Monday, March 4, 2019

Let's Be Frank

Outlander Homepage originals by Nancy McGehee Fontenot

I’m sure, especially those who’ve followed Outlander Homepage from the get go, you have seen us use the phrase, “all things Outlander” to promote our blog page. We all love the show, and can’t wait for each episode, but we shouldn’t forget that our favorite television program is based on a series of eight, soon to be nine, epic novels.

Considering the first of Diana Gabaldon’s magnificent works (Outlander) was originally published twenty eight years ago, and has been successfully adapted for television going on five years, Outlander Homepage decided it well was past time to devote a section of the blog page to the books that have given millions of people so much pleasure.

While this section is dedicated to the novels, and their individual story lines, it is not for book fans only, nor a critique, or dissected comparison, between what’s in the book, and what the show writers do with it .  

We strictly want to share the beauty of Diana’s written creation with other fans of her work, by discussing, opining about, and yes, even griping about, the characters we love so dearly.

Here, the plan is to be honest about our feelings, because, let’s face it, our favorite Frasers, and quite a few other characters, aren’t always the most likable folks. Just stop for a moment and recall your thoughts, and emotions, while traversing the chapters of any one of these amazing novels. How many times have you thought, while turning dog eared pages bursting with kilted clansmen in their prime, battle ready, and pulsing with testosterone… Good Lord, I need to find me a Highlander!? (Diana Gabaldon has most likely caused more hot flashes, than menopause!)

Have you ever muttered under your breath, “you stubborn fool!” or even thought, “that’s one wee laddie/lassie that needs a strap on their arse”, and I am sure I am not the only reader who has wanted to just shake Claire "until her teeth rattle", particularly for dragging Jamie into another seemingly impossible situation.  I’m talking the good, the bad, and even the ugliness of Diana’s novels, and nothing but the novels… novel isn’t it?  So, let’s get this party started, shall we?

Based on what I’ve read of season four related social media posts, it seems a large portion of the Outlander fandom is by and largely, so over Frank Randall. He’s dead, he’s done, fuggedabout him! Not so fast, my fair weather Frankophobes! While he might be a character of the past, he cannot be forgotten, but before I get to that, I just want to make a few valid points and observations about the man. Was he a maligned martyr for raising another man’s child in a loveless union, or a boorish bastard for supposedly never actually believing Claire's story about falling through a stone circle into 18th century Scotland? Actually, he was both, but can anyone really blame him for it?

Frank Randall, was a man of honor, he just wasn't Jamie Fraser, and that is what makes him unlikable, and tragically pathetic, to quite a number of readers.  I personally feel sorry for Frank, because he truly got the raw end of the deal. Never once did he hesitate to stand by his mysteriously reappeared, missing wife, pregnant with not just any other man's child, but a man whose love she could not forget. So for going on twenty years, Frank adored, and raised, a daughter he claimed as his own blood, while Claire fulfilled her career dreams, living together like wary roommates, in a pseudo marriage.

I too thought Frank to be one arrogant bastard, with the potential to become a control freak over Claire's life, in order to keep up social appearances, and in different parts of the first three books, he is. Then again, he and Claire were living in a post war era, where women stayed home and tended the children, while the men were the breadwinners, and married ladies did not go to medical school. Yet, Frank grudgingly supported her. Why? Because his love for Brianna, was stronger than his resentment of Claire, and he had an ulterior motive that I will get to later.

 In the early chapters of "Voyager", Claire was well aware that her 20th century husband had not been celibate during the years she was presumed dead, nor during her pregnancy.  They did have their moments of intimacy rekindled by shared tenderness for Brianna when she was an infant, as described in chapter three. Again, Frank confirms he is both asshole, and honorable, when after criticizing Claire for her appearance, after she had a terrible day at home with a fussy baby, broken furnace, and Frank's faculty fogies coming for dinner, the man tracked her down and insured her safe return home, in spite of knowing she had left terribly infuriated at him. It is in those moments that I feel nothing but sincere sympathy for Frank. Here is a man who obviously wants to forgive, forget, and find a place in their hearts, and minds, where he and the woman he still loves can reconnect. In spite of a weary wave of dismissal from Claire, Frank takes on her burden, as he lays aside the breast pump, and gives her much needed release with his mouth, making love to her on the nursery rug. Yet, he is never able to get beyond Claire's past, nor is she able to meet him halfway.  Is Frank wrong to expect her to just forget the father of her child, and is Claire selfish to expect Frank to live with her in name only as basically friends, with no benefits? Yes, and no, and Diana's writing makes readers both pity, and dislike her characters, in these moments.

Claire never appreciated Frank's sacrifices for her and her child, until it was too late. Nor did she appreciate the fact that, in spite of their dead marriage, Frank was a better friend to Claire, in spite of their bitterness and resentment, than she ever gave him credit for, Naturally, everything he did for Brianna's benefit, also benefit Claire, but Claire just seemed to take it as her due.. I can understand her resenting Frank for never believing her story of time travel through a ring of rocks, or so she thought. It becomes rather obvious throughout the books timelines, that Frank had done plenty of historical research, and discovered that all the names, events, and places Claire told him about during her time in the past, were very real. Claire doesn't put two and two together until years later, when she recalls the past while researching what happened to Jamie with Bree, and Roger.

