not ahead, and I’ve heard that there are readers who don’t watch by choice. No matter our starting point, we move along in parallel, through one forest, then another, our paths joining and diverging, sometimes rejoining people who were once part of our lives, sometimes saying goodbye forever. We look ahead, remember back, trying to make sense of our place in life. To paraphrase Call the Midwife author Jennifer Worth:
“…There is a time for reaching out, looking back…Time to take stock, measure joy and pain, find ways to say this is who we are and what we have now become. In doing so, we acknowledge what we cherish most of all. New beginnings, accepted with grace, become loving memories.”
While it’s clear that Season 3 will be an emotional one, we can already tell we will be rewarded with more new beginnings (think print shop) and more of the great real-life drama we so love about this story (think brothel and Lallybroch). We canna wait, right?
The last new beginnings I experienced? I quit a long-term job, moved cross-country and was selected as an Outlander Cast blogger. Life is good. What was the last new beginning you experienced?