Outlander Book Club: Drums of Autumn Chapter 38 breakdown

Outlander Season 4 -- Courtesy of STARZ
Outlander Season 4 -- Courtesy of STARZ /
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Outlander Season 4 — Courtesy of Aimee Spinks/STARZ /

Just the Outlander chapter

Books always give us the chance to delve into more details. We get the thoughts of the person, which can’t always be shown on the TV. There’s a reason most TV shows avoid episodes with just one person on their own for a long period of time. Just look at the recent episode of Snowpiercer to see how they avoided that for Melanie.

During Drums of Autumn Chapter 38, we find out that the passengers have been down below for days. They haven’t seen daylight because it’s not been safe in the stormy weather they’ve hit.

Roger thinks nothing of it when a woman asks him if the captain will rub his ring on her baby’s eyes because they’re struggling to adjust to the light. I love that he isn’t judgmental about the superstitions. He rolls with it understanding their reasons for their superstitions.

And so, in this chapter, he takes this woman and her baby to Bonnet, so who rubs the baby’s eyes with his ring. Roger notes that it looks like a woman’s wedding band, but Bonnet doesn’t seem like the type of guy who would have a keepsake from a woman back home.

A crew member with Bonnet looks at the baby and comments on a rash that he has. The woman tells everyone it’s a milk rash and that’s it. For now, she’s allowed to go. However, later that night there’s a ruckus and Roger finds out that the baby has been taken from the woman.

After making it clear that he’s had the pox (although he’ll have been inoculated against it rather than having it), Roger is allowed on deck to see what’s going on. He even holds the baby, and he notes the rash and the fever the baby has. Sure enough, the baby has smallpox.

Before he can do anything, the baby is thrown overboard. A fight breaks out, but there’s nothing for the crew to do. They have to throw everyone overboard with smallpox. It’s too contagious to allow anyone to remain. Roger also thinks to himself that they, especially the baby, would die anyway. Maybe drowning to death is a blessing.

Roger does battle with himself for this, but he continues to think logically. We see the historian, the professor in him at this point. He keeps his emotions in check for so much of it, although I’m sure many of us would struggle to watch as someone throws a baby overboard, sick or not.

Later on, Roger is below deck when he realizes that someone is with him. That someone is Morag MacKenzie with her baby, who has a rash in his cheeks. Morag says that this baby just has a milk rash, and she just needs to hide out for a few days. The problem is she needs to get food and water, and she can’t leave her baby alone. The rats will eat her baby alive.

Roger reluctantly agrees to help. It’s not that he doesn’t want to help, but that he fears what could happen to all of them if he does and if the baby does have smallpox. While he is a historian and an educator, he’s also a human being. He can’t let another child get thrown overboard, especially if the child isn’t sick.