Bones Theory

Hanson’s Inferno


Hello, fellow BONES fans!

As a person involved in the BONES fan community, I enjoy conversing with other fans, writing about the show, I moderate on a fan forum…and lately I’ve noticed something. Parts of the BONES fan community seem to have lost hope lately, in parallel with the significant changes in the lives our favourite TV characters as they make their way through Season 6. Is it simply because the show and the characters are so well written, so well acted, that we empathise so strongly? Why do we find it difficult to sustain hope through trust in ‘everything happens eventually’?

At this point, I’d like to make a confession; as well as being one of those annoying rational types, trained in the scientific method; I also have a great love of literature, which is one of the things that attracts me to blogs like Bones Theory. Since my first Tolkien books were purchased on a blisteringly cold Yorkshire day at age 9, I have been a voracious consumer of the written word. Next to extracting a meaningful story from millions of data points, there is nothing better that I enjoy than a literary-style critique of an issue. Because I think too much, I observe a lot, and I analyse in order to find meaning.

I’ve been thinking…and reading, analysing…and writing – now I’m a little nervous, because I’m publicly sharing what I’ve written in a genre that I am very much an amateur in. Essentially, I’ve got a theory or a thematic perspective, if you want to be more precise about it, with respect to what is going on with our favourite crime-fighting duo. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t devoted my every waking moment to what I’m writing here, but my process involves keeping little puzzle pots bubbling in the back of my mind, until I can work things out and share my perspective. To avoid me having to type ‘thematic perspective’ and for the sanity of fans, we’ll just call this piece a ‘theory’, okay? So, what better place to air my musings, *ahem* theory, than here at Bones Theory?

Anyhow, my theory is this: Booth and Brennan are going through Hell.

“Duh?”, I hear you say…“Thank you, Captain Obvious!” you snark. “Wow, genius…totally (not)!” you mutter sarcastically.

Yes. Hell – but a classical interpretation of Hell. I’m going to take you on a tour so that you can take a peek at how I’ve thought through the angsty signals coming from episodes of BONES of late. This is the way that I have worked my way past the dismay of losing my weekly instalment of no-strings happiness. I refuse to speak for anyone except myself in terms of ‘a reaction’ of course. The storyline, as necessary as it may be right now, just adds a fictional element of angst to all those very real life issues that I already have to deal with. This post deals with the way that I have responded and adapted to change; I’m simply sharing it.

Let’s take a candid look at Booth and Brennan. These characters have both taken a self-centred path lately. Sure, you can argue that both characters are damaged goods, I agree with that having a lot to do with what is going on (or not going on) between them these days…but that’s Psychology, which is a whole other variety of rabbit hole heading straight down to brimstone. That’s not what I’m writing about today. I’m here to introduce you to the concentric circles of suffering which make up Hell.

Once upon a time, there was an Italian poet called Dante Alighieri, who lived in the Fourteenth century; before the interwebs, before television, and a couple of hundred years before the Pilgrims had Thanksgiving with the Native American Indians…Yeah, I know, right? A really, really, ‘long’ time ago. Dante wrote an epic poem called ‘Divine Comedy’ which had three parts (kind of like a Fourteenth century Italian Star Wars). The three parts were named ‘Inferno’, ‘Purgatorio’, and ‘Paradiso’ – which translate into English as ‘Hell’, ‘Purgatory’, and ‘Paradise’. Essentially, it tells an allegorical (symbolic) story of the poet Dante, his soul and its journey toward God. I’ll just add here, that religion was ‘huge’ in the Fourteenth century.

So how did I make this connection between Booth and Brennan’s journey and some dusty old Italian poem? Well, I watched the 100th episode of BONES last May, and my mind was trying to trick my eyes into seeing something in the closing scene, as Booth and Brennan walked away down the plaza. My mind inserted a banner over the skyline, which said “Abandon all hope, you who enter here” (Inferno, Canto III:9). At first, I thought that I could be tripping because my discarded hommus snack might have passed its expiration date; then I realised that other people watching TV with me were also crying and saying, ‘Oh, crap!’  So I quickly reached the conclusion, that they too thought that things were looking bad for Booth and Brennan (despite all the earlier canoodling in the episode – my word, that Hart Hanson is a sweet ‘n’ sour kind of guy…).


