“He took her chin in his hand and tilted her face up and kissed her. And knew that this was the end of a life he had loved and the beginning of a new one that was going to be very different, and probably very difficult: because he did not believe that people changed over-much in essentials, and Hero was unlikely to turn into a different person; and neither was he.
“There would be times when she would remember his sins and throw them in his face, and others when he would resent her virtues and be exasperated by them – and by her. There was a part of Hero that he would never be able to possess, and a part of himself that would always be beyond her reach. But for some unfathomable reason they were the right people for each other. They should not have been, but they were. Each supplied a crying lack in the other, and possibly Fate had known what it was about when it tipped Hero Hollis overboard in mid-ocean and permitted Emory Frost to rescue her…
“‘God is a great deviser of stratagems,’ thought Rory, recalling with a smile one of Hajji Ralub’s favourite quotations from the Koran. But the smile held more than a trace of wryness, for he had never intended to marry anyone. He had meant to stay free and without ties to the end of his life; and he had intended to see if he could not turn a frigid piece of Grecian marble into a warm flesh-and-blood woman, and had done so – and found that he could not live without her…” (Trade Wind, M.M. Kaye)
When I was a young teenager living on a small Air Force base overseas, I spent hours walking up and down the aisles of the adult fiction section of the library, searching for books to read. I devoured books in those days – mostly historical romance, but really, anything I could get my hands on that I thought looked interesting. I was a hopeless romantic (and I still am today to a certain extent) and loved to lose myself in the emotion of a well-written love story.
One of my favorites was a novel called Trade Wind by British author M.M. Kaye (who also wrote The Far Pavilions, Shadow of the Moon, and one of my all-time favorite childhood stories, The Ordinary Princess). Trade Wind is the story of an idealistic and opinionated young heiress named Hero Athena Hollis who sails to Zanzibar in the 1800’s to join her uncle and his family (including his stepson, Clay, whom she expects to one day marry) following the death of her father; a pretty, yet determined, abolitionist sailing straight into the heart of the slave trade. While still onboard the ship bound for Zanzibar, Hero is swept overboard during a storm and subsequently rescued by a notorious slave-trader named Captain Emory “Rory” Frost. And so Hero’s story begins.
In the beginning, Hero is as rigid in her idealistic beliefs as Rory is nonchalant about his tarnished reputation, and their journey towards each other is slow and painful; oftentimes cold and harsh and dark. It’s not necessarily a pretty love story. And yet I am touched by this story in a way that I have been by few others.
If Trade Wind is not your typical love story, then Captain Frost is not your typical white knight. He’s more antihero than hero, more Rhett Butler than Prince Charming – although he does turn out to be a far better man than he would have most people believe (some, but not all of which is due to Hero). Still, he’s a rascal – and proud of it! Hero, on the other hand, is strong and virtuous and is as bent on doing good as Rory is on causing trouble. If there is a true hero in this story…well, let’s just say she comes by her name honestly. That’s not to say that Hero never messes up; she’s actually indirectly responsible for causing a great deal of pain and heartache, but she ultimately does much more good than harm. She and Rory make an odd couple to be sure. They shouldn’t belong together, and yet somehow they do.
When I think about Bones in relation to Trade Wind (its main characters and central relationship), I see a number of striking similarities. Indeed, much of the text I quoted could easily describe Booth and Brennan at some point in the future. “But for some unfathomable reason they were the right people for each other. They should not have been, but they were.” Hasn’t Hart Hanson said as much himself?
But then who can forget what Gordon Wyatt told Sweets (and Sweets later realized on his own) – that at the heart of the matter, Booth and Brennan are really not so different? That they at least have some common ground is a very good thing because they’ll need to be strong from that united core if they’re going to make it as a couple. Their viewpoints and beliefs are still quite different in a number of critical areas, and to be honest, I think that’s something that is unlikely to ever change completely. It’s a given that they’ll struggle at times and it’s why they’ll need to go into a relationship with their eyes wide open and a level of commitment that’s beyond the ordinary.
And yet I also think Booth and Brennan have always known that a romantic relationship between the two of them would be risky at best, and that a failure in that area would almost certainly have a devastating effect on their work relationship and friendship. Those pesky risks are why both of them (first one and then the other and vice versa) clung to the status quo for so very long.
The risks are what held Brennan back that night in the rain when she and Booth shared their first kiss, and it’s certainly what held her back when Booth took his gamble on the steps of the Hoover.
The risks are what held Booth back that night in the SUV when Brennan told him she didn’t want to have any regrets (a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush) and I suspect it’s at least part of what held him back in the bar when Brennan asked him if just partners and nothing were her only options (okay, and maybe the fact that he was drunk and a just tiny bit angry at her and at women in general).
They both know the risks. But the risks don’t tell the whole story.
