Welcome to this week’s read of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Here, we take a look at what makes this bestselling book work.
Chapter 31: Quarter Day
Summary: Jenny helps get Jamie and Claire ready for Quarter Day, an occasion when the tenants come to pay rents and handle business with the laird. Jamie and Claire are alike in that neither is particularly concerned for their tangled, leaf-strewn, and generally unruly hair. Jenny has other opinions though and forces them to look presentable. She also lets Claire borrow some jewelry.
After getting ready, Claire goes down for breakfast to meet Murtaugh who has come to deliver what possessions of Jamie’s and Claire’s he could rescue from Leoch. He also tells Claire that Mrs. Fitz made Colum’s life miserable, trying to get him to go and rescue Claire from the witch trial.
Writer Comments: I do like Mrs. Fitz. I hope we get to see more of her at some point. It’s minor characters like her that can make a story much more endearing and entertaining. In fact, minor characters are often what allow a writer to add unique flavor to a story, and they often become favorites among fans. Supporting characters like this should be given plenty of thought and development. They might not ever play a major role in the story, but they should still feel like real people on the page. Otherwise, readers won’t buy them and fall in love with them.
Summary: Throughout the day, Claire lends a hand to providing refreshments for the visiting tenants. Around noon, MacNab arrives with his son, the boy Granny MacNab wanted Jamie to take as a stable lad. At once, it becomes apparent that the father is an unkempt drunk and that he terrifies his son. Jamie escorts MacNab into his study while Jenny, Claire, and the housekeeper bustle the boy off into the kitchens with the excuse of feeding him.
A quick inspection reveals that MacNab does indeed ruthlessly beat the boy, and Claire goes to tell Jamie. However, she doesn’t need to say a word. Jamie sees it on her face when she walks in under the pretense of delivering more refreshments. However, MacNab will not release his son to Jamie.
Just before MacNab leaves, Claire catches sight of Jamie escorting the man off, a companionable arm about his shoulders. A minute later, they return and MacNab looked dazed and quite a bit worse for wear. But Jamie is all smiles and politeness, pleased that MacNab has changed his mind and will now be allowing the boy to work in the stables. He sees MacNab on his way, then calls the lad out to give him his introduction the the household, which largely involves warning him not to cross the housekeeper, especially when it comes to washing behind one’s ears.
Later that evening, Jamie takes Claire off for a confession of I love yous.
Writer Comments: Ah, some justice done. That’s a nice touch to the chapter. It is enjoyable to have a hero beat the snot out of the scum of the world. I wonder if the boy, Rabbie, will play an important role in this book.
As I’ve said many times before, it’s important that all characters, scenes, and elements of a story must serve a purpose, preferably multiple purposes. The tighter the web, the stronger the story’s structure. Along the way, of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the hero doing a bit of clandestine pummeling of the bad guys.