I intend no disrespect to what is undoubtedly a great literary work, but Dante’s Inferno has been widely popularised for centuries. You may have heard or seen the ‘Abandon all hope…’ or a variant of this sign in modern times, on TV, in cartoons, referred to in books, or articles. Yes. That’s right! It’s that Italian, Fourteenth century Star Wars dude…he wrote that epic seven hundred years ago, and people still reference it today! (Imagine the royalties if agents had been invented in medieval times…) Actually, Dante’s work has been translated and written about by many famous historical figures, including Longfellow, an American nineteenth century ‘Fireside Poet.’  The original famous quote was likely to be from the Italian that Dante chose to write in: Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.” Or it could have also been from a Latin version: “Omnes relinquite spes, o vos intrantes,” which was the popular language in the day – but I digress, plus both my Italian and my Latin are abysmal, okay?

Now, whether you believe in the religious interpretation of Hell or not, is semantics at this point. Modern interpretation tends to be done around the moral tale, which is still applicable today. Dante Alighieri clearly considered sin and his mortal soul quite seriously, but according to the allegory, Hell is actually right here on Earth. I made a little BONES-style mud map of the circles of ‘Inferno’ on a microscopic image of a bone cell…

There are nine circles of suffering, divided into many sub-sections depending on which one of the hundreds of publications you happen to be reading about this epic. Interestingly, there are 100 Canto (sections) to this work, which has a total of 14,233 lines. I’ll admit that I have a preference for prose over poetry, but I found structure of this epic to be an impressive attempt to compartmentalise Hell, using mathematics, medieval science, historical figures, politics and religion. Dante describes how he travels through ‘Inferno’ to reach the centre through the circles of suffering, in order for his soul to escape and move on through Purgatory to reach Paradise. Yes, I purposely am alluding to ‘the centre’ reference in BONES here, because let’s face it, they brought it up first – but I’ll return to the centre later on.

To continue along with my Booth and Brennan are in Hell theory, let’s posit that in the lead up to episode 100 and the ensuing aftermath, that they enter into the upper section of ‘Inferno’, the five outer concentric circles of suffering for the sins of self-indulgence (five of the seven deadly sins). On his travels Dante also found a few poor souls suffering in the circles of Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, and Anger. Apart from some of the direct references in BONES cases that played out, I’ve listed a few themes of suffering at the Booth and Brennan level, which you may have also picked up on in the episodes toward the end of Season 5.

  • Grief over separation without hope of reconciliation.
  • Hope for something greater than that which the rational mind can conceive is lost (Brennan has tried to grasp the metaphysical concept of love).
  • Punishment for being overcome by sensual love (Booth, ‘Gambler speech’- enough said ).
  • Condemnation for letting reason be swayed by appetite, leading to aimlessness (According to our favourite Chef/Shrink, Brennan is not yet ready to lead an aimless existence).
  • Mutual indulgence backsliding into self-indulgence, becoming more cold, empty, and selfish along the way. I saw a major backslide occurring in The Boy with the Answer seeing Brennan take a big step back from the partnership in an attempt to preserve her self-control. Then Booth also takes the option to leave his son to go to Afghanistan, to also do what he believes he does best.   
  • The hoarder storyline in the ‘Beginning in the End’ was something that I found particularly symbolic of the classic circle of greed. So absorbed in his individual pursuits, the hoarder became estranged from his girlfriend and persuasion became pointless. Similarly Booth and Brennan become self-absorbed, then arguably squandering their relationship, part ways for a year.


Then I turned to them again to speak

       and I began: ‘Francesca, your torments

        make me weep for grief and pity,

‘but tell me, in that season of sweet sighs,

how and by what signs did Love

acquaint you with your hesitant desires?’

