Study Guide

Outlander Violence

By Diana Gabaldon


I was quite sure I was still hallucinating when the sound of shots was followed by the appearance of five or six men dressed in red coats and knee breeches, waving muskets. (3.2)

Claire has seen her share of violence, but she comes from a world in which wars break out and they eventually end. In the 18th century, tribes and clans and countries always seem to be at battle, and everyone has to be on their toes.

Had [Jamie] screamed when it was done? I pushed the thought hastily away. I had heard the stories that trickled out of postwar Germany, of course, of atrocities much worse than this, but he was right; hearing is not at all the same as seeing. (8.98)

As someone who lived through WWII, Claire knows about the Holocaust. But she's never met anyone who suffered through it, or seen their wounds. Seeing Jamie's wounds is a harsh reminder that violence happens, and it happens to people who she cares about.

I knew the sound of mortal wounding. (10.131)

As a nurse, Claire has seen intense violence, and even watched men die. This can't be easy, but it gives her a cool-headedness that helps her stay calm even when she finds herself in intense life-or-death situations, like a boar-hunt gone wrong.

"You've seen men die before," [Dougal] said flatly. "By violence."

Not a question, almost an accusation. "Many of them," I said, just as flatly. (10.155-10.156)

Dougal thinks it odd that Claire has seen so much violence in her time—the tradition is for women to stay behind while the men wage war. The fact that she is so calm in the face of death makes him suspicious of her.

"If you're sizable, half the men ye meet will fear ye, and the other half will want to try ye. Knock one down […] and the rest will let ye be. But learn to do it fast and clean, or you'll be fightin' all your life." (11.176)

Sometimes violence is the only answer to a problem, at least according to this advice from Jamie's dad. However, it's important to note that while he encourages his son to fight, he also encourages him to get it over with as soon as possible. Violence should only be used sparingly, and as a last resort.

"Did ye know ye can hear the flesh being torn?" (13.55)

Ew. We wish we didn't know that. It's a lot easier to desensitize yourself to violence when it doesn't encompass all the senses. We do not want to know what this smells like.

I stabbed again, with a desperate strength, and this time found the spot. (20.71)

This is the first time Claire has to kill a man. If she remained in the 1940s, she probably wouldn't have to kill anyone since those are markedly different times. But battle and death is almost a way of life in 18th century Scotland, so though this is the first man Claire kills, it's not the last.

"I dinna know what's a sadist. And if I forgive you for this afternoon, I reckon you'll forgive me, too, as soon as ye can sit down again. As for my pleasure…" His lip twitched. "I said I would have to punish you. I did not say I wasna going to enjoy it." (22.53)

Jamie violently whips Claire for disobeying him. Compare this with when Randall violently abused Jamie for disobeying him. How is Jamie like Randall? How are they different? Are either of these beatings justified?

I stooped and drew the dagger from my stocking in a move that continued upward with all the force I could muster. The knifepoint took the advancing soldier just under the chin. […] He staged back away from the wall, and slid down it in slow motion, as the life drained away from him. (35.107)

This is the second man Claire has killed, but the first who wasn't directly threatening her life. Of course, given a hot second, he would have. Does this make it any easier or more difficult for her to take his life?

I took the knife from the table and drew it firmly across his chest, along the path of the freshly healed scar. […] I forced myself to run my fingers over his chest, scooping up a gout of blood which I rubbed savagely over his lips. There was one phrase that I didn't have to invent, having heard it myself. Bending low over him, I whispered, "Now kiss me." (39.149)

Sex can be healing, but it seems that violence can be, too. Claire's tactic here is to desensitize Jamie to the violence and rape he suffered from Randall. It's an extreme form of therapy. Do you think it would work on anyone other than James Fraser?