Sunday, October 19, 2008

What I like about Claire

In honor of Claire Fraser's birthday on October 20th, I thought I'd share a few of my own thoughts about what makes her such a compelling character.

1) Adaptability

Claire shows an amazing capacity to adapt to unfamiliar conditions and changing circumstances, even when (as in OUTLANDER) she's had no warning whatsoever that a change is coming. Even in OUTLANDER, once she arrives at Castle Leoch the first time, rather than spending every minute plotting her escape, she manages to make a place for herself as a healer.

In VOYAGER, contemplating her return to the past, Claire thinks about what it will be like to leave behind all the modern conveniences of the 20th century:

Could I live without all the "conveniences," large and small, to which I was accustomed?

I had been asking myself that with each touch of a button, each rumble of a motor, and was quite sure that the answer was "yes." Time didn't make all the difference, after all; I could walk across the city and find people who lived without many of these conveniences--farther abroad and there were entire countries where people lived in reasonable content and complete ignorance of electricity.

For myself, I had never cared a lot. I had lived with my uncle Lamb, an eminent archaeologist, since my own parents' death when I was five. Consequently, I had grown up in conditions that could conservatively be called "primitive," as I accompanied him on all his field expeditions.
(From Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19 ("To Lay a Ghost"). Copyright © 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

There is no question that Claire seems to adapt to 18th-century life more quickly and more easily than a lot of us imagine that we would in the same circumstances. (And she adapts much more readily than Brianna does, certainly.) Jamie's presence has a lot to do with that, of course; Claire is willing to put up with a lot, even sleeping on the cold, hard ground in close proximity to a battlefield, just to be near him.

2) Stubbornness

As much as everyone talks about the vaunted Fraser stubbornness, I think Claire is at least a match for Jamie in that respect. She doesn't give up easily, even when faced with overwhelming odds. (Examples include the scene in OUTLANDER when she fought off the wolf with her bare hands, or the infamous "wife-beating" scene.) You get the sense that she'll move heaven and earth to protect the ones she loves, no matter what it costs her.

"Jamie," I said, into the folds of his plaid. "I'm going back with you."

He started back, staring down at me.

"The hell you are!" he said.

"I am." I felt very calm, with no trace of doubt. "I can make a kilt of my arisaid; there are enough young boys with the army that I can pass for one. You've said yourself it will all be confusion. No one will notice."

"No!" he said. "No, Claire!" His jaw was clenched, and he was glaring at me with a mixture of anger and horror.

"If you're not afraid, I'm not either," I said, firming my own jaw. "It will...be over quickly. You said so." My chin was beginning to quiver, despite my determination. "Jamie--I won't...I can't...I bloody won't live without you, and that's all!"

(From Dragonfly In Amber by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46 ("Timor Mortis Conturbat Me"). Copyright ©1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I think there's no way on earth she would have left him at that point, if he hadn't begged her to do so for the sake of their unborn child. It was the only possible way he could overcome her stubbornness and determination.

3) Medical Skills

Claire's medical knowledge and skill have impressed me from the very beginning. I love the scene in OUTLANDER where she sets Jamie's broken fingers, overcoming her own fear and distress in the face of this dire medical emergency, and managing, despite her lack of experience, to repair the damage well enough so that he could still use the hand.

I love watching Claire work as a surgeon, though sometimes she surprises me, as when she occasionally operates by "feel":

I felt the fibrous parting of skin and fascia, resistance, then the soft pop as the blade went in. There was a sudden loud gurgle, and a wet kind of whistling noise; the sound of air being sucked through blood. Roger's chest moved. I felt it, and it was only then that I realized my eyes were still shut.

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 69 ("Hideous Emergency"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

What else? Are there other aspects of Claire's personality that you particularly like, or dislike? And why?

11 comments:

Alice said...

I really like her strength and courage, and even her sense of humor, when faced with very stressful situations. I love the line when she suggests that BJR is trying "torture by bladder" on her. And walking out of Wentworth with him: "Witch I am, and I curse you."

Another thing I like about her (in contrast to what I've just written) is her disconcerting tendency to giggle hysterically (and "inappropriately") as a reaction to a sudden relief: when she bursts out laughing after Dougal scolds her and Jamie for being so involved in their lovemaking that they might find themselves with someone holding a knife to their throats...or when she laughs to see Jamie strangling her captor in ABOSAA.

I can definitely identify with the tendency to giggle at the wrong time, and I wish I had her grace under pressure.

Alice

Bedelia said...

I, too, love her dry wit, Alice, "testosterone poisoning," being among her memorable comments about Jamie and Roger sniping at each other. I also love everything that Karen mentioned, plus her confidence and her total lack of prejudice toward all the people that she meets. I mean by that that she judges people by their actions, not their race, color or creed. We could use more Claires in the world (not to mention in public office around the world).

Bedelia

Karen Henry said...

Alice:

I definitely agree about her sense of humor. As for her "grace under pressure", well, I agree, but I also think she'd have a very hard time dealing with the organized chaos of *your* life, with a houseful of kids. (Think of Brianna in FIERY CROSS, left alone to deal with the hordes of little Chisholms, etc.) She doesn't deal well at all with highly emotional situations like that.

Karen

Karen Henry said...

Bedelia:

You're right, Claire seems to have very few prejudices -- except maybe against people who bathe too little <g>, or ignorant 18th-century physicians who insist on bleeding people. I love the bit in VOYAGER where she attacks the slave-trader. She doesn't hesitate for one second to stand up for what she believes in, even if it might end up putting her in danger.

Karen

Joanne said...

Yes to all the qualities already mentioned about Claire. I also admire her industrious spirit -- from tending to her garden and foraging for herbs, organizing her surgery and setting up medicinal experiments, tirelessly attending to the sick and injured, she makes the most of her days. I try to live my life like that, as well...I don't ever want to think that I have wasted one day of my life. I try to teach my own children that there is no such thing as "being bored." There is always something productive we can do -- learn something new, read and explore a new topic, visit a new place, meet new people, or start a new project. Time is a precious commodity.

Phelisha said...

Wonderful topic Karen! And so encouraging to see that so many do appreciate Claire’s fine qualities! I also admire her loyalty! She is fiercely loyal to Jamie and those she loves and respects. She puts herself out or even in danger to care for or protect those who need it. She is immensely dedicated to her profession and what is requires of her. And it’s no small talent to cuss so effortlessly fluent.

Karen Henry said...

Phelisha:

Good point. Isn't that just what Jamie says he likes best about her, in ABOSAA? "Above all creatures on this earth...you are faithful." (Chapter 20, "Dangerous Gifts")

Karen

Karen Henry said...

Joanne:

You're right, we hardly ever see Claire just sitting still. She's always doing something productive. In fairness, though, I think 18th century life, especially on the Ridge, would keep anybody incredibly busy, regardless of their temperament!

Karen

Mitzi said...

I like her frankness. She is not afraid to say what she thinks. I love the scene with Lord John when he is sick and she confronts him about the true reason for his visit.

I also admire her intellect and her ability to recall something she‘s read and quote it. I laughed out loud when she recited the poem about “the color of his hair” in Voyager.

And I especially like the deep love she has for Jamie and her openness about it. She never hides the fact that she needs him, nor is she embarrassed by the way she responds to him.

Mitzi

mindy said...

All of your comments made me smile. I am excited to go back and read them again. :)

Cristina H said...

As a physician, I can tell you that operating by feel is something we do fairly often in particular areas of the body. What amazes me is Diana's uncanny ability to accurately convey exactly what it feels like to do this, though presumably she hasn't done it herself.