I first posted this in January, 2011, but I thought I'd repost it in honor of today's release of the TV tie-in paperback edition of DRAGONFLY IN AMBER.


If you haven't yet read Diana Gabaldon's DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, Book 2 of the OUTLANDER series, there are SPOILERS below! Read at your own risk.

I was intrigued by a comment on Compuserve a few years ago about the fact that there are many references in that book to things that are "stuck" or "frozen" somehow, unchanging, unmoving.  I thought it might be interesting to compile a list.

Please note, all quotes used below are copyright © 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.

1) The dragonfly in amber that Hugh Munro gave Claire as a wedding present.  (And the chunk of amber that Jamie gave to Claire as a gift for their first anniversary.)
"Amber,” he said, with satisfaction, as I turned the irregular lump over with a forefinger. It seemed warm to the touch, and I closed my hand over it, almost unconsciously.

“It needs polishing, of course,” he explained. “But I thought it would make ye a bonny necklace.” He flushed slightly, watching me. “It’s…it’s a gift for our first year of marriage. When I saw it, I was minded of the bit of amber Hugh Munro gave ye, when we wed.”

“I still have that,” I said softly, caressing the odd little lump of petrified tree sap. Hugh’s chunk of amber, one side sheared off and polished into a small window, had a dragonfly embedded in the matrix, suspended in eternal flight. I kept it in my medicine box, the most powerful of my charms.

(DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, Chapter 33, "Thy Brother's Keeper", p. 456 in the hardcover)

2) The skeletons that Jamie and Claire discover in a cave in France, with their arms locked about one another.
He turned again then to the two skeletons, entwined at our feet. He crouched over them, tracing the line of the bones with a gentle finger, careful not to touch the ivory surface.

“See how they lie,” he said. “They didna fall here, and no one laid out their bodies. They lay down themselves.” His hand glided above the long armbones of the larger skeleton, a dark shadow fluttering like a large moth as it crossed the jackstraw pile of ribs.

“He had his arms around her,” he said. “He cupped his thighs behind her own, and held her tight to him, and his head is resting on her shoulder."

(DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, Chapter 29, "To Grasp the Nettle", p. 416 in the hardcover)
I was stunned to discover that there really was such a Neolithic couple, discovered in a cave in Italy in 2007 -- a full fifteen years after DRAGONFLY was published!  I think the picture above is just amazing.

Fraser clan stone at Culloden

3) The clan stones at Culloden, erected in 1881 and weathered by many years' exposure to the elements, but otherwise unchanging.
“Look,” Brianna said, almost in a whisper. She pointed at one of the stones. A small heap of greenish-gray twigs lay there; a few early spring flowers mingled, wilted, with the twigs.

“Heather,” Roger said. “It’s more common in the summer, when the heather is blooming--then you’ll see heaps like that in front of every clan stone. Purple, and here and there a branch of the white heather—the white is for luck, and for kingship; it was Charlie’s emblem, that and the white rose.”

“Who leaves them?” Brianna squatted on her heels next to the path, touching the twigs with a gentle finger.

“Visitors.” Roger squatted next to her. He traced the faded letters on the stone--FRASER. “People descended from the families of the men who were killed here. Or just those who like to remember them."

(DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, Chapter 4, "Culloden", p. 43 in the hardcover)
I was so glad that I got to see Culloden for myself, on my visit to Scotland in 2012.  It's a very moving experience.

4) The objects -- including Roger's genealogical chart -- pinned to the giant cork-board in the Rev. Wakefield's study. (I always imagine the cork-lined wall as looking something like this, only much larger and more crammed with papers.)
The wall exemplified the Reverend Wakefield’s mind. Completely covering one side of the study, it was an expanse of corkboard measuring nearly twenty feet by twelve. Virtually none of the original cork was visible under the layers upon layers of papers, notes, photographs, mimeographed sheets, bills, receipts, bird feathers, torn-off corners of envelopes containing interesting postage stamps, address labels, key rings, postcards, rubber bands, and other impedimenta, all tacked up or attached by bits of string.

(DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, chapter 2, "The Plot Thickens", p. 27 in the hardcover)
I was delighted to see that they included a smaller version of it in OUTLANDER Episode 108, "Both Sides Now".

5) The miniature portraits of Claire and Jamie.  Claire's dream (nightmare?) of being trapped inside the portrait always makes a shiver go up my spine:
"A Lady," he said softly, cradling the last of the portraits in his palm, shielding it for the moment. "With brown hair curling luxuriantly to her shoulders, and a necklace of pearls. Undated. The artist unknown."

It was a mirror, not a miniature.  My cheeks were flushed, and my lips trembled as Frank's finger gently traced the edge of my jaw, the graceful line of my neck.  The tears welled in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks as I heard his voice, still lecturing, as he laid down the miniature, and I stared upward at the timbered ceiling.

"Undated. Unknown. But once...once, she was real."

(DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, Chapter 10, "A Lady, With Brown Hair Curling Luxuriantly", p. 152 in the hardcover)
I like to imagine that this miniature portrait was what Frank was holding.

6) Claire's description of the way a child's personality is fixed at a very early age.
But from the very start, there is that small streak of steel within each child.  That thing that says "I am," and forms the core of personality.

In the second year, the bone hardens and the child stands upright, skull wide and solid, a helmet protecting the softness within. And "I am" grows, too. Looking at them, you can almost see it, sturdy as heartwood, glowing through the translucent flesh.

The bones of the face emerge at six, and the soul within is fixed at seven.  The process of encapsulation goes on, to reach its peak in the glossy shell of adolescence, when all softness then is hidden under the nacreous layers of the multiple new personalities that teenagers try on to guard themselves.

(DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, Chapter 4, "Culloden", p. 55 in the hardcover)
7) Claire waiting for Jamie when he's taken away for questioning following the incident at the dinner party after Mary's rape:
But for the hours of the night, I was helpless; powerless to move as a dragonfly in amber.

(DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, Chapter 19, "An Oath is Sworn", p. 270 in the hardcover)
8) The stillborn baby, Faith, who will always remain exactly as she was when Claire saw her.
"She was perfect," I said softly, as though to myself.  "So small.  I could cup her head in the palm of my hand.  Her ears stuck out just a little--I could see the light shine through them."

The light had shone through her skin as well, glowing in the roundness of cheek and buttock with the light that pearls have; still and cool, with the strange touch of the water world still on them.

"Mother Hildegarde wrapped her in a length of white satin," I said, looking down at my fists, clenched in my lap. "Her eyes were closed. She hadn't any lashes yet, but her eyes were slanted.  I said they were like yours, but they said all babies' eyes are like that."

(DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, Chapter 28, "The Coming of the Light", p. 398 in the hardcover)
9) And finally, heartbreakingly...the twenty-year separation that left Claire and Jamie "frozen" in each other's memories, not dead, but trapped in time, unchanging through all their years apart.
He was slow, and careful; so was I.  Each touch, each moment must be savored, remembered--treasured as a talisman against a future empty of him.

(DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, Chapter 46, "Timor Mortis Conturbat Me", p. 698 in the hardcover)


Susanlynn♥ said...

Thank you so much, Karen. After watching season one, I hurtled through all eight books eager to discover what happened to Jamie and Claire as the saga moved forward, so I missed the theme of DIA. The most striking point to me was Faith. Children grow and change as the years go by, but if you lose a baby, that child remains ever your baby, unchanging .

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen read the books so it's fun to see all of these images , I hope they all show up in Season 2 in April, will pick up my copy of the new copy Tie- IN version of "Dragonfly In amber". Hope March goes fast. please post more soon, Love your Blog. Sincerely Yours Mary Tormey.

Susanlynn♥ said...

Karen..I do not comment on Compuserve, but I read the comments , and I am currently reading old comments. I was reading posts about the young English lieutenant in Outlander, and so I went to a link and discovered that Tom Brittany will be in a new show called "Spark" on ABC. I always thought that he had striking good looks , and with his blue eyes, red hair , and height, I was envisioning him as William. Too bad nobody thought ahead to save him for the role of Janie's lookalike son.

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