One of the characters that readers tend to dislike is Geneva Dunsany. I guess we do not hate her as much as other characters. Most of what readers know about Geneva comes from Jamie’s point of view. Of course, he does not like much about her. She has good looks and is skilled at riding horses. However, her negative characteristics overshadow the positive ones. She is selfish and concerned about herself only. Here is a description of Geneva from Jamie’s perspective:
Pretty, spoilt, and autocratic, the Lady Geneva was accustomed to get what she wanted when she wanted it, and damn the convenience of anyone standing in her way. . . (ch. 14)
This assessment of Geneva is accurate, and it foreshadows what will subsequently happen between Jamie and her. Furthermore, she does not follow the rules. She pushes Jamie to ride with her in the foothills above Helwater, even though she is forbidden to go there. Readers do not like the fact that she blackmails Jamie to have sex with her without taking into consideration the lives of others. Jamie muses how many lives are endangered just because of her whimsy nature:
He thought he might be sick on the spot, from sheer terror. Did she have the faintest idea how many lives lay in the manicured white hand? His sister, Ian, their six children, all the tenants and families at Lallybroch – perhaps even the lives of the agents who carried messages and money between Scotland and France, maintaining the precarious existence of the Jacobite exiles there (ch. 14).
This passage is taken from the scene in which Geneva is blackmailing him to have sex with her. She has in her possession a letter from him to his sister which provides information about the Frenchman’s gold. Jamie is terrified, and this terror is probably the main reason for him not being able to devise a way to get out of this blackmailing. Furthermore, he even provides information to Geneva of when to get pregnant.
“Sometime in the week after ye’ve finished your courses,” he said bluntly. “You’re less likely to get wi’ child then.”
“Oh.” She blushed rosily at that, but looked at him with a new interest (Voyager, ch. 14).
I think Jamie makes a mistake in “teaching” Geneva how to get pregnant. Of course, he was trying to prevent an undesirable pregnancy. There are two possible reasons for this mistake.
- He is scared of what might happen if his letter falls into the wrong hands.
- He probably thought that Geneva’s feelings for him were just an infatuation as opposed to love. Was she in love with him?
She is attracted to Jamie, a feeling which is evident to many around (other grooms notice that). She chooses him to accompany her all the time she goes for a ride. After having sex with Jamie, she proclaims she loves him. Of course, Jamie considers her love for him as another prohibition to the deal between them. Geneva is not allowed to love him. He reveals to her that he loves Claire without even mentioning her name:
“Well, love’s for only one person. This, what you feel from me – ye can have that with any man, it’s not particular (ch. 14).”
When it comes to sex, one might say that Geneva is naive, and it is confusing love and sex. Of interest is the fact that she chooses to have a son from Jamie eventually (she got pregnant on purpose). It brings to the mind the concept of “female choice,” a form of sexual selection, typical of many animal species. A good example of this female choice is the male peacock. Female peacocks have a preference for colorful male peacocks. It is a desirable trait for them, and they want those physical traits to be transferred to their offsprings. Of course, one of the biggest disadvantages is that being colorful makes the male peacock visual to predators. Therefore, there is a tradeoff. Furthermore, female choice is typical is modern Western society. As a result, Geneva seems to be not a woman of her time, probably one of the main reasons why I sympathize with her (a little bit, though).
- She objects to the marriage contract that her father has arranged for her. Of course, many women in the past probably did not like their match in the past, but they still accepted their father’s choice. Even though she is not willing to be married to the Earl of Ellesmere, Geneva knows there is no way out of it. She would like to lose her virginity with somebody of her choice. If Geneva is seen with the twentieth-century mindset, she is a teenager with “silly” hormones aspiring for a good-looking man whom she frequently meets.
- She is interested in somebody who is not at the same social level. Of course, Jamie’s background is refined as her. In fact, he is even better than her (he is not spoiled). However, he is a prisoner and a former traitor, which is what others see at Helwater. One wonders whether Geneva was able to see Jamie’s refinement.
- Furthermore, she is willing to have sexual intercourse with somebody who is not English and considered a barbarian. I tend to suspect that most people used to marry somebody of the same “nationality” in the past. Of course, there are exceptions, especially when monarchs married foreigners to create alliances. Marriages between the English and the Scottish were uncommon. I dealt with this topic in the following post using as an example the blood types: Syncretism in the Beliefs of the Scottish Highlanders. Relevant to this topic is the fact that years ago, I came across a particular reading specifying that marriages between a Croat and a Slovene in the early twentieth century were unacceptable (but they did occur).
The second and third points show a brave young woman. As detailed in my previous post, everybody at Helwater is scared of Jamie – who is seen as an uncouth Highlander, except her. In fact, Jamie uses this attribute of her being brave and courageous to describe her to his son, William, in book 8. He never mentions anything negative about her. Furthermore, Jamie does see some positive characteristics in Geneva.
. . . She might be spoilt, selfish, and reckless, but there was some character to her, at least. Courage, to him, was no small virtue (ch.14).
The passage above is what Jamie thinks when Geneva tells him that she would not mind the pain during intercourse.
Finally, I would like to mention that scene in which Geneva tells Jamie to stop and he refuses. Is that rape? I guess the answer lies in Geneva’s behavior after the intercourse. She does not exhibit any trauma and is looking forward to continuing having subsequent intercourses with Jamie.
Thanks for reading and hope you find this post enjoyable!
Gabaldon, Diana. Voyager. 1994. New York: Bantam Dell. 2002. Print.