Does Diana Gabaldon use rape as a plot point too much in Outlander?

Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room
Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /

Rape is a pivotal plot device for a number of characters in Outlander, but it may be used a little too much.

Almost all (if not all) books in the Outlander series has rape. Sometimes it’s attempted, sometimes it’s just mentioned, and sometimes the characters experience it. Diana Gabaldon has used it against the majority of her main characters, including Claire, Jamie, and even Brianna. In fact, from the very first moment Claire stepped through the stones she was almost raped by Black Jack Randall.

And it’s not just men against women. As mentioned, Jamie has been the victim of rape. The end of the first book saw him raped by Black Jack Randall. In “Voyager,” he was blackmailed into sex (and while technically not rape as defined by law, it was close enough to leave fans of the book and TV series angry).

Overused plot point vs. a sign of the times

More from Opinion

One of the arguments for so much rape in the Outlander novels is the time period. It wasn’t a safe world, especially for women. You didn’t go out at night unless you had someone to protect you. And even with someone to protect you, there was a risk that your protector would be subdued and you raped–which is what happens with Murtagh, Claire, and Mary in Paris.

Sure, the world was a dangerous place, but that doesn’t mean our main characters have to be threatened with or actually raped multiple times within one novel. When used sparingly, it still gets the nature of the world across well, without becoming a roll-of-the-eyes occurrence.

It doesn’t help that the rape is just a quick plot point. There are only a handful of times in the novel that there are any emotional consequences of rape (Jamie being the main one). Novels are a good way to bring problems to light and show the aftermath and how it affects the individual, but that doesn’t happen each time it’s used in the Outlander series.

Watch Outlander with a FREE 7-day trial of Amazon Channels!
Watch Outlander with a FREE 7-day trial of Amazon Channels! /

Issues with overusing rape in the books

The overuse in any book makes it look like the author is running out of ways to create drama and rape is just a fallback.

Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /

For example, the attempted rape of Claire at the very beginning instantly sets up the danger of the highlands, while making it extremely clear that Black Jack Randall is not a good man. The attempted rape in the middle of the fields? Well, that wasn’t quite as necessary. We’d already know that the highlands were dangerous and that was more of a plot point to show that Claire could kill if she needed to. There were other ways to do that!

Meanwhile, the rape of Jamie in Wentworth Prison was extremely important. It made Black Jack’s character even more sadistic and devious. This was a man with no remorse and barely any feelings. He didn’t care who he hurt, as long as he got his kicks–and those kicks weren’t just physical, but mental.

The rape of Mary in Paris? That was an unnecessary plot point to create a bigger storyline for Claire. It furthered the plotline for the major characters by putting a minor character in harm’s way for little to no reason. There were other ways to further Claire’s plot in that moment.

There are rapes coming up (and you’ll know about them if you’ve read “Drums of Autumn” and beyond). One of those will appear in Outlander Season 4, which could be an important plot point to further a certain main character, but will this be too much by the time we get there?

Show danger in other ways

We don’t need a constant reminder that women were raped in the past–and they are now! It’s common knowledge. And if it’s not common knowledge, then people need to do some research into the world of the past. You can watch The Last Kingdom and Vikings to see just how common it was during the Viking era!

There are other ways to create and show danger. Other plot devices can be used to further the stories of the main characters. Maybe it’s time to use them and step back from the overuse of rape.

Next: Ranking the OUtlander Season 2 episodes

Are you disappointed at the use of rape so much as a plot device in the Outlander novels? What would you like to see more of in the books? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Like Claire and Jamie on Facebook for more looks into Outlander books and show.