And she to me: ‘There is no greater sorrow

than to recall our time of joy

in wretchedness…and this your teacher knows

Dante to Francesca in the second circle (Inferno, Canto V: 115-123) 

Of course, for all of us hoping (along with Cam) that Booth and Brennan would return from their overseas separation and be a ‘real couple’, the opening of Season 6 presented us with a very different kind of Hell. I’m not talking about who is ‘figging’ who here, it’s about ‘what’s up’ between our intrepid partners. This is the lower part of Hell where the malicious sins of envy and pride are punished in the circles of Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery. Do we truly see Booth and Brennan as ‘the centre’ anymore? It took Caroline Julian as the lynchpin personality to pull the Squintern team back together. Yet, both Booth and Brennan stake a proud claim to being the lynchpin personality in the season opener. Employing a more concrete metaphor, the lynchpin holds the centre of the team together now.

As the episodes of Season 6 unfold, the awkward undercurrent of discordance between Booth and Brennan has become the norm, rather than an issue that occasionally bubbled to the surface in the past couple of years. Booth, the guy with his heart on his sleeve, is trying his hardest to convince all and sundry that he is in love with his new lady – to a bunch of people (including the fans) who have watched him quietly smitten over Brennan for years. Brennan has wrapped up all those precious admissions celebrating her jagged emotional growth in acid-free paper and archived them, returning to her hyper-rational shell.

Despite their outward protestations that they are happily ‘moving on’ – why don’t we believe them? My humble opinion is that it has absolutely nothing to do superficial issues such as the quality of acting, or writing. The storyline is confronting because it is presenting us with precisely what the majority of us do when adjusting to a new dynamic; adapting to change. Change hurts. It causes suffering. It’s personally expensive and we don’t enjoy paying the price. In an attempt to adapt, we heretically abandon that which we professed to believe in previously, we envy that which we can no longer have, we snark and viciously snipe at those around us, we lie and dissemble around tough moments. Ask anyone who has been through a relationship break-up, or a major life-changing event; or even worse, consider some of your own. It hurts. We often refer to the experience as hellish, or say ‘I went through Hell’. My incredibly long-winded point here is that perhaps we don’t want to, or enjoy seeing Booth and Brennan suffering this kind of Hell, because it is too close to home.

So if these two are in Hell, what happens to Dante on his epic journey? Well, he escapes Hell and reaches Purgatory, before making his way through to Paradise in due course (because seven hundred years ago, the word ‘comedy’ referred to a story for the common people with a happy ending).

we climbed up, he first and I behind him,

far enough to see, through a round opening,

 a few of those fair things the heavens bear.

Then we came forth, to see again the stars.

(Inferno, Canto XXXVI: 136-139)


Will Booth and Brennan get their happy ending too? I certainly hope so, but I suspect that they too will have to traverse Purgatory for a time, which in the classical context of ‘Divine Comedy’ examines past motives and seeks a path of redemption through love. Yet again, I find the metaphor is as apt today, as it probably was seven centuries ago. Perhaps once Booth and Brennan emerge to see the star studded sky of Purgatory on their way to Paradise, I’ll have the opportunity to continue on with this metaphor. Until then, I’ll simply have to be content to empathise, to feel, perhaps even celebrate the depth of humanity that these characters have.

So there you have it, a glimpse at the show in the context of an archetypal literary text. And since we’re being literary and all, maybe it’s time to replace that touchstone of ‘eventually’ to a synonym that provides more of a security blanket for the time being, such as ‘in due course’. Okay, okay…only Stephen Fry would really sound good saying that line, but hey…that’s never stopped us before, right? What do you think? Does the idea that B&B are on this journey together give you a little bit of hope? Based on the chart, what other episode moments can you attribute to their journey? Are there other literary texts that remind you of Booth and Brennan? And how happy will you be when they finally reach their ‘Paradise’? Let’s discuss!

References and further reading:

“The Divine Comedy: Introduction.” Epics for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1998. January 2006. (Accessed: 27 November 2010).

Dorothy L. Sayers. “The Divine Comedy: An Introduction to Dante: The Divine Comedy.” Epics for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1998. January 2006. (Accessed: 27 November 2010).

Italian and English text of Dante’s Divine Comedy can be found at the Princeton Dante Project.

