Nov. 12, 2005:
I’m writing because I was asked by ——(nameless individual)——to
intervene in a Huge Argument being debated. (We are trying to avoid
Internet bloodshed and hurt feelings!) Oddly enough, it has nothing to
do with ABOSAA or rather, very little.
The very “heated” discussion is surrounding Frank’s role in his
relationship with Claire upon her return from the eighteenth century.
1) WHY did Frank stay with Claire if he wasn’t getting the love he
desired/needed? (evidenced by the affairs that he thought Claire knew
nothing about) Why didn’t he just leave?
2) Was Claire “cheating” on Frank during this period because her heart
still belonged to Jamie, even though she believed him dead?
3) IS Frank the “pathetic slime-ball” a couple of people have labeled
him? (Not my opinion or my words, by the way–just relating the
questions). <G>” — Thanks, Susan.
Nov. 13, 2005 Diana’s reply:
“As to L’Affaire Frank…<g>
Geez Louise. You guys. <rolling eye>
Of course Frank isn’t “a pathetic slimeball.” Where do they come up
with these ideas? (My personal guess would be that the people holding
this particular opinion are possibly not that fond of their own SO,
and would trade him in for Jamie in a heartbeat. Ergo, they project
things onto Frank. But that’s only a guess.)
Look. In the books, we see Claire and Frank’s relationship only from
Claire’s point of view. Which is understandably a trifle biased,
following her return through the stones.
What we see prior to her disappearance is an awkward but affectionate
relationship between two people who are married, but who are
effectively strangers-they’ve barely seen each other in six years, and
have been back together for only a few days. They’re feeling each
other out, trying to reestablish the connection they once had, and
struggling to overcome the fact that they are now quite different
people than who they once were.
Frank asks her diffidently at one point whether she had ever been
tempted to stray during the war-assuring her that he would understand
if she had. Claire-and the reader-think that his reason for doing this
may well be that he had strayed, and would feel better about
confessing his own transgression if she had suffered similar temptations.
Well, maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t. It’s actually not an abnormal
question to ask a mate you haven’t seen in six years, and one whom you
know has been working closely with hundreds of wounded (and thus
possibly emotionally appealing) men, in conditions that you know are
stressful, dangerous, and highly conducive to passionate, if
short-lived, physical attractions.
He’s trying to ask it tactfully, but-they’re strangers. She takes
offense, and he hastily drops the question. He doesn’t bring it up
again, in the time they’re together-which is fairly short. So you have
to draw your own conclusion there:
1) he hasn’t been having affairs himself, but can’t help a certain
male feeling of curiosity/jealousy about what Claire might have been
2) perhaps he had a brief fling, which he regrets, and wants to
confess this to Claire, so their marriage can resume without his
feeling constant guilt, or
3) he’s been screwing every woman who crossed his path, but would like
to find out that Claire’s had her own affairs, so he can throw it back
at her in case she ever finds out.
OK. There is NO evidence favoring any one of these three alternatives.
None. Any one of them is as likely as another. The reader’s
conclusions depend on the reader-and each reader brings his or her own
experiences and background to the act of reading.
Now, Claire disappears. No warning, no trace, no nothing. What do you
reckon happened, when she didn’t come back? A police search, no
leads-and probably deep suspicion of the husband, who is the Most
Likely Suspect. So Frank’s left panicked, then grief-stricken, while
probably being interrogated and threatened about his wife’s
disappearance. But this must obviously have all died down in the next
three years, and Frank begins to rebuild his life.
Does the rebuilding involve any kind of relationship with women, or a
woman? Quite possibly; he’s a handsome, personable man, with friends
who would think it their duty to introduce him to women.
Claire comes back. Filthy, malnourished, and hysterical, if not
outright demented. And, of course, pregnant. She tells him an
unbelievable story, presumably the product of a disordered mind, the
result of whatever horrible abduction/captivity/rape has resulted in
her present condition. She tells him to leave her.
Does he leave her? No. Does he produce another woman and explain that
actually, dear, while you were gone, Mary and I. No. He replies
shortly that no one but a cad would leave a woman in her condition.
So, OK. HE doesn’t think he’s a cad. Why on earth should anybody else?
He does stay with Claire, not only while she’s recovering, but
thereafter. There’s no hint that he’s pursuing a love affair started
while she was gone; in fact, he takes her to Boston, so that no hint
of scandal will attend Bree’s birth. If he did have some relationship
while she was gone, plainly he’s broken it off (and perhaps the
removal to Boston is to make such a break more definite-we don’t know,
because we don’t know what he was doing during those three years).
All right. From this point on, Claire’s view of Frank is definitely
suspect, because her own state of mind makes it impossible for her to
connect fully with him, save for brief interludes of tenderness, when
they’re able to reach one another physically (like the night he makes
love to her on the floor of the nursery). Yes, their relationship is
strained-we know that, because we see it. But the relationship of any
new parents is strained (believe me on this <g>), even if the two
parties aren’t on difficult terms to start with. And these two parties
Claire thinks he may be having affairs, but she doesn’t ever have
evidence of it. Either the guy is very dang good at hiding this stuff
(and unfaithful spouses almost always give themselves away)-or he
isn’t having affairs. He may well be seeking companionship, sympathy,
and ego-reinforcement from other women (he ain’t gettin’ a lot of
those things at home-but note that he isn’t leaving, either), but it’s
at least possible that he isn’t crossing the line into actual physical
infidelity. Note that Claire says that now and then she forces her
sexual attentions on him, trying to prove that he’s been with someone
else (and thus unable to respond to her)-but that every time, he does
respond to her, even if with mutual rage.
