Oh, Jamie Fraser; do bad tropes & themes ruin books

June 10, 2019



"if we are to write historical fiction or set a historical or dystopian scene, we cannot forget to add the injustices that shaped us as a people and as individual characters so that we, ourselves, may continue to grow with the people we read of



Like most of us that bare witness to the beauty and sweetness that is Jamie Fraser, I fell deeply in love with him -- fast. For most of Outlander and A Dragonfly in Amber, Lord Broch Tuarach was a perfect gentleman with constant affection and love for Claire. However, he had his faults -- though calling them faults is misleading.

It's not just Jamie, of all the book crushes, who has imperfections and bad behavioral traits, but I feel that he is a good symbol (and I am also deep into the TV series which I watch religiously). Really, I want to question if bad tropes and themes ruin books. This can be argued on different variables and definitions as to what those tropes and themes may be or how they may be portrayed, but they don't ruin the book.

No person, partnership, or friendship is free of all toxicity. Having faults, and more importantly, learning from them is what makes characters more human and what makes stories hold more meaning in relation to their audience. Jamie loves Claire with a feverish passion, but he made mistakes. Several of them. The first was with the belt in Outlander.

Without giving any kind of spoiler, Claire had gone against Jamie's orders and found trouble that put many people in danger. As her husband, it was his "responsibility" to serve her punishment. The thought of a husband punishing his wife is nowadays severely looked down upon and deserves its own punishment (thankfully), but in the 1700s this wasn't anything out of the norm. It's a wrong and horrible thing to glamorize through historical fiction, but it's realistic for its time. Jamie is only a victim of his era where he believed that was his duty as a husband. Soon after raising his belt to Claire, he sought forgiveness and swore to never remotely do so again. His growth represents more of him than his initial actions had.

Especially so when we read historical fiction or novels set in different lands but in times similar to those of our past, it's important to remember that people -- women, LGBTQ+, and different races -- did not always have the freedoms and voices that we have now, even limited as they may still be. By remembering where we came from, we can see how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. It's incorrect and unrealistic to forget pasts that we would rather not think about because every land, fictional or not, has them. Blaming a book for portraying crude behaviors and lacks of freedom is like blaming a modern author for the behavior of those 200 or more years ago.

Certain authors may write sensitive scenes or topics too harshly or in a bad light, and authors may tread too lightly around such topics and accidentally make sensitive histories appear not as bad as they really were. Others yet glorify violence, abuse, and generally unacceptable behavior. I do believe, though, that if the characters grow from the wrongdoing or from their adversity, if it sets a scene for a character's physical or emotional situation, if it portrays historical standards, or if it's written as a reflection on society, it does not ruin the book.

It is unacceptable in every and any way to wrongly write sensitive topics and to romanticize domestic violence, racism, or prejudice. There is no exception. But if we are to write historical fiction or set a historical or dystopian scene, we cannot forget to add the injustices that shaped us as a people and as individual characters so that we, ourselves, may continue to grow with the people we read of.

I think that the characters we love can make bad decisions, can act wrongfully and unjustly, but it all comes down to how they resolve it and how they make amends and how they grow. If they don't see the err in their ways, then they're trash and we don't stan.

So, yes, I love Jamie Fraser.

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