I don’t know how many times I’ve watched “The Wedding” from Season One of Outlander (I’ve stopped counting), but I thought it would be fun to explore Claire’s mindset as the day unfolded. The episode begins with a 20th century marriage proposal from Frank, but their kiss morphs from the two of them to Claire and Jamie on their wedding day, 200 years in the past. Clearly, Claire has conflicted emotions about what is happening, so let’s take a look.
Claire knows she has to marry Jamie to escape the wrath of Black Jack Randall. It would seem that Dougal has intervened on Claire’s behalf, but we know that he has his own agenda (there’s enough material there for another blog post). So, hasty preparations are made per Jamie’s three conditions: 1) they will be married in a church, by a priest, 2) she will have a ring, and 3) she will have a dress. While all of this is happening, Claire is spending quality time with a bottle of whisky.
Fast-forward through the ceremony to the two of them alone in their room. Even though the kiss at the altar held the promise of more good things to come, Claire is unsettled about what she has just done and is agitated to the point of being rude to Jamie. He tries to reassure her as he proposes a lovely toast, “To a lady of grace, a woman of strength, and a bride of astonishing beauty. My wife, Claire Fraser.” That, and several glasses of whisky seem to smooth out Claire’s sharp edges. She is grateful, but still reluctant. She asks him to tell her about his family; the time they spend talking gives them a chance to get to know each other before the inevitable sex that everyone downstairs is anticipating. Belt hits floor.
Claire is not a virgin, and she accommodates Jamie in an almost mechanical way to get that contract fulfilled. When she senses Jamie’s disappointment after asking her if she liked it, I got the sense that Claire was at a critical tipping point in their new relationship – she could admit what was perhaps the truth and damage his ego and sense of self forever. Instead, Claire takes a kinder, more compassionate route. “I did like it, Jamie.” And, maybe a part of her did.
The evening progresses with more whisky, cheese, and conversation. There are a few bumps along the way, but Claire and Jamie are headed in the right direction. However, I don’t think Claire has committed fully to Jamie until she stands before him and says, “Take your shirt off. I want to look at you.” Asking (?) him to be vulnerable to her (and she, in turn, to him) is a significant turning point in their new marriage. With this gesture, Claire makes a commitment to Jamie, body and soul. She may not be fully in love with him at this point, but I get the sense that she wants to make this marriage work. The ensuing intimacies we see have more of a committed, bonded quality to them.
If there is any doubt about Claire’s commitment to Jamie, it is dispelled when she ventures downstairs for more whisky. Dougal enters, back from informing BJR that Claire is married and free of his demands. Perhaps Dougal wants a reward for his “generous” deed and tells Claire that although she is newly-married, she can still “sample other pleasures.” Claire shuts him down and gives us renewed hope about her allegiance to Jamie when she says simply, “I’m Jamie’s wife.” Well done, Claire!