Outlander is more than a wonderful read and/or fantastic TV series. It’s also full of important life lessons. Here are a few Outlander Season 3 life lessons. Which ones resonate for you?
Last year on one of my many Outlander rewatches, I waxed the tiniest bit philosophical and began finding life lessons in the episodes of Seasons 1 and 2 (you can read those here). I didn’t immediately find lessons in Season 3, but Droughtlander is a funny thing isn’t it? After stepping away from the show for a few months and then occasionally re-watching episodes, the lessons began leaping out at me once more.
Home is Where the Heart Is
We know that Claire never really had a home due to her nomadic childhood with Uncle Lamb and her army service as an adult. That all changes when she meets Jamie; he becomes her home. Claire articulates this to Jaime before he sends her back through the stones in Season 2. In Season 3, we find Jamie and Claire in a brothel, at Lallybroch, on board a ship and on beaches. No matter the roof over their heads, or lack thereof, Jamie and Claire are never more at home than when they are together. Being together is all they need; they work out everything else as they go along.
I have lived in tiny apartments, shiny, big houses and now, in a snug little condo. I have never been more happy than when I look around and see my little love and my big love under the same roof, happily chatting about some inane thing. In those moments, I realize that it doesn’t matter what kind of roof I sit under as long as those two hearts are under it with me.
You Can Make Someone Look at You, But You Can’t Make Them See You
Frank’s plea to Claire to open her eyes in Episode 2 is doubly heartbreaking to me. It strikes me as Claire’s way of protecting them both. If she closes her eyes, she spares Frank the sadness that lives in them and she can also picture Jamie. Frank’s insistence reveals a truth that he has, thus far, been unwilling to acknowledge. He can force Claire to look at him, but she will only see Jamie, always.
I have suffered through enough terrible relationships to know that no amount of yelling, screaming or pleading can make your “heart feel something that it won’t” (thank you Bonnie Raitt). Poor Frank just didn’t understand this.
A Name is Just a Name Until the Moment It Becomes Everything
Standing in front of Father Fogden, Fergus was at a loss for words when asked his full name. The minister stressed that he couldn’t complete the ceremony without the name. Before Fergus could begin an explanation, Jamie spoke the name for all to hear: Fergus Claudel Fraser. I couldn’t help but smile right back at the television screen when I saw Fergus’ face. He beamed with joy, pride and love. With three words. Jamie publicly claimed what had been in his heart for 20 years; Fergus was his son and now he had the name to prove it.
I could go on for days about the magic of adoption, but I won’t. Just know that once a parent has claimed a child, there is no power on this earth strong enough to break that bond. If you don’t believe me, listen to Maris Blechner talk about the power of words and the magic of claiming one’s children. Thank you to Denise Stewart for sharing this amazing story with me.
Blood Is Thicker Than Water and Love Is Thicker Than Blood
Outlander is all about family – the family you are born into, the family you choose, the family that chooses you. We get to see this play out over and over again in Season 3. Frank raises Bree with the same love he would have given to a biological child. Jamie and then Jamie and Claire love on (and scold, when necessary) Fergus as if he is their son. Marsali and Joan clearly think of Jamie as their father. Then there is Lord John with Willie. I can’t talk more about that episode yet. It’s just too soon (cue “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”). You get it. Right? Love, not bloodlines, is the key to all of these heart-warming and, sometimes, heart-wrenching relationships.
I come from a family that has lived in Kentucky for more than 250 years, before it was even a state. There is a long history of immigrants from France, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales who went on to serve in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. We treasure our ancestral ties to these soldiers, immigrants and farmers who carved lives out of the Kentucky soil. With that said, those “ties” are just lines on ancestral charts. They are names on deeds and census records. My daughter, adopted from a different country, doesn’t share my blood or genetic predisposition to asthma and allergies (thank God!), but that child certainly does have a hold on my heart. It’s not the lines on a chart that connect her to me, to my parents and to their parents. It’s the love we have for her. It’s a love that runs deeper and more true than the blood in our veins. It’s the kind of love that we see time and again in Outlander.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
While Jamie and Claire wait for Young Ian to swim out to Silkie’s Island to grab the jewels, Jamie asks Claire what could be a life-changing question, “Will you risk the man I am for the sake of the one ye once knew?” As Claire ponders her answer, she sees the ship coming around the island and all hell breaks loose as they watch Young Ian get kidnapped. A collective cry came from the fandom, “but she never answered the question!” Didn’t she? She never actually says yes or no or give me three days to think about it. What she does is get on a ship with Jamie to find Ian, jump off a ship with the hope of finding Jamie, run through a jungle to find Jamie, kill Geillis to save Young Ian and on and on. If you read Janet Reynolds’ post The Five Love Languages in Outlander, you’ll see that Janet, in my humble opinion, correctly assigns “acts of devotion” as the love language to both Jamie and Claire. Why did Claire need to say a word when literally every action from that moment forward screamed, “Yes I will have you!!!”