HOLLANDER, R. (1998) The Moral Situation of the Reader of Inferno. Available online at: Princeton Dante Project

WIKIPEDIA (2010) Inferno (Dante). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Available online:


Author: Skole

I'm an irreverent Yorkshire lass, who got shipped to the colonies in the 80's. Taking every opportunity since, I've ended up with a cornucopia of mad skills and qualifications...think insufferable 'Jack of all trades' - everything fascinates me. The FOX TV show BONES is fascinating. I stumbled across it in 2009. Having worked clinically with bones (a decade of trauma Orthopaedics) I have a good LOL at the chest X-rays and CT scan slices of skeletonised 'victims' that have expanded lung fields, cardiac shadows and diaphragms...I could find a solution to that...Hart, call me. Despite being a fairly serious, reserved type; there is a flamboyant creative energy in me that simply begs to be unleashed. Writing is one way that I balance my brain-bending workload.

24 thoughts on “Hanson’s Inferno

  1. Skole, your analysis is awesome! So glad all these years later that I read Dante in high school 😉 I concur that part of what makes the series “painful” is the dead-on accuracy of capturing human experience. I personally credit awesome acting and writing for achieving that. It does “feel” like real life, which is why this fan keeps tuning in. Good literature and good TV tell stories that are common in ways that are both familiar, because of shared experience, and unique in their approach. Keep up the great work and analysis!

  2. Exellent observations! I agree wholeheartedly that it hurts because it’s supposed to. Change is never easy nor, in my experience, is love. When I focus on smaller moments I get discouraged. Then I remind myself this is just one piece of a bigger masterpiece and we aren’t close to the finish line yet.

    The nice thing about a book is that it’s all there. You can cheat and read the end. TV isn’t like that. So hope and patience are our consolation. The great love stories of old are rarely pleasant in the middle but I’ve four that a well-executed story is never one I’ve begrudged the effort to later.

    Thanks for bringing such scholarly analysis to the class and I can’t wait to have you share again!

    Gummy 🙂

    • The other nice thing about a book is you can stay up all night reading until you get to the end when the suspense is killing you!

  3. Oh God, I love the Devine Comedy, and now that you pointed this out I see parallels everywhere. The babies in Limbo/The Boothbaby that never happened, and next ring, Lustfullness/the sexy dream and Booths subsequent falling for Brennan. Aaaaaaaah Make it stop!

  4. About the future though, Brennan is deliciously heretical ofcourse, but I don’t realy see violence in their furure (I hope).

    • I agree that Brennan has delivered many a heretical statement over the years, but that generally falls within the context of clashes of her world view with others. Within the Inferno milieu, heresy is more about renouncing belief, traditionally in the medieval setting this would involve speaking out against the church. In the setting of B&B within Hanson’s Inferno, I think that an example of this would be when Brennan made her toast about love when Jared and Padme became engaged in Season 5…then in recent times, she’s been calling love an idiot, making statements and assertions to Booth about relationships that essentially heretically undermine the emotional progress that she had demonstrated. Booth too, despite being in a relationship, is coming across as less open-hearted and affectionate. I rewatched some of the episodes where he and Cam were together, his emotional tone was congruent with his stated beliefs and values back then…as for now, in his current relationship? Unfortunately not for poor Hannah. I perceive her symbolically as her palindromic namesake…her name read in either direction represents an End and a Beginning, or a Beginning and an End.

      As for violence, the allegorical journey through Hell is not simply about physical violence. If I had a dollar for every Tweet or post I’ve seen about Booth being mean to Brennan…frustrated, sad, conflicted people often resort to horizontal violence- being dismissive, being rude. In the Couple in the Cave, Brennan gets called out by Cam for attempting to rip Clark a new one on the platform – folks are used to Brennan putting people back in their place, but that particular outburst was so off the charts that Cam had to step in. These are violent incidents, not sticks and stones, but hurtful nonetheless.

      Thanks for your comments 🙂

      • A quick one for a change. Your comment about violence here is very interesting. Brennan is, in fact, far more violent than Booth. Booth, I assume because of his background of childhood abuse and his experiences as a sniper, clearly attempts to avoid violence whenever possible. Brennan, on the other hand, does not as vigilantly seek to avoid it. I’d argue, in fact, that she succumbs to it whenever it strikes her to do so (sorry about “strikes” there). She has been gratuitously violent on a number of occasions: hitting the Gravedigger with the briefcase, hitting the gang leader by the elevator, knocking Jared off his chair. Those are just the ones that come most immediately to mind, but in none of those cases was she in any danger. She was simply angry and letting that anger out.

