Further Thinking With Kim: Abuse in Historical Fiction Novels

Credit: RainGarden Source: http://raingarden.deviantart.com/art/Glass-Lucent-Heart-74527789?q=boost%3Apopular%20broken%20glass&qo=100

Credit: RainGarden (Source)

So I’ve been wanting to get my own series on the blog for a while now, but haven’t had any good ideas on topics to discuss etc.  I’ve primarily stuck with writing book reviews but have recently been looking at novels in a much more critical light.  As such I’ve found a plethora of topics that I want to discuss with other book addicts.  The first subject I thought to discuss was something that came to light when I was reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Here’s my review).

In my review of Outlander I wrote the following:

At times Jamie and the other men of the period are barbaric, but when you look at the time period (the 1700’s) it’s historically accurate.  There is one scene in the book where Jamie whips Claire for disobeying him and putting his clansmen in extreme danger.  While I don’t agree with the beating, his explanation of why he did it (it’s expected by his clansmen for retribution due to the danger they’ve been placed in) makes sense.  Even Claire understands and accepts it (and she’s a modern woman!)  Jamie is extremely remorseful over the entire incident and agrees to make a pact to Claire that he’d never do it again, regardless of the traditions he lives by.  This brought a question to my mind: are we able to accept abuses of women when placed into the context of the past?

I wanted to delve further into this line of thinking.  If I read a book that took place in contemporary times there would be NO WAY IN HELL that I’d accept abuse as a viable plot point. (Unless the story was ABOUT abuse)  But when placed into a story where it’s truly indicative of the way people acted, I can accept it as “historically relevant.” Am I an anti-feminist for accepting abuse as part of a historical fiction novel’s plot?

On top of that I pose the greater question: when is the cutoff?  If we say that we can respect and understand how abuse of women is “historically relevant” in some books, when do we say that it’s not ok in others?  I’m not naive enough to think that abuse of women doesn’t exist anymore.  It does, and unfortunately probably always will.  I just think that it’s not as in your face now as it might have been in the 1700 and 1800’s.  Women have so many more rights now and places to escape from battered marriages and relationships.  With the invention of the internet it’s easy to find resources to help.  Therefore, although it is still a problem today, I think it’s also interesting to look back on these historical works and mull over these questions.  What we learn from them can be applied to the future, where hopefully soon these abuses will cease to exist.

So in closing, I ask:

A. Do you agree about accepting abuse of women as “historically relevant” in certain instances?

B. What are some books you’ve read that you accepted/rejected abuse as plot points?