I was having a particularly bad day earlier this year. I was stressed and filled with anxiety and my partner was about to embark on a two-week long business trip. I didn’t tell him how I was feeling and he didn’t ask. He just looked at me and said, “Let’s go out for a bit.” We got in the car and five minutes later, we arrived at a park in a forest. We sat, together, by a small creek and the stress and anxiety just fell away. He never uttered the words “I love you” but his actions told me exactly that. If you’re frustrated by a loved one who doesn’t say the words you want to hear, take a moment and reflect on his/her actions. Maybe he/she is showing you love rather than saying the words.
If You Find Yourself Held Captive on a Ship Infested with Typhoid Fever, Make Yourself a Fabulous Head Wrap, Roll Up Your Sleeves and Get to Work
When the Captain of the Porpoise pulls away from the Artemis, Claire finds herself held hostage on a ship full of dying men with the medical training and knowledge to help them. While she’s not thrilled about her predicament, Claire does what she does best – she tries her damnedest to save as many men as possible.
We frequently find ourselves in less than ideal situations. We’re not in the right spot with the right people and it all feels a bit uncomfortable. Being an introvert, this basically describes every day of my life. If there’s no hope for escape (or at least no escape for the next eight hours or however long your workday or your neighbor’s party is), do your best to channel Claire. Find out what needs to be done and just get in there and do it. It will make your length of captivity seem shorter and you might even make a new friend. Rest in peace, Mr. Pound.
Find a Friend Who Will Save You Even If He Thinks You Embalmed the Excise Man in a Cask of Crème De Menthe
I could watch that scene with Jamie, Lord John and Captain Leonard on repeat. Lord John never asks Jamie if he’s innocent. He likely assumes that Jamie killed the guy, but had a damned good reason for doing so. Instead, Lord John lights into the Captain, wraps him with bureaucratic red tape and sends him shuffling back to his ship sans prisoner.
I’m not suggesting that you find a friend who will be complicit to murder. However, if you can find a friend who completely overlooks what you’ve done because she knows you had a good reason for doing it and still loves you anyway, stick with her. She (or he) is your person. Now, go make me a Grasshopper.
There’s Always a Goat Lady, Trust Her
Claire doesn’t quite know what to make of Annekje Johansen* (referred to, lovingly, in these parts as “The Goat Lady”) and her insistence that her “goats need grass” but it all becomes clear when the ship sets anchor to allow the goats to…well…eat grass. Annekje has been telling Claire all along that she would have an opportunity to escape. When this attempt doesn’t work, Annekje is undeterred and then helps Claire jump off the ship in the middle of the night. This woman speeds up the reunion between Jamie and Claire and she also ensures that they can continue to operate just under the radar of the British navy.
If you are a child of the ’70s and ’80s like me, you might have been a fan of Mister Rogers. I loved visiting with him in his neighborhood a few times each week. One of his quotes has become synonymous with tragedy, but I think about it often when I feel like I don’t know which way to turn. “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” If you are pressed into service on a ship infested with smallpox, involved in a fender bender at a local intersection, or you feel like you’re at wit’s end, look around. You just might find someone willing to help you or at least give you some fresh goat cheese and, either way, you win.
Our Loved Ones Are Always Speaking To Us We Just Have to Listen
The “Abadendawe” scenes aren’t exactly my favorite in either the book or the show, but Bree reaching through space and time to talk to Jamie and Claire reduces me to a puddle of tears every time. Margaret Campbell’s channeling of Bree was brief, but it was long enough for Claire and Jamie to recognize Bree’s voice and for them to feel her love. It is as if, for just a moment, the barrier of time does not exist.
My loved ones have come to me in dreams, they’ve whispered words of encouragement to me in times of stress and they have questioned my decisions (usually when I’m on the verge of making fantastically bad ones). In all those times, they’ve never physically been with me, but I’ve heard their voices, usually remnants of long ago conversations, just the same. We don’t need Margaret Campbell to channel them for us. We just need to open our hearts and minds to their memories and then listen. Don’t be surprised if you hear your great-grandmother call you a nincompoop from the great beyond.
Sometimes a New Beginning Is Just a Shipwreck Away
Jamie and Claire awake on a beach with bits of the ship scattered around them. This two minutes has a season’s worth of drama packed into it. Jamie thinks Claire is dead, Claire is not dead, everyone else probably is dead, and where the hell are we anyway? When Joseph Olivier explains to Jamie and Claire that they are “on the colony of Georgia,” the relief visibly washes over the faces of both Jamie and Claire. We can almost hear their thoughts; we are free, we can build a life here and we can finally be a family here. They might have also been wondering where Mr. Olivier was going with his family without even an offer of assistance. Ashley Crawley and I have a theory.
If I had to pick a singular favorite scene from Season 3, it might be this one. This moment, where tragedy turns to joy, holds the sum of all Jamie and Claire’s past suffering and the promise of a future that they will build together.