        I find that interesting.

  5. Skole – your ability to analyze Bones in a scholarly, humorous, meaningful way never ceases to amaze me. I wish I had half of your genius and the time/drive/ability to process things the way you do. Despite having an English Degree, I can claim only a basic knowledge of Dante’s “Inferno”…although I am fairly well-versed in Star Wars mythology. Go figure. Nevertheless, I love reading this kind of literary take on the show. It’s invigorating to say the least.

    Anyway, back to Booth and Brennan. Yes, I think “hell” is an apt description for where we’ve landed this season (not that I see that as any reason to give up on Bones) and I’m thinking it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Ironically it’s a relief that you’ve made your case so well because it only serves to bolster my belief that there is a method to this madness even when I can’t see it on the first (or even the second) viewing.

    I’m going to take some time to think about your other questions (great stuff to keep me occupied while I clean my bathrooms and iron clothes) and if I come up with anything brilliant, I’ll comment again later.

  6. It is entirely plausible and reasonable to link Bones and Inferno as an allegorical pair. We have seen many literary nods and direct references – including Dante himself in Mayhem. I loved reading this analysis – as I think it is spot on to view Bones as literature, which is what drew me to Bones Theory in the first place and keeps me here. 🙂

    Here and elsewhere I have mentioned that pain is a necessary element in print fiction if there is to be joy. If Bones is a literary work, then it stands to reason that the pain we feel now will ultimately lead to joy. It is what sustains me. Like an Oprah novel where pain and tragedy keep jumping on top of each other until I think “Why in the world am I still reading this” (nevermind the fact that it is almost physically impossible for me to NOT finish any book or article), redemption, happiness – and joy occur and it is like giving birth: you almost forget the pain in light of the joyful result. And yes, people, I just ran an over-long sentence with 2 metaphors in it . . .

    And, finally, I feel that I have been ungraciously banging into many of my posts: change HAD to happen – just at Hart Hanson had Booth speak those words. Change IS very hard for people . . . but I love this season because of it. It would be disingenuous for me to say that I haven’t been in any emotional upheaval with this season, but at the same time, I have always been one to embrace change – I love it – which helps me deal with this season better than some, and makes me appreciate it more than some, as well.

    Paradise is in sight.

  7. I really liked this literary analysis. Thank you so much! I agree with some of the others…it’s kind of like we’re in the sad, middle part of a long, epic novel…and I wish I could read non-stop to get to the happy ending, but unfortunately we have to wait for the chapters to be doled out to us as they’re ready.

  8. I have to confess that I’m one who hasn’t given up hope. Although this journey isn’t the happiest or at all what I was planning on, I think it is one that is needed for the growth of our two favorite characters. I loved reading your take on the painful road Booth and Brennan have taken. And I’ll keep hoping that one day, the happy ending I wish for will come true. Thanks for an awesome post!

  9. You guys are all correct….If we could “keep reading” we would not be so heart broken. It is definitely hard to wait until the next episode comes out.

    I often feel like I am at the end but we really are just somewhere in the middle but have to wait a week before we get the next chapter.

    WOnderful post!!!

  10. Wonderful analysis, but so what?
    It’s not great literature; it’s TV. It’s supposed to be entertaining and make you feel, well at least not depress you further than you already are.
    Could be Penelope and Odysseus, if we insist on going into classical literature, but I while this type of analysis makes my professorial side happy, it doesn’t help me feel any better about where Bones is and where it is going. In fact, it just makes me sadder and more hopeless.
    The thing about all this sophisticated literary analysis is that it’s all just trying to find some way to justify what HH and company have decided to DO TO B&B and to try to find a way to get through it. It’s all just an attempt to rationalize away the possibility that they never will get together and find hope when there really is none left for many of us.
    Yeah, it’s about the journey, but when the journey gets too long and hard and when the light at the end is lost, why go on? I’ve had enough of this type of pain in real life and seen it enough among those I love, that I don’t need to take this particular journey vicariously if there is no hope for a happy ending. I now have serious doubts that HH, et al. have any intention of giving us that happy ending — ever.

