A Way with Words

I love the tv adaptation of Outlander, I really do, but I still return to the books to bask in the sheer artistry Diana displays in her writing. I’ve been pulling quotes from the books for quite some time into a searchable database (Outlander Quotes) to make it easier to find and revel in some of my favorite examples.

Most days I post a favorite quote on Twitter (@chaoscritter), in the Heughligans Facebook group and on Compuserve. But I also intend to occasionally post some quotes here with a more detailed discussion and analysis. Starting now.

Warning this next bit contains a pretty big spoiler for Dragonfly in Amber. So if you haven’t read it, stop what you are doing right now- yes now- and go read it. Spoilers beyond the click. 

“The window was made up of thousands of tiny colored panes, held in place by strips of melted lead. Though the entire window, a mythological scene of the Judgement of Paris, shuddered in its frame, the leading held most of the panes intact; in spite of the crash and tinkle, only a jagged hole at the feet of Aphrodite let in the soft spring air.”

—Claire in Dragonfly in Amber, Chapter 21

This quote is from the scene in which Claire asks Jamie not to kill Randall. So much is happening in that scene emotionally and it is so gripping that it is hard to really appreciate some of the details even though they help, of course, to paint the whole image.

So, once I really stopped to appreciate the bit above, the layers of meaning impressed me.

“Thousands of tiny colored panes” seems to beautifully mirror the situation they are in with thousands of interwoven pieces leading to the tragedy of Culloden that they are trying to prevent as well as the fabric of history that encompasses both Frank and BJR and the way in which they are interwoven. And though the piece as a whole “shuddered in its frame,” it did not break.

Plus, you have Jamie in some ways trying to personify judgement as he prepares to go confront Jack. But at the same time Jamie’s actions end up leading to more tragedy and complications. And so one wonders about the nature and efficacy of human judgement.

The “jagged hole at the feet of Aphrodite let in the soft spring air” paints such a vivid picture. In retrospect it seems that maybe this was supposed to provide some reassurance that though there may have been some damage to Jamie and Claire’s love (represented by the hole at Aphrodite’s feet), it was mostly intact, and was letting in spring air, an auspicious sign.

So how would you interpret this passage? What are your favorite images in the book?

2 thoughts on “A Way with Words

  1. Claire he said, tomorrow I will die, this child is all that will be left of me- ever. I ask you Claire – I beg you – see it safe.
    From Dragonfly in Amber, just before he send Claire back through the stones, before Culloden .

  2. Oh God, I cried buckets while reading DiA, still do if I re read it…
    One of my faves is when Jamie says to Claire that on the day they shall part, if he has not said he loves her, she will know that he did not have time to say it.
    So many beautiful moments in the books, am re readign them all for the 3rd time,

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