Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Laoghaire: a character readers love to hate

There's been a lot of talk in Diana Gabaldon's section of the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum lately about Laoghaire. She's one of those characters who always seems to elicit strong reactions from people. In fact, many people seem to despise her so much that they can't even bear to see her name written properly (and granted, it's not an easy name to spell, by any means!)

Even Diana has commented on this reaction, saying, "I'm always kind of startled (and amused) at the vituperation with which so many readers regard Laoghaire. She may be feckless, impulsive, and somewhat vindictive (not without reason, either), but she isn't a monster."

So, why do so many readers hate Laoghaire? And is that feeling justified by the facts as we know them?

1) The first and most obvious reason is that Claire can't stand Laoghaire. She often makes the claim (unsubstantiated by the facts, as Diana pointed out in a discussion on Compuserve last year) that Laoghaire "tried to kill me" by sending her to Geillis Duncan's house knowing that the authorities meant to arrest Geillie for witchcraft. And Claire repeats this accusation a number of times in the course of the series, usually when she is under emotional stress. I think it's entirely understandable that many readers absorb Claire's prejudices, since the story is being told primarily from Claire's point of view. Still, just because Claire keeps saying it doesn't make it true.

2) Laoghaire married Jamie. I'm sure a lot of readers are outraged on Claire's behalf that anyone at all would marry Jamie, let alone someone who's shown such animosity toward Claire. Personally, I think the marriage was a mistake on the part of both Jamie and Laoghaire (and to some extent a mistake on Jenny's part as well, for her role in arranging it), but I don't really understand the intensity of the hatred that many readers feel toward Laoghaire for having married Jamie, however briefly. Yes, it can certainly be seen as a betrayal of Claire, but after all, Laoghaire thought she was long since dead, and Jamie surely never expected to see her again.

3) Laoghaire shot Jamie, and might well have succeeded in killing him, from the subsequent infection if not from the gunshot itself, had Claire not returned with her penicillin in time to save Jamie's life. I have a hard time forgiving Laoghaire for this myself, but Diana pointed out once on Compuserve that Jamie doesn't seem to hold it against her.

4) The financial settlement imposes a severe burden on Jamie and Claire, forcing them to sell gemstones to pay the money Jamie owes to Laoghaire, while Laoghaire is apparently doing quite well for herself at Balriggan, financially speaking. I don't think it's Laoghaire's fault that she had a very good lawyer on her side (Ned Gowan). But there is no denying that Jamie and Claire's financial situation would be greatly improved if they could stop sending money to Laoghaire.

5) Laoghaire is immature, selfish, and whiny, prone to calling people names (as she does when Brianna shows up in DRUMS). While this is undeniably unpleasant, it's also basically harmless. Personally, I think Alec was right, in OUTLANDER, when he said of Laoghaire that "she'll be a girl when she's fifty."

I think some readers tend to hate Laoghaire so intensely that they resist any mention of her good qualities (for example, Marsali's stories about her mother's home remedies). And I strongly suspect that we will see a side of Laoghaire in ECHO that will surprise all of us (although this is just speculation on my part.*)

What about the rest of you? What do you think about Laoghaire?

*Please note, if you've read any excerpts from ECHO that mention Laoghaire, I ask that you NOT talk about them here. Remember, I don't read ECHO excerpts. Thanks.

9 comments:

Baileys Basics said...

I can't tolerate her! But I really can't put my finger on why, per se. I think it's because she reminds me of the type of people that drive me nuts and aggravate me on a fundamental level. She is just a simply awful individual. I'd like to say I feel bad about that...but I don't ;)

Karen Henry said...

Well, you're definitely not alone in your opinion! I've heard lots of people say things like that.

Karen

The Ebon Swan said...

She's the perfect foil. She embodies several qualities that people in general cannot stand, and she almost brandishes them in the books so that it's very difficult to see past them and start looking for redeeming points.

Also, let's face it. She's the OTHER WOMAN. She's the competition, the ex, the old girlfriend wives married several years still curl their lip over when her name is mentioned, and she doesn't have the good grace to go away. The Mary Sue in all of us growl territorially when she pops up, and breathe a sigh of relief when she drops back off the radar. Even if you've never imagined yourself as Claire, you still imagine what *you* would do given that situation.

She's made to be annoying, self-absorbed, obnoxious, puerile and in your face when she's around. And boy, does Diana write her well.

Karen Henry said...

Ebon:

That was very well said. Thanks!

Karen

Deniz Bevan said...

"The Mary Sue in all of us growl territorially when she pops up, and breathe a sigh of relief when she drops back off the radar. Even if you've never imagined yourself as Claire, you still imagine what *you* would do given that situation."
So true!

"Laoghaire shot Jamie, and might well have succeeded in killing him, from the subsequent infection if not from the gunshot itself, had Claire not returned with her penicillin in time to save Jamie's life."
Yes, and it was Young Ian who brought her back! If it wasn't for him... And yet they've never openly acknowledged that fact, either to each other or to him - perhaps the possibility of his not having done that is too awful to contemplate. I mean, imagine if Ian hadn't found her in time? If she'd simply gone back? Ouch!

Meanwhile, I know you're not into spoilers, but, well, how do you feel about photos from possible locations? My husband and and I stopped in Saratoga when we went to NYC last October and while there, I suggested we visit the national park - it was only when I picked up a brochure for the place that I realised that's where Breymann's Redoubt had been - a name that stuck in my head from one of Diana's forum posts, where she put up a snip with the introduction "here's Jamie fighting his way through Breymann's Redoubt" (or something to that effect)... then I had to go look up what a redoubt was :-)
Anyhow, I took piles of photos, picturing Jamie and Willy everywhere, and even Lord John (if he wasn't at that battle, he must have been at similar battles, no?) and Simon Fraser... I was wondering where the best place would be to showcase the scrapbook I made. On my own blog? By posting some of the photos on the forum? What do you think?

Karen Henry said...

Deniz:

I think if you post a selection of the best pictures on Compuserve, a lot of people would be interested. Or put all the pics on your blog and post a link on Compuserve telling people about it. Great idea!

Karen (who has no idea what a "redoubt" might be, but trusts that will be explained in ECHO <g>)

Kristina said...

Karen--
Well said, as always (in my opinion, of course). All the comments here seem to contribute to the larger truth--to me anyway. It would be sooo interesting to see Laoghaire's "good side"--it seems logical that it must be there somewhere...as you say, her daughter sure does have a high opinion of her and her capabilites...which bodes well for Laoghaire's "good side". {g} -- Kristina

Ih8Laoghaire said...

I know hate is a strong word but I hate Laoghaire!! She's one of those ppl we all meet in life that do so much wrong and make you wonder Where the hell is KARMA!
Love all of your posts

Unknown said...

KARMA!