    • Reply to myself.
      As I was getting to ready to go to work, the following additional thoughts occurred to me:
      This isn’t Homer or Dante or Shakespeare or even O’Neill or Williams. It’s TV, and it feels to me more like Danielle Steele or Days of Our Lives than any great classical or even modern literature.
      If we insist on this type of analysis: Shakespeare only pulls couples apart and brings them back together in the comedies. In the tragedies, when the couple is torn apart, it is over. (Or, that seems to me to be the case. My knowledge of the Bard is not encyclopedic).

      • @Angelena Thank you for taking the time to articulate your reactions to my analysis. While I am flattered that readers might consider this post ‘sophisticated’, there are some points that you have made which are deserving of further discussion. Clearly your own classical education is comparatively well-rounded when compared to my own – so please forgive me if I retreat somewhat to my scientific comfort zone as I invoke my right of reply.

        ‘So what?’ you ask. Throwing down this open-ended gauntlet is like a Socratic red rag to me. As I pointed out at the beginning of the post, I’m simply sharing the journey that I used to rationalise and justify my personal reactions to Season 6 of BONES. In no way am I attempting to validate or drum up support for the current storyline – given that I have zero influence on the outcome of this story, that kind of effort would be a futile and superfluous exercise.

        Having said that, I empathise with your pain – perhaps one of the messages of this analysis is that there is a third parallel. Dante’s journey, Booth and Brennan’s journey, and the journey of a cohort of fans who feel like they too are in Hell because the fictional angst is just another straw on the camel’s back. I won’t digress into a discussion of negative reactions, because it has no place here. The whole point of approaching the confronting aspects of the story in a scholarly manner is because it so much more interesting than any mainstream approach of the brow-beating and flame-throwing hoi polloi. Bones Theory is probably the only place where I can dare to be different in this way – I’m thinking outside the box.

        I find it interesting that you appear to dismiss the possibility that anything that is shown on TV could be categorised within a literary framework. Television is a relatively young art form, and the label of ‘great literature’ is generally not applied prospectively. The journey of Booth and Brennan is by no means over and you’ll have to forgive me for dusting off my science testamurs now, but this is an interim analysis. In 1312, parts of Dante’s Inferno were released and it caused a stir at the time because it was controversial, the full work was not completed until just prior to his death around a decade later. Again, the allegory holds weight – seven hundred years ago people reacted part way through an unfinished work; sound familiar? My point is that human nature is a frustrating and fickle constant. In clinical research (I’m preparing to complete a Masters thesis in this area, so I feel more comfortable here) when clinicians conduct research there is an ethical approach to making a decision about moving forward. It is called clinical equipoise; in layman’s terms you need to be genuinely uncertain about what is going to happen before deciding whether to commence, stick with, or abandon an endeavour. In some studies, part way through the research, interim analyses are undertaken, the facts at hand are reconsidered…if the evidence supports abandoning the effort, then the study is stopped, if the uncertainty still exists, if there is ‘hope’ that a positive benefit may be found at the end, the study continues. I could have written a piece about applying medical ethics to my adaption to change in the BONES storyline…but it is pretty difficult to hang Star Wars jokes on discussions of comparative risk and benefit – LOL! 🙂 The take home message is that we all need to find our way to these kinds of decisions, I sincerely hope that you find your own Dante.

      • Writing a character is actually not like moving around a puppet; more often than not, the words and actions of the character will surprise even the writer. It’s happened to me and it’s angered and frustrated me, but it happens. I imagine it happens to all writers. Shakespeare’s works are not just static stories that he penned in a day; rather, they are true embodiments of most everything that is human and it required endless years of pain, struggle, roadblocks, potholes, and a hell of a lot of ink. Do I think that Shakespeare himself thought it’d be funny or a good story that Ophelia goes mad at Hamlet’s hand? Was Prospero just a bored man who liked to play around with magic on his deserted island? Was Richard III despicably evil just for the same of being despicably evil? Was Lady Macbeth just waiting for a chance to off her competition for a seat on the throne without really thinking about it?

