Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Angry Grape Juice of Khan

"The Grapes of Khan," by Wayne Bressler, from the New Yorker, September 24, 1990 

I was thinking how odd it is to see a reference to Star Trek (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) in the snooty New Yorker, but I think the humor here is based on the pleasure of self-congratulations the reader gets from recognizing the play on "the grapes of wrath," ––even if they don't know the movie––which does fit the NYer.

Then I got wondering, where did that phrase come from? 

I couldn't go back further than John Steinbeck's novel. Wikipedia tells me he got the title of his novel from the Civil War lyrics of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Julia Ward Howe:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

...which draws on some scary crazy imagery from Isaiah (which explains why Khan wears red) and the Book of Revelation:

Isaiah 63:1-6 (King James Version)

63 Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? 
I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.
Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?

I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.
For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.
And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me.
And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.

Revelation 14:14-20 (King James Version)

14 And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
. . .

18 And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
19 And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
20 And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

Very Khan indeed. 

And as a little reward, if you've gotten this far, here's Ricardo Montalban (Khan), modeling happy beef, not angry grapes:


The Crow said...

Happy beef, indeed!

Cool post, Fresca!

deanna said...

Ah, Mr. Montalban.

The wrath of God has become much more interesting to me. I have a lot of my own assumptions and misunderstandings to continue wading through. And I won't try to justify God in this context, but one thing that I believe at this point is the only enemy of God is one who wants to be and wants, basically, to be extinguished at the end of all things (which phrase makes me think of Gollum and a totally different fantasy story). This enemy of God thing seems, at least, to explain the fallen angels. There is an amazing weight of evidence, from my view, in Christianity for God's love for mankind and desire to commune with man. But mankind isn't forced to go there and so, at one point, those choosing not to will be "trodden upon" (but I really think the picture is more like Gollum choosing to embrace his precious above all else in the flames of Mt. Doom, and it is also like Khan choosing with gleeful grin to embrace his vengeance against Kirk. Khan gets trodden upon by his choice, even though in a view that sees God as real and active, that would be God's doing, as well.

Oops, I went on and on, and I hope you know that's just me, just working things out in me head.