On the other hand, Frank knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that
Claire’s been unfaithful to him. At first, he most likely thinks she’s
been raped, but she goes on insisting on her absurd story. If it’s
true in any way-then she did it on purpose. This can’t do his feelings
any good. But he stays, because only a cad would abandon a pregnant
woman with no resources-and he isn’t a cad.
See, all these red-eyed readers are identifying with Claire (for the
excellent reason that she’s telling the story)-but they’d do better to
watch Frank. He clearly has a code of honor, and by God, he’s sticking
to it, dearly though it may cost him. Would a man with this kind of
code then proceed to have promiscuous affairs?
Maybe-but maybe not. His own image of himself as an honorable man is
probably as valuable to him as Claire is, at this point; if he won’t
abandon her, he won’t abandon that image, either.
Now, their relationship is definitely a difficult one. On Claire’s
side, there’s grief, resentment (over being parted from Jamie), the
fractured feelings of giving birth to Jamie’s baby, and the struggle
to build a career (which is probably not something Frank ever expected
her to want to do, and wasn’t prepared for). You note that she
apologizes to Frank only once, in their initial conversation after her
return-at which point, she’s completely hysterical. She makes it clear
that she loves Jamie more than him, even if Jamie is dead-this is Not
All That Good for a marriage.
Mind, divorce was simply Not Done at this time, in either the UK or
the US. A divorced woman was stigmatized, as was the child of divorced
Frank-honorable man that he sees himself as-isn’t going to expose
either Claire or Bree to that stigma. Besides, he’s in love with
Brianna, and doesn’t want to be parted from her. To not only divorce
Claire but also get custody of Bree would mean a huge, ugly, public
court-case, in which he would have to accuse Claire of moral
depravity, alcoholism, and anything else he could think of-and prove
it. No-fault divorce hadn’t been invented; a divorce had to be
approved by a judge, on the basis of strong evidence. (For the same
reasons, Claire wouldn’t seek to divorce Frank.
A) She wouldn’t deprive Brianna of a father who plainly loved her,
B) she wouldn’t expose Bree to the trauma of an ugly divorce case, and
C) she’d have to prove that Frank was guilty of various horrible things.
And we do see evidence that he still does love Claire. He’s angry at
her, confused by what’s happened, and obviously having a hard time
with everything-but he does love her. Enough to help her with her
medical career, even though he doesn’t like her having it and
objective enough to admire the sense of destiny that drives her to it,
even though he’s somewhat jealous that he doesn’t possess that drive
Frank a pathetic slimeball? Good grief. He’s the major tragic figure
of the books, unsung though he is. He is-on the evidence to hand-a
stand-up guy, who’s taken a horrible set of circumstances (which he
didn’t cause and had nothing to do with) and done the best he could to
build a family, do right by his daughter, and treasure what strands of
occasional tenderness form between himself and his guilt-ridden,
On Nov. 14, 2005:
“P.S. Forgot to note in the above that Frank, Claire, and Brianna are
all Catholics. Catholics _really_ didn’t get divorced in the
’50’s–they still don’t do it all that often, since it means
I don’t at all understand why the anti-Frank contingent thinks Claire
should have left the marriage, though. Why? Frank wasn’t beating
her, or mentally torturing her, or otherwise behaving badly (with, of
course, the _possible_ exception that he was being unfaithful. And
that, we don’t know). The only overwhelming reason she might have had
would be to go back to Jamie–which is something that Frank obviously
knows, which is why he doesn’t tell her when he finds evidence that
Jamie didn’t die at Culloden. (And while I’m sure that the anti-Frank
people view this as more evidence that he’s a Bad Person, consider
what he himself says in his letter to the Reverend. True, he _didn’t_
want to lose her (i.e., he loved her), but he also didn’t want to
cause her and/or Brianna additional grief and suffering by giving her
an impossible choice. She was by that time reconciled to her live in
the present, doing well as a doctor, and if their marriage wasn’t
great, it mostly wasn’t bad.
If she knew Jamie was alive, though…either she’d choose to try to
return to him, leaving her young daughter (more horrible guilt), or
she’d stay for Bree’s sake, but be constantly torn by yearning for
Jamie. So Frank didn’t tell her. He clearly had mixed motives for
that, but they weren’t necessarily evil ones, at all.”
Now...I am NOT saying Diana gives Frank Haters a spanking here....I am just saying...ummm...never mind. *grin* And yes, I know DG doesn't exactly exonerate him...but she sure in the Hell makes it clear that Frank shouldn't be vilified! THAT much is clear.
Here...to make the anti-Frank squad feel better, I will buy them ice-cream, ok? That always helps...