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Original Essays | June 20, 2014

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A Clockwork Orange (Norton Paperback Fiction) by Anthony Burgess
A Clockwork Orange (Norton Paperback Fiction)

henningkatie24, April 2, 2014

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess exposes the unknown and violent teenage world while expressing how destructive it really is. Burgess’s 1962 novel is directed at mature ages because it helps show what youths must go through to come of age. However, the novel uses quite a bit of slang, or Nasdat, Russian terms, Cockney rhyming slang, and strange phrasing. This is what makes the novel somewhat of a challenge to read. In addition to the language, the violence in the novel is very graphic and disturbing.
This famous novella is set in a futuristic England where the youths hold all of the power by using ‘ultra-violence’ and secret slang. In the novel, the main character and our anti-hero is Alex. A fifteen year old boy who loves committing graphic acts of violence with friends which he calls ‘droogs.’ However, one night his friends decide to turn the tables on our gang leader, Alex, leaving him helpless against the police where he then undergoes the “Ludovico Treatment” where they condition people to hate violence and sex. However, the treatment does not last and he is back to his old ways. The 21st chapter is the most crucial since Stanley Kubrick voided it from the infamous movie of the same name. This caused a lot of disagreements between Burgess and Kubrick because it took away from the entire lesson of the novel. In this last chapter Alex decides that he would rather become a father and stops committing heinous acts of violence. My personal opinions on this book are quite favorable. I was expecting a lot of violence, since I’d seen the movie first I thought I could handle it, but got a bit more than I bargained for. Despite the violence, the themes that are captured in this novel are what really made me want to read it. I thought the entire novel was well worth the read, despite the mentions of underage drug use, violence, rape, etc.
This book was able to capture the feel of Britain during the 50’s through 60’s but adding a futuristic flare. During the 50’s and 60’s the younger teenage generation ran a muck and called themselves “Teddy boys” which are the equivalent of “Greasers” in America.During this time in Britain there was social unrest and the government didn’t do much to stop it. This background information helps to understand why the novel is so violent and how they can get away from it since it was written during this time period.
“What happens in the 21st chapter? You now have the chance to find out. Briefly my young thuggish protagonist grows up. He grows with violence and recognises that human energy is better expended on creation than destruction” (xi) Anthony Burgess’s introduction quote was one I found very important. This helps to tie back into the overall theme of the novel. This whole novel is about coming of age, with violent tendencies. Burgess is able to take the normal “average boy” and turn it inside out. Alex, loves music, specifically Beethoven’s 9th symphony. However Burgess skews this and has Alex compare his violent acts to the movements in the symphony. “And there was the slow movement and the lovely last singing movement still to come. I was cured alright” (186).
One thing that is most intriguing about this novel was the name for me. “A Clockwork Orange.” Anthony Burgess chose this because he had heard it somewhere in a pub, and then thought of what the saying really meant. To take something so natural and beautiful and to turn it hard into a mechanical machine like a clock is a big hint to the entire plot. The name itself foreshadows the events that happen to Alex. He is the orange, and when he goes through the therapy, becomes a clockwork orange. Meaning there is nothing natural left to him. “Goodness comes from within…Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man’” (93). However his statement “I was cured alright” proves that despite the therapy and the change, he was still his natural self the whole time. Thus making him “A Clockwork Orange.”
This book was able to capture all of the themes expressed. The idea that the teenage world is not what it appeared to be, and may even be more violent than thought is shown in this novel.This novel is able to help others understand how the teenagers of that time, and quite possibly even today, think of things differently. Burgess’s use of literary elements like style, characters, plot and diction all help for a better look into the violent gang member world. Burgess tells the story through first person narrative via Alex, who goes through a series of flashbacks to what life was like before, during and after his time in prison. The style and diction are the two main elements that help distinguish this books from others like it. The typical dystopian books use different languages depending on how sci-fi they are, but in this one, it takes a more close look at the language used among young men. In every generation of teenage boys there are some trigger words that only mean something to them. In this novel, Nadsat is what they call their language. Which is a combination of mixed Cockney rhymes, Russian terms, and English.
Burgess’s novel acts as an insight into a deranged and skewed teenage world that still has elements that can be applied to today’s society. By using the slang language of Nadsat Burgess has developed his own unique style and was able to convey the overall theme of violence amongst youths and coming of age with a twist.
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