What do you think about Frank?
*** SPOILER WARNING! ***
I'm going to talk about events in the later books. If you haven't read all eight of the OUTLANDER books, plus Diana Gabaldon's novella, "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows", there may be spoilers below. Read at your own risk!
Frank Randall is one of the most enigmatic characters in Diana Gabaldon's books, one of those characters who tend to generate strong feelings (pro or con) in readers. Because we never see Frank's point of view in the books, except through the letters in DRUMS OF AUTUMN and WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, it's difficult to get a sense of what he's feeling and what motivates him. He can come across as boring, overly critical of Claire, and insensitive. (That was certainly my impression of him on first reading the OUTLANDER books!) And of course, he's constantly being compared to Jamie, and who can compete with that? <g>
In many ways, Frank in the TV series is a more sympathetic character than he appears in the books. I think there's no doubt, watching Claire and Frank together in Episode 101 ("Sassenach") and in the brief flashbacks in later episodes, that they loved each other very much.
And Episode 108 ("Both Sides Now") makes it abundantly clear that Frank is devastated by Claire's disappearance, and willing to do whatever it takes to find her again.
But the much more intriguing question, for many fans, is what happened after that, especially in the years following Claire's return to the 20th century.
Did Frank have relationships with other women? Probably.
Did he commit adultery? Maybe, maybe not. Claire certainly seems to think so, but she's hardly an unbiased observer (to put it mildly!) and the evidence in the books is not conclusive. (You don't have to take my word for it. Here's a very interesting post from Diana Gabaldon on Compuserve from 2009 that goes into some detail on that point.)
There's no doubt that Frank loved Bree unconditionally and with his whole heart. I give him a lot of credit for that.
As the birth grew closer, we had both been edgy; Frank irritable and myself terrified, having no idea what might happen between us, with the appearance of Jamie Fraser’s child. But when the nurse had taken Brianna from her bassinet and handed her to Frank, with the words “Here’s Daddy’s little girl,” his face had grown blank, and then--looking down at the tiny face, perfect as a rosebud--gone soft with wonder. Within a week, he had been hers, body and soul.On the other hand....why did Frank want to take Bree to England so abruptly? This is something that always infuriates me, on re-reading:
(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 3, "Frank and Full Disclosure". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"I've decided to go back to England permanently. I've a good position offered at Cambridge, and I mean to take it up. You won't leave the hospital, of course. But I don't mean to leave my daughter behind."Frank made sure Brianna learned how to fire a gun and ride a horse. Did he somehow know that she was going to travel back in time some day? Did he find evidence of Bree's existence in the 18th century?
"Your daughter?" I felt momentarily incapable of speech. So he had a new job all set, and a new mistress to go along. He'd been planning this for some time, then. A whole new life--but not with Brianna.
"My daughter," he said calmly. "You can come to visit whenever you like, of course..."
"You...bloody...bastard!" I said.
(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19, "To Lay a Ghost". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"Maybe he found me," she said softly. Her throat felt tight. "Maybe he knew I'd go back, through the stones. But if he did--he didn't tell me."Frank had a fake gravestone with Jamie's name on it put up in the cemetery at St. Kilda's, hoping that Claire or Bree would find it some day. Why would he do that?
[Roger] stopped walking, and put a hand on her arm to turn her toward him.
"And perhaps he didn't know that at all," he said firmly. "He may only have thought ye might try it, if you ever found out about Fraser. And if you did find out, and did go...then he wanted you to be safe. I'd say no matter what he knew, that's what he wanted; you to be safe."
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "Shooting Lessons". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And we shouldn't forget about Frank's involvement in MI6 during World War II. What about the very intriguing letter from Frank to Bree, in WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, about the Fraser Prophecy? With his background in intelligence, what else might he have discovered?
What about Claire's feelings for Frank? Some fans wonder why Claire never took off Frank's gold wedding ring. I think the answer to that is very simple. They were married for nearly thirty years, after all. Claire genuinely loved Frank at the time they were married, she felt terribly guilty for betraying him when she decided to stay with Jamie, and she still has feelings for him even after his death. I think Jamie said it best:
"And will ye choose, too?” he asked softly. He opened his hand, and I saw the glint of gold. “Do ye want it back?”My personal opinion (and you're certainly free to disagree!) is that Frank is neither a villain nor a saint. Like all the major characters in Diana's books, he's a complex and multifaceted character, flawed and fallible and very human.
I paused, looking up into his face, searching it for doubt. I saw none there, but something else; a waiting, a deep curiosity as to what I might say.
“It was a long time ago,” I said softly.
“And a long time,” he said. “I am a jealous man, but not a vengeful one. I would take you from him, my Sassenach--but I wouldna take him from you.”
He paused for a moment, the fire glinting softly from the ring in his hand. “It was your life, no?”
And he asked again, “Do you want it back?”
I held up my hand in answer and he slid the gold ring on my finger, the metal warm from his body.
From F. to C. with love. Always.
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 71, "Circle's Close". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"Most of them -- of us -- we're we’re just...there, and we do our best. Most of the time," he added, and the corner of his mouth lifted slightly, though she couldn't tell whether it was in humour or bitterness.I think Frank got thrown into an impossible situation after Claire came back, and in my opinion he did the best he could -- most of the time -- to cope with it.
(From "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows" by Diana Gabaldon. Copyright© 2010 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
What about the rest of you? Do you consider yourself a "Friend of Frank" (FoF), or do you think Claire was a fool for staying with him all those years? Feel free to post a comment here or on my Facebook page.