        No. Hamlet, Ophelia, Prospero, Richard II, Lady MacB… all of these characters and so many more had so many more motivators for their actions than just finding love or being loved. Jealousy, revenge, redemption, self awareness (all those themes that Joss Whedon likes to throw at us). Shakespeare didn’t just march his characters down a linear path; he explored every nook and cranny of their existence and the fibers that held the characters’ reality in place, and he allowed his characters to grow organically, even when it seemed contrary to the expected. And clearly, the manipulation, the lying, the naivety, the blood shed, the abuse of power, the repression of one’s true self and one’s true emotions – they all had consequences that shaped the characters’ fates. Shakespeare does so much more than simply pull couples apart and/or put them back together; that is a narrow minded approach when weaving a tale of human nature. It’s a deep exploration of the human psyche that makes us think about why we act the way we act and what we could do differently, which in turn fills a theater with captivated audiences (or draws almost 10 million viewers a week). Pardon my defensiveness – I have to jump to the defense of the Bard and the depth of his genius because I am a Shakespearian enthusiast to the core and have spent countless hours of my life producing and bringing Shakespearian performances to life. It is my believe that Shakespeare’s plays supersede classifications like “comedy” or “tragedy.” (Measure for Measure is one such problem play that continues to be classified as a comedy, but it definitely has elements of a tragedy that aids in its exploration of moral dilemmas.)

        In any case, why does it have to be any different with Bones? (And what is Bones if not a mass of moral dilemmas?)

        Homer, Dante, Voltaire, Tennyson, Keats, Blake – their words and their stories and their depictions of the human nature take on the meaning they have because we ascribe such meaning to them. Not everyone buys into their philosophies, not everyone cares about what they had to say. But these words carry the weight that they do because people took the time to study their meaning on all sides of these words. As Skole said, TV is a young and novel art form; maybe it will never be considered a great literary work, but it gives me great satisfaction to see pervasive archetypes and universal themes in Bones because it does help me understand the world a little bit better in a framework more applicable to the modern times. Booth says that you have to be bad to be good. Doesn’t that line of thinking necessitate sadness in order to be happy? And tipping that balance of good and bad, happy and sad, is what allows us to see another side of a character’s true form.

        I personally am fascinated by what I see as a new theme this season; the loss of hope. It seems depressing at first, but then I think about the flip side – the beauty we will witness when that hope returns and is realized – when they emerge into paradise and the hero’s journey is nearing its end.

  11. Skole- I have never read Dante’s work, but it is now on my to-do list 🙂 Thanks for clearing stating how you found parallels in this literature and Bones. Wonderful post! Thank you!! 🙂

  12. I agree with Stephanie: this level of intelligent analysis is invigorating, inspiring and has awoken the sleeping English Lit major inside.

    The brain is buzzing – it’s become so used to reading ‘it’s all crap, I’m boycotting’ that it needs some time to process and reflect on the depth of this discussion.

    Thank you for sharing your insights. I love that Bones can make a site like this exist. When asked why I talked about this show online, I told my husband ‘It’s like discussing and analysing your favourite text with like minded people, rather than a class full of 16 year olds’. I’ve always treated this show as a literary text so find this just fabulous.

  13. Skole –
    First, I don’t dismiss analysis of TV from a literary perspective. I think it makes perfect sense. It’s all story telling. All literature (fiction?) is about story telling, but not all story telling is profound. Not all story telling is meant to make us think about the human condition. Some is just for entertainment.

    I get that what appears to be popular entertainment can over time turn into high art (my sister, the opera lover, bemoans the fact that Mozart’s operas are not the popular entertainment they were in his day). Dickens was serialized in the “popular” press, but today is seen as classic literature, worthy of study and analysis. I do think that there is or can be TV which is meant to engage us in serious thought (about the human condition, etc.) and that has or will be studied as is Dickens some day. I just don’t happen to think that Bones, as much as I love(d) it will turn out to be that. Will we even be discussing it at all a year after it finally ends, let alone discussing it as we would great literature from times past? Or even great TV shows from the past.

    Let me also note that I think we forget sometime that just as some TV will stand the test of time, much literature does/will not.

