Tom Christie's sacrifice
Take Thomas Christie, for example. He seems at first to be nothing more than a humorless, repressive, and tiresomely dogmatic man, with virtually no redeeming qualities. He beats his daughter Malva, disapproves openly of Claire's refusal to act the part of a properly submissive 18th-century woman by covering her hair, constantly quotes Scripture at people, and insults Jamie to his face.
And yet in the end, Tom Christie in essence throws his life away, sacrificing himself to save Claire's life, by agreeing to confess to his daughter Malva's murder. It is a breathtaking act of self-sacrifice, made all the more remarkable by the fact that Tom has shown almost nothing but contempt for both Claire and Jamie since he first arrived on the Ridge.
So, what made him do it? The answer, on the surface, seems simple enough: He loves Claire, even as he realizes that his love for her will never be either acknowledged or reciprocated. Once Jamie's attempt to free Claire from the Governor's custody fails, it becomes clear that the only way she will go free is if someone else confesses to the crime. And so Tom Christie does the only thing he can, to save her life.
"I have yearned always," he said softly," for love given and returned, have spent my life in the attempt to give my love to those who were not worthy of it. Allow me this: to give my life for the sake of one who is."
"Mr. Chr--Tom," I said. "You mustn't. Your life has--has value. You can't throw it away like this!"
He nodded, patient.
"I know that. If it did not, this would not matter."
From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 97 ("For the Sake of One Who Is"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.
From the point of view of the story, and the fictional world of the OUTLANDER universe, it makes perfect sense. But ask yourself, how many of us would be capable of literally giving up our lives for someone else?
Jamie, of course, came very close to doing just that, when he offered himself to Jack Randall in OUTLANDER, in exchange for Claire's freedom. But Jamie is the hero of the story, and somehow we expect heroes to be self-sacrificing; it doesn't come as a shock. Much more startling, in my opinion, to see an ordinary man -- and not a particularly heroic or admirable man, up to this point in the story -- sacrifice himself in this way.