“American Horror Story” (AHS) is a television series directed by Ryan Murphy, taking the audience to a new timeline with each new 10+ episode-long season. With each season comes new mysteries and scares; however, Murphy brilliantly finds small details to tie each season into the next, allowing the audience to put together the puzzle of the AHS universe.
This disturbing show has left fans with many questions about the larger meaning of the series. A popular theory is the idea that each season represents a different ring of Dante Alighieri’s “The Inferno,” recounting the tale of Dante being led by the ancient Roman poet Virgil through the nine levels of hell in order to reach heaven. This theory posits that each season of AHS is a different ring of hell, holding a unique setting that the show revolves around, meaning that could be related to each ring.
The first season introduced was Murder House, representing the circle Limbo. The season presented that once you die in the house, you are trapped there, unable to move on to the afterlife, thus representing the limbo between life and death. The second season of AHS, Asylum, represents Fraud, the eighth circle of hell. Simply put, all of the inpatients were wrongly accused of insanity and held against their wills, and the entire staff were impostors. An example of this can be seen in the doctor of the asylum being an ex-Nazi scientist. Coven, the third season, exposes the idea of Greed. Each witch in the season continues to backstab the sisters in the house in order to reach the highest position, the Supreme.
Freakshow demonstrates the idea of Gluttony; throughout the fourth season the ringmaster of the traveling circus turns a blind eye to the suffering performers and indulges in the finer things, dreaming of nothing but stardom. Season five of AHS is Hotel, representing Lust. This season follows the inhabitants of Hotel Cortez, who lust for the pleasure of their different vices, whether that be sex, drugs or murder. Roanoke is the sixth season in this series, presenting the fifth circle of hell, Anger. The Butcher leads the angry lost colony of Roanoke to terrorize a couple who are dealing with anger of their own due to infidelity. This season also represents the violence in the River Styx, where sinners are constantly fighting each other, similar to the land in Roanoke. The seventh season is Cult, representing Treachery. The political cult was made by men to betray women, with the end revealing a woman within the cult who betrayed it from the inside.
Violence represents the eighth season, Apocalypse. The end of the world represents violence, but the two main rings of the world are the outer ring, where it is raining fire, versus the inner ring, where the remaining kill each other off one by one. The most recent season of AHS thus far is 1984, representing Heresy. This remake of slasher horror travels back to the 80s and presents characters who are each guilty of sins against God, such as steroid use or homicide, and are being punished by men who participate in equally sinful behavior.
Each “American Horror Story” season contains quintessential ideas relating back to each circle of hell. Murphy, the creator of the show, has even commented on the theory calling it “interesting,” leading some to believe that was the goal of the show all along: to surround each storyline with an idea in Dante’s “Inferno.”