    The TV shows that we give that kind of attention to seem to me to reflect a couple of things: First, those shows which reflect a change in society that has taken a ratings-driven medium like TV a while to catch up with. Popular entertainment can’t get too far ahead of the populace. The obvious examples here are the shows coming out of the 70’s that brought the changes of the sexual and cultural revolution and the conflict that created to the small screen. All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore, MASH, to name a few of the most obvious examples. Or, perhaps, Hill St. Blues and the other shows that heralded the second golden age of TV: TV for grown ups, not just for adolescents. The stories were engaging and thought provoking, but more because they brought the conflicts of the age to us in an entertaining way. I’m not sure they gave us lessons that were not already well-told elsewhere.

    There are also those shows which cause a ruckus when they explode on the scene and later are looked at for how that explosion tells us something about the age and TV’s relation to that age. American Idol and similar reality programming come to mind. The quiz shows of the 50’s might be another example.

    I would like to think that 30 or 40 years from now they’ll be studying Bones as somehow revealing something about our times, or having stories worthy of serious analysis, but I don’t see it. I don’t think there will be conventions of Bones lovers dressed up as Booth and Brennan in 2050. Although, that idea does put a smile on my face — something rare these days in relation to Bones. 😉

    I think that Bones is significant for two things:
    1) In an age of procedurals, it has distinguished itself from the other procedurals with humor and relationships/romance. Both of which are in short supply this season, BTW.
    2) It is one of those rare shows that has developed a devoted fan base. While these are rare, Bones is not the first nor will it be the last. Perhaps the most interesting thing about that is that it’s the 3rd show with such a following that has had David B. in it and the 2nd in which he has or had a starring role.

    These may be interesting from a “the evolution of TV” standpoint, but I don’t think they are otherwise of great significance. I’d argue that the allegory is more deeply explored (?) in Angel or Buffy (don’t hold me to those: I’ve seen like 2 eps of Buffy and I still don’t understand Angel after seeing each ep at least twice, but even someone with a superficial understanding sees that Angel has been through hell, limbo, etc. And, if he gets to heaven, ….). Frankly, I think that Bones is less about commentary on the human condition than about Hart Hanson telling “his” story no matter what anyone else wants (save Fox?). He’s entitled, but let’s not try to rationalize what we don’t like away by drawing parallels to literature that has withstood the test of time.

    So while this type of analysis is fun and stimulating to my inner Temperance Brennan, it does not offset the sadness and disappointment the current season has brought me.

    Finally, yes, Skole, I do have a very “fancy” liberal arts education and advanced degrees. My apologies if it seems I’m flaunting them.

  14. I really don’t have anything useful to contribute but wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this. It makes me want to re-read Dante’. 🙂

    I love things that make me look at something through a different piece or type of literature!

  15. Good morning–

    I would like to contribute–is there a way I can send a file (s) by uploading one of my files in the form of an attachment? I’m new to Word Press–and am not sure whether I have e-mail here or not. My personal e-mail address is:


  16. I love this post, because, as an English major it was a total realization that I should remember that good old plot diagram. I was feeling like Harold Crick in Stranger Than Fiction when he’s trying to determine if he’s in a comedy or a tragedy and the ticks in the tragedy column keep growing and growing. But we’re not watching a tragedy. I mean…right? There is no possible way. And if this does end up being a tragedy (in the classic sense vs. a comedy in the classic sense, as in complete self-awareness right before an honorable death vs. several seemingly impossible to overcome obstacles are in fact overcome before marraige and a dance), well then that’s just the ballsiest move I’ve ever seen on TV, and I think I’d have to give HH a round of applause. So, either way, I guess I’ll be satisfied. But…I’m guessing we’ll be watching a comedy by the end of this thing. So, thanks for the reminder, Skole. Sorry for the delay in commenting 🙂

  17. I am new to this site and have been eagerly reading all the contributions. I, too, am one that always sees symbolism and parrallisms in TV shows and movies. In fact, many of my friends hate going to movies with me because I get so analytical afterwards!! LOL

    I am in heaven reading these posts. Finally, someone who thinks like me!

    I, too, now feel I must go back and read Dante!

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