More than once, my life plans have been shipwrecked. I’ve been blown off course by a terrible, unexpected storm and I’ve had to ask other people to help me figure out where I am. Just when it feels like all hope is lost, there is a glimmer of hope that leads me to another and on and on until my hopelessness turns to hopefulness and I begin to picture a different, but still wonderful life. Some of these shipwrecks, despite their initial pain, have led me to the greatest joys in my life. If you find yourself shipwrecked, there is a very good chance that all is not lost. Look for a glimmer of hope. When you find it, look for one more, and keep doing that until you can’t imagine what life would have been like if you hadn’t gotten swallowed by that hurricane.
Now it’s your turn. Did you find any life lessons in Season 3 of Outlander? Leave a comment below and let us know!
*Be sure to check out our interview with Chanelle de Jager, the South African actress who brought The Goat Lady to life.
In the book, the question “will ye accept the man I am for the man I was?” was before they had sex the first time after Claire’s return. It is one of my favorite passages. They moved it in the TV series. I did not need to know her return answer. I already knew it. What I actually loved the most in this part of the book was the answer he gave her when she asked “What is this all about?”. He said, “I lost you once. I will not survive losing you again.” No matter what happens, Jamie and Claire can never lose each other again. Their “home” will be desolate, lonely, loveless and without hope! Their entire beings revolve around their being together and this plays out through all the books….especially Jamie’s utter concern when Claire is sick unto death and he cannot help her. Claire can always play doctor when the role is reversed. Jamie is always at a loss. And Claire knows that she cannot abandon Jamie for any reason including death! They are inspiring to the rest of us! Wimps and Narcissists are not a part of Jamie and Claire’s world. And they should not be a part of ours. We all need Jamie&Claire up! and put serious effort and love into our relationships if we want to be truly happy and loved in return!
I have missed Jamie & Claire so much that I have gone back to re-read all 8 novels, the novellas, & Lord John Grey series. I have been re-w1atching Season 3 & last night actually watched the episode about Claire’s being kidnapped aboard the Porpoise. Sorry to say the crew had not contracted “small pox,” but instead suffered from “typhus.” Not a big deal but would have governed Claire’s response to the crisis. I loved your article and think these lessons are indeed valuable.
Another interesting, thoughtful read. Thank you.
I am so grateful that Marc Spurlock shared this so that I could read your excellent essay on Jamie and Clare’s relationship and the life lessons gleaned from season three. I have rewatched most of these episodes, some more times than I can count, and am rereading Drums of Autumn in preparation for season 4. I find these characters and their stories inspirational. Their devotion to each other, their commitment to help and care for others, and their willingness to work hard and not give up in times of desperation or difficulties should be lessons for all of us, as are their ability and willingness to reinvent themselves rather than wallow in self pity over what they have lost. They both have known heartbreak and have had to live with it, but that is exactly what they did. They lived with it, worked through it, and were able to move on to new challenges and successes.
I can always find something to relate to in the books and on the series…I have been married 53 years and I have been taught so many life lessons…Some that were good and some not so great…I have traveled, fought for things, stood up for rights of others and suffered loss and disappointment…Joys beyond belief have been mine, which many I was able to share with my love of my life…I am a solitude person though I don’t feel as though I am an introvert…I have faced death head on and held my dying husband to his survival…Now in my later years of life I count each day as a gift…and value every kiss I can give the man I love…I hold my adult grandchildren like they are still my babies…I watch my only child with adoration and pride…As I read Dianas wonderful books I often wonder how in the world did she know how I was feeling…When did she hear me say that…Was she there when that happened to me…I am in Awe of her work and I think the series is bringing her books to the screen exceptionally well…
When my husband and I were considering moving from Texas to Costa Rica (in Central America) just over 10 years ago. he was concerned about leaving our “home” – the house where we had lived for over 35 years. Taking my cue from Claire, I told him, “wherever you are, is my home”.
We are very happy with our choice and with each other.
What a wonderful thought to be able to share with your husband. Outlander in Real Life! Love it!
Beautiful essay and great analysis. Today I needed this more than you will ever know. Thank you, Diana Gabaldon and the Outlander cast and crew for making it so.
Thank you so much! Your comment just made my day!
Absolutely brilliant. You have pointed out what I saw, what I read and what I, too, have learned…but you have written it down…and that’s important. I am going to keep this post and re-read it often. Thank you.
Thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate it!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about Outlander. I have committed to a new path of blogging and photographing things about which I am passionate and love and like your style of writing and thoughtfulness. And your words about how the stories in Outlander relate to my own experiences will help me explain to my husband why not only Outlander speaks to me but what I also feel and think about our lives together. This is particularly significant because he has said he wants to be separated and has also admitted jealously of my time with MyPeakChallenge. Hopefully, your blog post will give us an opportunity to talk about what is important to us as well.
Thanks again and please keep sharing.
Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful, insightful thoughts with us.
I have to say, it all really resonated with me. I’ve had quite a bad time of it (my mom just passed away. We both watched Outlander too)
I love reading your thoughts and observations, and had many of the same ones myself.
It’s great that with no matter how many viewings, you’ll see something different, or a new perspective that you hadn’t before and enjoy Outlander again in a new way.