What is an outlaw? We tend to equate it with bad guys or did until the anti-hero became a hero. Butch Cassidy was an outlaw but admired by many who considered him the good guy. Likewise the legend of Robin Hood. Even Christ was crucified for being outside the law as in a threat to the existing culture.
We think of outlaws as the rustlers and gunslingers of the Wild West but the term actually has its origin from earlier. It is from the Old Norse term utlager which meant outlawed, banished and involved cattle stealing. When caught, it was someone who had to give up their property to the state but their illegal acts might be someone like Rob Roy who was considered a hero for his battle for freedom and respect from the corrupt and powerful government of that time.
Outlaws can be, even today, those the group in power regard as dangerous to societal rules in general. The recent shooting of a teen-age girl in Pakistan is a good example. The ones ordering her killed justified it by saying she was a subversive; while many in Pakistan regard those who did the shooting as the outlaws.
In The Outlaw Way, the heroine, Abigail, feels constrained by her culture. There was no way for her to remain where she was and live the life she sought. Even before she saw the man she regarded as an outlaw, she wanted to break free of the rules but had no idea how to do it. She believed her mother had died before her time because of her own inability to find freedom.
When you break free of the rules, you can be banished or worse. There is a cost. When you speak out and claim your own way, you can be regarded as a rebel, a desperado, an outlaw, and the price can be your life. Is it worth it?
A society must have laws, but this business of who to turn into an outlaw is why we should pay attention to what those laws are. If we do not protect the openness of our society, make sure our rules are not actually only societal constraints , we could end up losing our own choices.
Our culture has turned a lot of people into outlaws for drug usage or prostitution. Within a church or community, it can still happen based on dress or behavior. It can become stifling, even go against nature, and for no purpose other than it's what was always done.
I don't see outlaws as always heroes. In this book, the issue of when an outlaw way becomes damaging is also portrayed. There are prices to obeying meaningless laws but likewise prices for living outside the community.
When I wrote this book probably fifteen or twenty years ago, I related to the heroine. I didn't know then all the ways that was true. It's still one of my favorite stories. When it eventually does go out, I hope it will find readers who will enjoy exploring the outlaw way for themselves through the book and then considering it later for its deeper meaning.
The ocean photo at the top is the Oregon Coast from this fall. Its only relationship to outlaws would be the shoals, currents, tides and uncertainties that are part of life and very much part of those who do choose the outlaw way even when done for a noble purpose (not saying my hero or heroine had one of those).