The Wine of Violence Essay - Critical Essays

James Morrow


The Wine of Violence is a utopian satire that uses its science-fictional apparatus to establish a series of dialogues and parables concerning the role of violence in human affairs and the human psyche. A brief introduction looks back from an era when all the problems mapped out in the book have been set aside by the Stromboli Solution. Quetzalia, it is here alleged, was the only earlier scheme for conquering aggression that remains worthy of notice. Stromboli is a volcanic island near Sicily that is under cultivation despite the fact that the volcano remains active; the implication is that the raw energy of violent passion has to be contained somehow if social life is to be perfected, and that if the way of Zolmec is to be deemed unsatisfactory, then something else must be put in its place.

Although there is a strong element of sarcastic comedy in The Wine of Violence, it is comedy of a distinctly black hue, and it is the kind of comedy that readily can be converted into tragedy. The bitter climax of the story confirms what tacitly has been taken for granted since the beginning—that love is an inadequate antidote to the human propensity for violence, insufficient in itself to heal the wounds that passion and aggression open. Also taken for granted, but subject to much more detailed analysis, is the proposition that religion is similarly imperfect as an insulating force, even when its metaphysical claims are given material form.


(The entire section is 478 words.)