"Voyager" chapter seven subtly reveals Frank's mixed feelings towards Claire, when the two of them are discussing the absent babysitter incident that results in Brianna getting hit by a car when she strikes out on her own, after waiting too long at home alone for her mother.  Bree isn't badly injured, but Claire's guilt is overwhelming, and she tells Frank she is going to quit the hospital, to stay home with Brianna.  This is where Frank realizes his opportunity to accomplish several things that have been on his agenda for some time, but he shares some honest, and intimate insight with her first.
I love the part where he tells Claire how lucky she is to know just who, and what she is meant to be.

"Ah, Claire. He spoke impatiently, but with a tinge of affection nonetheless,  "You've known forever who you are. Do you realize how unusual it is to know that?" 
Of course, Claire hasn't a clue, which is not surprising considering the events of the day, but I love this scene, because Frank is being earnest, and honest, and revealing his acceptance of never measuring up to Claire's expectations.
"I haven't got that, " he said quietly at last.  "I'm good, all right.  At what I do-- the teaching, the writing. Bloody splendid sometimes, in fact. And I like it a good bit, enjoy what I do. But the thing  is..." He hesitated, then looked at me straight on, hazel eyed and earnest.  " I could do something else, and be as good. Care as much, or as little. I haven't got that absolute conviction that there's something in life I'm meant to do--and you have."
"Is that good?"  The edges of my nostrils were sore, and my eyes puffed from crying.
He laughed shortly.  "It's damned inconvenient, Claire. To you, me, and Bree, all three. But my God, I do envy you sometimes."

At this point, Frank reaches for Claire's hand, which she hesitantly gives him. It's this poignant gesture that maintains my respect for this character, as he knows this is likely their last opportunity to have an intimate conversation, knowing what he is about to offer Claire. As Frank continues, I feel that he is hinting at something, secretly hoping Claire will catch on so he can tell all that he knows of the history she has lived, and will go back to live again.

"To have that passion for anything"--- a small twitch tugged the corner of his mouth---"or anyone. That's quite splendid, Claire, and quite terribly rare."  He squeezed my hand gently and let it go, turning to reach behind him for one of the books on the shelf beside the table.  It was one of his references, Woodhill's Patriots, a series of profiles of the American Founding Fathers.  He laid his hand on the cover of the book, gently, as though reluctant to disturb the rest of the sleeping lives interred there. 
"These were people like that. The ones who cared so terribly much--enough to risk everything, enough to change and do things. Most people aren't like that, you know. It isn't that they don't care, but they don't care so greatly."  He took my hand again, this time turning it over. One finger traced the lines that webbed my palm, tickling as it went. 
"Is it there, I wonder?" he said, smiling a little.  "Are some people destined for a great fate, or to do great things? Or is it only that they're born somehow with that great passion--and if they find themselves in the right circumstances, then  things happen? It's the  sort of thing you wonder, studying history... but there's no way of telling, really. All we know is what  they accomplished. But Claire---" His eyes held a definite note of warning as he tapped the cover of his book.  "They paid for it," he said. 

Now, this makes me wonder, considering the letter Frank left for Brianna, that she finds in Written In My Own Heart's Blood, was Frank subtly revealing that he had done his research, and discovered Claire's time travel story actually checked out? Was this his way of letting Claire know that he no longer completely disbelieved her tale of falling through a stone circle into the 18th century, without admitting that he found proof of her marriage to Jamie Fraser, who was still alive in the 1700's?  Surely, this is his reasoning behind stepping up to take care of Brianna after school, so he could teach her the necessary survival skills, in case she too was capable of time travel. No matter his inspiration, Frank proves in this moment, just how dedicated a father, he is, in spite of the situation.

Sadly, he would later reveal to Claire, and readers, just what a bigoted control freak he was, as he explained how he planned to file for a divorce, and take Bree with him back to England, to ensure a properly finished upbringing, and education. The letter for Brianna had obviously been written at this point, and perhaps that was why he wanted to take her with him to England. Would his revenge for Claire's betrayal be telling Brianna the truth of how she came to be? Whatever his motives, I can't help but feel pity for Frank, as his plans for a fresh start, his daddy duties mostly fulfilled, come to an abrupt end in a car crash. I realize his death was a required convenience for Jamie and Claire's saga to continue, but overall, I think Frank Randall is one of Diana's most tragic characters.

On that note, let's not be too quick to dismiss the deceased Frank Randall, because his previously mentioned letter to his daughter offers some very interesting and possibly terrifyingly tragic possibilities for the future of Brianna's family, should the Fraser Legacy hold any merit. Who knows if there are more letters from him in his daughter's future, or if he somehow managed to leave her a legacy of his own, but it seems to me that Frank Randall went to his grave knowing way more than we do.  Hopefully, upcoming book number nine will shed some light on this subject. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. I am so tired of the Frank haters. You'd think they'd never been married (or in a relationship, for that matter) or understood the complex issues that can enrich or deplete a partnership. And without conflict and a true conflict of the heart, there's really no story. I'm not interested in the tropes of the romance genre. I am interested in real, messy human relationships and what we can learn from them.