In the past, one or both of them has always been unwilling to take that risk – and so they made excuses. What we saw in the “making love” scene in The Blackout in the Blizzard was the same old excuse minus the usual beating around the bush. But then…
Well, we’ve talked a lot lately about gambling – whether Booth is willing to gamble again on Brennan and if Brennan is gambling now on Booth, and I think…well I think in a way the scene in Booth’s apartment (at the end of The Blackout in the Blizzard) is about not gambling – for both of them. Rather it’s about laying their cards out on the table, admitting where they each are in the moment, and acknowledging what it’s going to take to get to the point where they can both take the risk and be better for having done it. It’s being willing to go into a relationship with their eyes wide open. No excuses. No changes. No take backs.
Of course, the similarities between Bones and Trade Wind don’t stop with the relationship. Hero Hollis and Temperance Brennan may come from two completely different eras, and therefore have completely different belief systems, but they are both still strong, stubborn women with an unquenchable desire for justice. If Hero changes at all in the course of the book, it’s that she learns (the hard way more often than not) that vanquishing evil is neither a simple nor a straightforward process. While she gradually learns to view the world from a less idealistic point of view, that doesn’t change the fact that when faced with an injustice, she does whatever is in her power (or Captain Frost’s, much to his chagrin) to right that wrong. As the book says, “people don’t change over-much in essentials.” The same is true for Temperance Brennan.
We’ve discussed at length here on Bones Theory the changes we’ve seen in Brennan this season, specifically post-Doctor in the Photo. I’ve seen a number of people make the argument that Brennan shouldn’t have needed to change at all. That the changes we’ve seen in her have not only fundamentally weakened her character, but that the writers, by having her change “for Booth,” have essentially implied that she wasn’t worthy of his love the way she was. And yet, I see something different.
Much like Hero Hollis, it isn’t Brennan’s character that’s changed over the years, rather her perception of the world. At the core, she’s still the same person she was in season one (that this is true was illustrated very effectively, over and over again, in the comments to Sarah’s March 19th post, “Brennan: Progressive Regression? Regressive Progression?”). Much like that, “frigid piece of Grecian marble,” Brennan was once impervious. But by her own admission, she’s stronger now than she was then. There was a problem before, she did need to change, and she has. But the problem isn’t that she was truly unlovable, it’s that she was unable (or unwilling) to truly love. Please understand what I’m saying here. The problem wasn’t in who she was; it was in who she chose to be.
She chose to believe that love is ephemeral because nurture taught her that it was. But I believe that it’s in her nature to love anyway. I think Brennan loved Booth, whether she realized it or not, long before she went to Maluku. She loved him in spite of what she believed, and when she couldn’t deny that any longer, she ran. And Booth? I absolutely believe that Booth always loved her just the way she was (that’s what “trying for a different outcome” was all about). He may not have completely understood what it would take to create a successful life with her, but he was still willing to try.
Brennan didn’t change for Booth (or her friends or her father for that matter). She didn’t need to. She changed for herself. She didn’t need to change in order to be loved because she was loved already. I believe she changed so that she could love.
So where does Booth fit into all of this? I will admit that I am hesitant to compare him to the rascally Captain Emory Frost simply because I’ve always viewed him as more of a hero than an antihero (although I will also admit to liking Captain Frost’s character perhaps somewhat more than I should). But then, as I said before, while he may never be a complete gentleman, Captain Frost does change for the better during the course of the book, and it’s at least partly due to Hero. I like to think that Brennan has had a similar positive effect on Booth. For whatever reason, Booth stopped gambling (with money at least) after he met Brennan – and that’s a good thing. I suppose there are other aspects to Booth’s character, his dark side, if you will, that will always diminish him in some people’s eyes, but I’m just not one of those people. Maria said it best:
“Re Booth changing, I guess I love many of the aspects that some people complain about, and I’d hate to see him without them. Yes, he’s overprotective, overbearing, bossy, too romantic and insecure at times but in a way I find these qualities totally Boothy and thus charming because they also indicate passion, commitment and deep affection.” (Comment from, “If You’re Gonna Play the Game, Boy, Ya Gotta Learn to Play it Right,” 3/24/11)
For some reason I’ve never believed that Booth’s imperfections and insecurities would cause him to fail where he and Brennan are concerned (but then, perhaps his insecurities and imperfections are part of the reason they’re not together yet). From a logical standpoint, if Booth and Brennan are endgame, it doesn’t make any sense to get them together only to then tear them apart. From a purely emotional standpoint – well, perhaps I am just as irrational and hopelessly romantic as Booth when it comes to a good love story (or maybe I’ve been wearing Janet’s rose-colored glasses a little too long). But even if it turns out that Booth isn’t quite the hero that he’s always tried to be, does that somehow make him unworthy of Brennan’s love? I don’t think so. And more importantly, I don’t think Brennan does either.
So tell me – are we capable of loving an antihero just as much as we love a hero? If you’ve read Trade Wind, what similarities and/or differences do you see between Hero and Rory and Booth and Brennan? If you haven’t read the book, are there any portions of the passage I quoted above that strike you as particularly relevant to B&B? Come on, make me feel like I’m back in one of my college English Lit classes again, I dare you!