Voyager (Outlander, #3) Voyager question

How do you feel about the racial sensitivity in the portrayal of Mr. Willoughby?
Abby Abby (last edited Jan 01, 2015 09:50PM ) Dec 26, 2014 11:16PM
Gut-reaction, I found the description and portrayal of Mr. Willoughby to be at Breakfast-at-Tiffany's levels of racist (although Mr. Yunioshi was intended to be Japanese, I think the comparison holds given American attitudes to Asian cultures), particularly when he is first introduced in a drunken heap at the World's End Tavern). By the end of the book, I did feel that he had been given a little bit more dimension to expand into (particularly his end of the book catharsis against Jamie), but he never stopped being a caricature of a "Mystical Oriental." Does anyone else feel this way? Can anyone shed any light into Gabaldon's research into Chinese culture of the era?

Drush76 (last edited Jul 13, 2016 01:27PM ) Jul 13, 2016 01:26PM   3 votes
Mr. Willoughby should not have been written in that manner. This novel was written by a woman of the late 20th/early 21st century and narrated by a woman of the early-to-mid 20th century. Are you kidding me? It was disgusting. James Clavell, who wrote "TAI-PAN" in the mid 20th century, didn't portray his Chinese characters in this manner . . . even when he was writing from the POV of Europeans.

I'm still amazed at how people would go out of their way to excuse racism when they encounter it in any form.

I didn't see this character as stereotypical at all, I found him a complex character in all the books. (view spoiler)

***Contains some spoilers*** Yeah, I shared your questions. I also share the perspective in regards to historical accuracy & the viewpoints of the Europeans of the time. However I found the character development in this instance itself a bit troubling. Even the great catharsis at the end, while it did offer some greater complexity to the character, was somewhat troubling; how did it fit in with the prior plot points? Why was he, on the one hand, a vigilant and dedicated guard on the ship, and on the other hand a willing traitor, and on the other other hand a valuable source of medical assistance for Jamie in time of crisis, and on the other other other hand revealed to be deeply bitter at and resentful of Jamie? I found it all a bit odd.

It's one thing to write in the POV of a European in that time period and another for the author to CREATE a caricature of a "Mystical Oriental". Why was he written as a walking stereotype? Why wasn't he his own dynamic person by introduction to defy Claire's opinion of him?
I'm just thinking of Joe Abernathy and that despite the judgement and racism thrown his way, he wasn't a stereotype. He was his own person. A Person. But Mr. Willoughby is simply a stereotypical character with little individual complexity that can contradict the deplorable opinions of a racist lens.

Thank you. I am seeing a lot of people flat out excuse the egregious racism of this characterization. I believe you don't have to throw the baby out with the bath water. This book and series contains some wonderful prose, but the treatment of this man as a "pet"/object is reprehensible. It makes the book very difficult to read.

I think the character epitomized the dichotomy of the times ie. knowing that the world is the way it is (and trying to accept it)versus feeling discriminated against and trying to make the best of things. Don't forget that Chinese people were a novelty at the time and the Golden Empire viewed themselves as the acme of humanity, so they disdained the foreign devils as well. I think the character captures the prejudice on both sides.

I thought that the part where Jamie explained foot-binding was super-racist, as there exists no evidence as that's why the practice existed, but due to the books being known for being "researched" that little tidbit will live on as fact now..

Any reference to the "China man" or "the Chinese" makes me cringe. I'm enjoying the book, but do not care for the racism concerning this character. I wish there could be a rewrite and reference to this character in a more humane or respectable way. Maybe the character is a drunkard or clown, due to his misfortune, but the names used to refer to him are offensive.

One of the things that I like about Diana's books is that she sticks to the cultural feelings of the time regardless of how taboo those feelings are now. Her novels are praised for how well researched they are.

I haven't done research on the subject myself so I can't really say anything concrete about it.

But I believe Mr.Willoughby continued to be a caricature of a "Mystical Oriental" because he couldn't be otherwise. Claire is the only one who possibly would have viewed him differently. So to maintain the realism of the times people continued to look at him though that racist lense.

When I read a book I rarely feel that a character is being shown is stereotyped and much of the time I'm probably wrong. It's just not where my head goes. Maybe if I read a series and every single person of that race was presented in the exact same way my mind would go there. Otherwise I just assume the character the writer is writing about, is that way, not based upon anything other than the writers imagination.

So are the Japanese usually depicted as drunks? Is that a current stereotype?

What is up with Claire referring to Yi Tien Cho/Willoughby as “The Chinese”?! Talk about objectification and dehumanizing a person. I can’t recall another character whose adjective is turned into a noun. It’s cringeworthy. I feel embarrassed to read through it, glad I borrowed instead of purchased the book, and resolved not to recommend the book series. It’s a big let down. The television series apparently saw the problem and worked around it.

Mia (last edited Nov 12, 2016 02:25AM ) Oct 29, 2016 12:42AM   0 votes
Yes, Diana Gabaldon mostly keeps true to the Eurocentric cultural feelings of race and gender in 18th century Scotland. But her characters transcend the time periods they are created in because they fight these stereotypes. I expected nothing less from the character, Mr. Willoughby, but I was wrong.
I think the author’s limited imagination of Mr. Willoughby is needlessly rough. In order to preserve the “mystical oriental” part of his character she sacrifices much of his awareness and voice. Perhaps Diana fell short on her portrayal of Mr. Willoughby because her research into the time period only turned up caricatured and racist portrayals of orientals. But what if this is not the case? What if there is a well documented history of trade between China and Scotland from the 18th century well into the 19th century, see below. I don’t know much about cross continental trade in the 18th century but I can imagine that it was a complex operation with complex characters.

When you read the portrayal of Willoughby in Voyager, you do not hear Jamie or Claire POV. Instead, what you hear is the voice a 21st century American writer borrowing directly from 20th century American racism.

If you are curious about the history of Scottish/Chinese trade:

I'm sorry but I think people take a lot of things too seriously, like racism. We are all human beings after all, and I have been shot down many times by others for making this statement. I believe if we could all lighten up on this topic, racism would just go away, but it is kept alive and fueled by discussions. My opinion anyway. Sorry, if you don't agree.

Mia Nice plug. Bad logic. Perhaps if we all lighten up about the topic of say mental illness, it would also go away? The way you trivialize an issue like ...more
Oct 28, 2016 09:22PM
Bernadette Agreed!
Mar 25, 2021 10:06PM

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