Wentworth: The Aftermath (#Outlander)

SPOILERY/TRIGGERY/FEELS WARNING

If Wentworth was hell on earth, then the aftermath was a Dark Night of the Soul.  I re-re-re-re-read Outlander recently in preparation (not because I am an obsessive fan *ahem*), and I was struck again by just how far Jamie fell into the abyss.

Jamie expected to die after Wentworth.  The idea that the torture could not last forever, that it would end after a finite time, made it bearable.  Having lived, Jamie seemed at a loss as to how to piece himself–body and soul–back together.  But, more to the point, did he even want to?

His self-loathing, guilt, and feelings of emasculation threaten to overpower him.  Devout Catholic that he is, he can’t bring himself to put blade to wrist, but he is dying a slow death nonetheless and doing nothing to prevent it.

The Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote the “dark sonnets” (also called the “terrible” sonnets, but I’m pretty sure this was not a reflection on his talent) about his own Dark Night of the Soul.  And every time I get to “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” in Outlander, remember the lines from Hopkins’ poem “Carrion Comfort”…

NOT, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;

Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man

In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;

Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.

I remember my college professor explaining that “carrion” was dead, decaying animal flesh.  *shudder*  By the time Jamie made it to the abbey, his own wounds were not much better than decaying flesh.  Beaten, battered, and broken he may have been, but at least there was still something…someone…tethering him to this earth.

For one heartbreaking moment, Jamie nearly let go…of life, of hope, of Claire.  He tried to send her away.  He tried to cut the fragile cord that bound him.  If Claire went back to her time, there was nothing left to keep him here.

Fortunately, Claire was having none of that.  Rather than beg, or plead, or cry, Claire resorted to the only thing that might possibly rouse a Scotsman from his own coffin…a fight.  By calling forth Jamie’s warrior soul, she helps him reclaim something.  Rather than allowing Jamie to wallow in despair–to “feast” on carrion–Claire sets a stage eerily reminiscent of Wentworth, and she summons the very demons he hopes to escape in death.

When faced with an opponent that he could face, rather than one buried in his memories, Jamie lashes out and fights the fight that honor would not allow to back in the prison.

Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man 

In me…

And in the opium thick room, the scent of lavender clawing at his stomach, Jamie reclaims his life.  He may have bargained his body to Black Jack Randall, but damn if he would let him claim his soul, too.

I can…

can something…hope?

Wish day come?

                                  Not choose not “to be.”

Jamie made a choice.  A choice to continue.  A choice to fight the demons that come in the night rather than join them in the darkness.  To fight for love…for life…for a future.

Wentworth undoubtedly had an aftermath, but it wasn’t a new inventory of scars or a legacy of shame.  The aftermath of Wentworth was rebirth.  The rebirth of Jamie as a man who makes the choice to go forward.

I have been amazed and humbled the past week at how many readers and viewers of Outlander have been generous enough to share the stories of their own personal Wentworth…who have talked about their own assaults and the aftermath.

This week I have seen a lot of articles about rape on television, and a few have talked about the Wentworth episode being mere sensationalism.  But it is more than that.  It is more than something that happened to a fictional character.  It is a starting point—a point where those who have experienced their own version of Wentworth can talk about it, a point where the rape of a man can be viewed for what it really is–an assault rather than an emasculation–a point where the shackles of unearned guilt can be shed.

For those who still cry, “I can no more!”…please know that you can.  

To join the fight against sexual violence, go to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network

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10 thoughts on “Wentworth: The Aftermath (#Outlander)

  1. Terri, I’ve typed and erased a half a dozen replies. I never know quite what to say after I read your essays because they move and humble me so much! The Hopikins’ poem is an amazing comparison to Jamie’s Wentworth experience and I love how you break it down. Thank you for sharing it and your words.

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      • Really? I guess I can understand that. Your writing is very personal (which is why it speaks to me so) and putting that much of yourself out there is always a risk, especially on social media. I applaud you for taking the risk and continuing to share your words! They are YOUR truth and that’s all that really matters!

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  2. Thank you for your input on a very difficult topic. I’ve been living with my own demons for most of my life and the Wentworth episode has helped me remember that we can never forget the past, but we can still keep it from ruining our present and future. Jamie has Claire to bring him out of the darkness, but it still has to be Jamie’s choice to fight. It is the same for all who want to recover from sexual/physical assault. I guess it’s living one day at a time that will ultimately, slowly bring you out of the darkness and into the light.

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    • Wise words, Sherry. You’re right, Claire was his catalyst, but Jamie had to want to fight and claw his way back…and he did. May you find peace and light in your life, and may whatever demons you face recede back into the shadows. ❤️

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  3. So beautifully written. Your description of the depth that Jamie was taken to in spirit and his wating to loosen all ties to his early body, but Claire not giving in and helping him come back were just perfect. And I hope you are right that this can be seen in some light to help those who may be suffering in silence.

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  4. Terri,

    This is an inspired bit of writing. Thank you. I had never read “Carrion Comfort;” it conveys determination while at the absolute end of one’s rope like almost nothing I’ve ever seen. Oh, wait, I have just seen that, haven’t I.

    Liked by 1 person

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