A common theme in the fourth installment of the Outlander Series, Drums of Autumn, by Diana Gabaldon is fatherhood and what it means to be someone’s child. Jamie, who has fathered two children, has access to none of them. Frank and Lord John, who have fathered no children, raise one each as their own, both happening to have Jamie’s DNA in common and promises that the child should not be told about their Scottish father.
The question of rape that leads to pregnancy while a woman was already married to another man brings forth a new thought on fatherhood. We’ve watched men raise children with as much love as any adopted father could have, we’ve watched men raise children that were their own with love and affection (or sometimes neither), and now the trauma of rape is brought into the mix. Can someone love a child that did not come from their loins and that came to exist through rape? That is an important question asked of the men in this novel. We don’t have our answer until the near end.
The fathers throughout the Outlander Series are usually men of honor who work hard to care for and protect their families. Jamie so loved his unborn child that he forced his wife to leave him and return to her own time so that the child may grow up safe. He never once believes he will see either of them again, in fact he planned on dying in a battle anyway. His bodily sacrifice follows the character traits Gabaldon has given him. Upon meeting his daughter 20+ years later, the need to protect this now grown woman is just as strong which causes unfortunate misunderstandings and frustrations because his daughter is an independent woman who grew up in the 1950s and 60s.
Although we watch her struggle with her new father, she is beyond fortunate to have been gifted three parents (two fathers and a mother) who love her to the end of the earth and back, even if they show it in very different ways. It has never been about all of the little details of raising children that make parents good or “bad”, there is no right way. Jamie, a pioneer yet educated man, is just as adequate as his academic counterpart, Frank, or his royal queer counterpart, and all are just as adequate as the poor limp farmer his sister married. Gabaldon does a great job of showing the extensiveness of fatherly love while proving that there is no right or wrong way to show that love.
I can’t help but see bits of my own father in pieces of Jamie’s character. A man dedicated to caring for me even as I am old enough to care for myself and beyond independent. A man who found pleasure in hunting and farming, cutting wood, and other laborious methods of caring for his family. A man who was able to take in children in need. A man who shows anger to cover the fear of losing someone dear. Someone supportive, kind, and a natural born leader. But, most importantly, I feel these words about sum my dad up, Scottish or no:
“Put two Highland Scots in a room together, and within ten minutes they would know each other’s family histories for the last two hundred years, and have discovered a helpful number of mutual relatives and acquaintances.”
With my personal bias of Jamie’s character, I can’t help but know that his daughter will have no choice but to let him love her as his daughter, he wouldn’t be able to any other way.