Tuesday, March 21, 2017

“I am an Unusual Lady”: The Women of Outlander

Looking for romance? You’ll find plenty of it in Outlander, the series of historical fantasy novels turned award-winning TV show. It begins with Claire Randall, a 1940s combat nurse mysteriously dropped into 1740s Scotland. She meets and eventually marries an outlaw named Jamie Fraser, but their (admittedly fantastic) chemistry is only part of what the show has to offer. On her journey through time—back, forward, and back again—Claire befriends five women who guide and teach her just as much as Jamie does. Whether good, evil, or in between, these five women prove that friendship can be as powerful as romantic love. Here’s how. 

Screen: Starz
Warning: Outlander is rated TV-MA for violence, language, and sexual content. Also, spoilers are included.

1. Geillis Duncan
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A village herbalist who dabbles in spells and poisons on the side, Geillis can be callous, scheming, and downright cruel. She’s also drawn to Claire for reasons she can’t at first explain, but that are most definitely unearthly. When both women are accused of witchcraft, Geillis realizes that they’ll never be rescued in time and makes an executive decision. As it turns out, their friendship runs even deeper than Claire imagined—Geillis, who’s killed to save her own skin before, gives herself up to the mob in order to save Claire. 

2. Jenny Murray
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Jamie’s older sister has been running the family estate since his imprisonment. She’s not exactly dying to hand over the reins once he returns, and she’s not too keen on his new English wife either. In some ways Jenny and Claire are polar opposites; attacks from English soldiers have left Jenny with a ruthless edge that Claire just doesn’t have. When the chips are down, though, they’re united by their willingness to do almost anything in order to save their family. After Jamie’s recaptured, Claire relies on Jenny for help tracking him down, and by the end of that journey, they’re as close as sisters. 

3. Mother Hildegarde
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Mother Hildegarde is the matron of a charity hospital in Paris, and one of the few female characters in Outlander who doesn’t have or want a husband. She seems intimidating at first, but Claire wins her respect through her hard work and skill as a nurse. She also never lets her sternness mask her compassion. When Jamie is unable to be with Claire during one of the darkest and most dangerous periods of her life, Mother Hildegarde is there to nurse her through it. No wonder Claire describes her as one of the only true friends she makes in Paris. 

4. Mary Hawkins
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Despite being painfully shy, Mary volunteers at the hospital, survives a brutal attack, and eventually goes on to get her revenge. She and Claire are united by a connection Mary never even realizes; she’s the ancestor of Claire’s first husband, Frank Randall. Claire, fearing that Frank, a history professor in the 1940s, will never be born, tries to keep Mary away from the man she truly loves but eventually realizes that history will work itself out on its own. She also sees that Mary is stronger than she appears to be. After all, she holds the key to Claire’s future. 

5. Brianna Randall
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Brianna believes that Frank Randall was her father and resents Claire, feeling that her mother “lives in another world.” She doesn’t realize that she’s seemingly Claire’s last link to Jamie or appreciate how much her mother loves her. But in spite of all her bitterness, it’s clear that Brianna depends on her mother just as much as Claire depends on her. She’s also ready to dig into her family history, even knowing she won’t like what she finds. She might deny it, but Brianna desperately wants to understand her mother; her discoveries are what push Claire into finding out what really became of Jamie after she was forced to leave him. 

6. Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser
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The list wouldn’t be complete without her. Plunged  into a time that’s in many ways completely terrifying to her, Claire finds strength in her ability to love and forgive, adapting to it without losing what makes her her. The show centers on her romance with Jamie, but her friendships with other women are just as important. Sometimes they comfort her, sometimes they guide her, and sometimes, when Jamie just isn’t available, they save her. 

Have you seen Outlander? If so, who are your favorite characters?


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