The Tyger and the Mentalist

When a work survives the ages and becomes an often recited and much studied piece of literature, it is taken and used in many different ways than originally intended. It could have the same tone and intent as the original, or it can be changed and elaborated upon to create something new that had never been seen. William Blake’s “The Tyger” is one such work. It gained that status and found it’s way into the television show, “The Mentalist” where it became a crucial device moving the plot forward, and a metaphor for the relationship between the character Patrick Jane, and his nemesis, Red John(CBS).

Patrick Jane is an investigator for the California Bureau of Investigation. Years ago, a serial killer by the name of Red John ended the lives of Jane’s wife and daughter(CBS). In the episode “Red Sky in the Morning,” after years of searching for this man, Jane meets him. However, he is tied up, and blindfolded, and never sees the man’s face. Before Red John leaves, he recites the first stanza into Jane’s ear that goes “Tyger Tyger, burning bright/In the forests of the night/ What immortal hand or eye/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”(CBS;LM197).

At face value, it’s what your every day creepy person bent on murder would recite at a very odd time, but as the show progresses, it takes on bigger importance. In the episode entitled “Red Moon,” Jane captures his subject. While the subject is recouping in the hospital after an accident that occurred during his capture, he whispers the words “Tyger, Tyger” into Jane’s ears(CBS). While this man is not Red John, the revelation this man is connected to the man drives Jane to finally confront the man calling himself Red John in the episode “Strawberries and Milk: Part Two.”

The relationship of Patrick Jane and Red John is also told by the poem. Specifically, the lines “did he who made the Lamb make thee?”(197). This line, by referencing “The Lamb,” also by Blake, seems to say that good cannot exist without evil and that the two are created equally. This is saying that Jane and Red John are foil to each other and exist to have this back and forth until one or the other ends it.

The works of William Blake will continue to exist and be studied and used in and out of academics for a very long time. Some will use it straightforward as written and some will take the poem and utilize it in ways some may not think.



*Blake, William. “The Tyger.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Fifth Edition. Damrosch, David and Kevin J.H. Dettmar. New York: Pearson, 2012. 197-198. Print.


*”Red Moon.” The Mentalist. CBS. 18 Nov 2010. Television.


*”Red Sky in the Morning.” The Mentalist. CBS. 20 May 2010. Television.


*”Strawberries and Milk: Part Two.” The Mentalist. CBS. 19 May 2011. Television.