What does the wine motif mean in the novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

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jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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I doubt if Robert Louis Stevenson ever studied the Talmud, the great repository of ancient Jewish wisdom.  Yet the way he uses wine as a motif in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reminds me of a well-known statement in the Talmud: When wine goes in, secrets come out.  Stevenson repeatedly uses wine as a symbol of the slow unraveling of the mystery of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

In chapter 2, when Mr. Utterson visits Dr. Lanyon to gather information concerning the mystery, Dr. Lanyon is sitting "alone over his wine."

In chapter 3, when Utterson attempts to gather some information from Dr. Jekyll himself, it is at a gathering of "five or six old cronies, all intelligent, reputable men and all judges of good wine."

In chapter 5, Utterson dicusses his confusion with his trusted clerk, Mr. Guest.  In honor of the occasion, he opens up an old bottle of wine:

In the bottle the acids were long ago resolved; the imperial dye had softened with time, as the colour grows richer in stained windows; and the glow of hot autumn afternoons on hillside vineyards, was ready to be set free and to disperse the fogs of London.

Here, Stevenson seems to be comparing the unraveling of a mystery to the development of a fine old wine.  The wine holds within itself the "secret" of some long-past "hot autumn afternoon"; when the bottle is opened, the secret comes out.

See also chapter 8, when Poole, Dr. Jekyll's servant, comes to Mr. Utterson and is too nervous to speak.  Mr. Utterson offers him--you guessed it--a glass of wine.

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pixiesmitten96's profile pic

pixiesmitten96 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

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I doubt that if Robert Louis Stevenson ever studied in Talmud, the great repository of ancient Jewish wisdom. Yet the way he uses wine as a motif in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde remminds me of a well known statement in the Talmud: When wine goes in, secrets come out (of the purpose that you are drunk and a little more lax). Stevenson repeatedly uses wine as a symbol of the slow unravelling of the bondage/connection between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

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