Sex, Spirituality, and Salvation in Outlander: To Ransom a Man’s Soul

Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s: he shall return to the days of his youth.                                                                                                Job 33:24

 In the abbey where Jamie and she are taking refuge, Claire finds a bible, and searching for an answer to Jamie’s despair, she reads a number of passages about help and strength. Of the many quotations she highlights, she likes this one about the possibility of being blessed without condemnation (Outlander, Chapter 39 “To Ransom a Man’s Soul”). In Job, God reassures us that to the justified, everything is adjusted because God has found a ransom in Christ and we are delivered out of the pit. Claire tells Jamie, “there’s nothing to forgive.” 116 Claire monk

There are a number of biblical echoes in Outlander, which Diana Gabaldon carefully adapts for her contemporary global readers. The richness of her prose comes from the way she is able to link the earthly with the intellectual, the mythic, the spiritual, and oftentimes, the scientific and historical. In Gabaldon’s books, love and passion are never just physical and sensual, they encompass a range of emotions that carry us from our mundane world to somewhere above the ordinary. Many of our favourite lines from Outlander are precisely this fertile mix of passion and spirituality:

Outlander 2014
Outlander 2014

“Ye are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone,

I give ye my Body, that we Two might be One.

I give ye my Spirit, ‘til our Life shall be Done.”              Marriage vows

Outlander 2014
Outlander 2014

“I am your master… and you’re mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.”

What happens when both heroes and villains desire the kind of passion, fury, and glory that we yearn for? In Episode 1 x16 “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” we have Jack Randall who seeks a fulfillment for which he has been waiting for over four years, at the same time as we have Claire who is seeking to find a way to ransom Jamie’s soul. Blogger Candida notes the “sinister and heartbreaking” cuts between Randall and Claire in the show (Candida’s Musings), as they both touch and desire Jamie.

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The mixture of the sexual and the spiritual comes out in Ron D. Moore’s show to a certain extent. At one point in Episode 1 x 16, Jack Randall, unable to get much of a response from Jamie, says, “what, you are going to lie there like Christ with his bleeding hands?” Jack is only able to elicit the kind of sexual and spiritual response he wants by inflicting great pain followed by tenderness. The fact that he does, and succeeds in getting Jamie to momentarily forget himself, is what is disturbing.

116 BJ arms

In Western art, there is a long tradition of expressing intense feeling through a mixture of the religious and the sexual. In 1647, Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted the Ecstacy of St. Teresa which dramatized St. Teresa of Avila’s relationship with god. As the angel stabs St. Therese’s heart with his arrow, she felt the love of God as extreme spiritual pain, and also intense sweetness (akward42). bernini_st_teresa_avila

Violence seems to be part of the intensity of great love. This is the reason why the monks of the abbey could not on their own rescue Jamie. They are well-versed in the spiritual, but didn’t have the love and powerful desire that motivated Claire. We need both aspects of love–the physical and the spiritual, to be whole. In the novel, Claire uses her knowledge of drugs, spirituality, and psychology to pierce through the veil of Jamie’s trauma. Braving Jamie’s confusion and brutal reaction, she struggles with him until she brings him back from the pit. In the TV show, she takes on the role of the abandoned woman in order to appeal to Jamie. She tells him that own her life would not make sense if he dies, which succeeds in rousing his masculinity and protective spirit. He does reach out to her finally, which leads to his spiritual healing.

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healing

For Claire, the spiritual healing comes partly from her confession to Brother Anselm who absolves her of both bigamy and murder. He reassures her, “Everyone’s actions affect the future” (Chapter 40 Absolution) which absolves Claire and also empowers her for what lies ahead. What we did not see enough of in the final episode, which many readers of the book have commented on, is the sensuality and spirituality between Claire and Jamie. We saw a lot of the sensuality of Black Jack and Jamie, but it seems like Ron Moore and Ira Steven Behr became enamored of the villain, as John Milton did with Satan in Paradise Lost, so that the episode became about him rather than about Jamie and Claire.

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Blogger Erin Conrad notes, “the viewer hasn’t seen enough of [Claire and Jaime’s] growing love to completely buy into their soul connection” (Review Ep 16, TIBS). It is a pity that we could not have a version of the hot springs ending in place of “The Watch” or the “The Search,” which were fillers (Conrad). Not only was the hot springs scene the second-best erotic scene in the novel (next to the wedding night), it was the way to link back to Claire’s decision at the standing stones. For Claire had said then about her difficult choice: “You don’t know how close it was. The hot baths nearly won” (Chapter 25, “Thou Shalt not Suffer a Witch”). In Chapter 41 “From the Womb of the Earth” we have Jamie presenting Claire with his own “hot bath” deep underground, a fitting symbol of rebirth by water, but also the way life is different in 18th century Scotland but still filled with beauty.

Iceland Grjotagja

In the TV show, the episode ends with Claire and Jamie sailing away romantically on the tall ship bound for France. In place of the caves, we have a different kind of water and the journey motif, which signals a path to rescue and redemption. The open sea is a fitting image of the challenges and wide horizon in front of them: “And the world was all around us, new with possibility.” Just don’t expect Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” to be played on this boat…

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                                                                By: Eleanor Ty

  Works Cited

Akward 42. “Bernini’s The Ecstacy of St. Teresa.” 24 February 2015. https://akward42.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/berninis-the-ecstasy-of-st-teresa/

Candida’s Musings.” A True Fan’s Review of #Outlander Episode 116: To Ransom a Man’s Soul.” Candida’s Musings. 2 June 2015. Web. https://candidan.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/a-true-fans-review-of-outlander-episode-116-to-ransom-a-mans-soul/

Conrad, Erin. “Outlander Ep. 16 Review – Too Much, and Not Enough.” TIBS: ThreeifBySpace.net 31 May 2015. http://www.threeifbyspace.net/2015/05/outlander-ep-16-review-too-much-and-not-enough/

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7 thoughts on “Sex, Spirituality, and Salvation in Outlander: To Ransom a Man’s Soul”

  1. Beautifully said. Reminds me of why I cried out loud when I read the book the first time; first for Jamie and Claire’s suffering then for their redemption. I didn’t cry when I watched the show’s finale. I gasped and recoiled in horror. I didn’t even get to cry tears of joy, because Jamie’s initial healing and his reconnecting with Claire was glossed over and fell flat. So deflating after a wonderful season.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Very well written. And while we may each have our views of what we pictured Jamie and Claire to look like, and I’ve read a lot of grumblings about this (“he’s not big/handsome/cat-eyed enough” and “she’s too skinny/doesn’t have whiskey-eyes”, etc.), but I feel very strongly about 2 things in the final episode – 1. The viewers were figuratively beaten over the head with Wentworth rape scenes, which should have taken no more than 5 minutes, tops 2. The rest of the time should have been spent on Jamie’s salvation, including the scene in the cave-bath, where Claire shared the news of her pregnancy. That is all. This is the ONLY time in all of the 16 episodes that I objected to anything. I think all other “artistic liberties” and “adaptation” has been justified and done really well. This is the only exception.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Now that I’ve read your post, it breaks my heart that they did not include the cave scene. Perhaps I could have accepted the rush and lack of priority in the redemption scenes if they had only kept that part from the book. I feel it was a deliberate decision to shock and beat us over the head with the rape & torture scenes, at the expense of a true portrayal of Jamie’s redemption as written in the book.

    Liked by 1 person

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