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

nathan2010, May 3, 2010

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is a piece of literature that contains many relevant ideas pertaining to power, choice, and corruption. Burgess explores these and others immensely, creating a fascinating and thought-provoking novel. The main character Alex is caught after committing many crimes, and is sent to prison. There, a new procedure called Ludovico’s Technique is tested on him. This technique ends up drastically affecting his life and power of choice. The reader should be prepared for some graphic violence, and also for many unknown slang words. Overall, A Clockwork Orange is a very powerful novel with many intriguing ideas about humanity.
This book is set in a futuristic England. In this time, young men run rampant, and are not afraid to steal or kill. Many of these boys group themselves into competing gangs. The police are not very effective, and the government is obviously looking for a means to put an end to the crime and violence taking place.
A major point that comes up frequently is the idea of a clockwork orange. Within the novel, F. Alexander (not to be confused with the main character Alex) has written a book with the same name. When Alex discovers it he reads a small section, “‘-The attempt to impose upon man, a creature of growth and capable of sweetness, to ooze juicily at the last round the bearded lips of God, to attempt to impose, I say, laws and conditions appropriate to a mechanical creation’” (25). This point is touched on again when Alex is just about to begin Ludovico’s Technique. A member of the church tells Alex, “‘The question is whether such a technique can really make a man good. Goodness comes from within…Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man’” (93). This is the biggest idea of the novel, and one that is evaluated extensively. Another key idea is the ignorance of youth. Throughout the book, Burgess raises a question: can a person change dramatically between childhood and adulthood? By the end, he provides a bit of an answer, but ultimately it is up to the reader to decide.
The book manages to raise its questions very effectively and make the reader think. Burgess portrays a true human boy well with Alex. Though he has evil tendencies, the reader sees glimpses of good. He could be seen as an exaggerated model of the average teenage boy: obsessed with violence and sex. Alex is what most adults would find as a normal boy gone wrong, but what Burgess does so successfully is to raise the point that maybe it is not permanent. He also suggests that the choice to be a criminal is just as necessary as the choice not to be. Without it, no one is truly good, for they have not decided for themselves to be righteous. Everyone should be able to discover for themselves what ultimately is wrong or right. Many other issues were touched on as well; Burgess never leaves an idea without making a comment on it. Through Alex’s experiences, sex, the prison system, government, and religion were all covered. Differing views for each idea are presented, allowing the reader to have his own choice to decide what to think.
The most convincing point of the entire novel is the idea about choice. Burgess really drives his thoughts home, and manages to persuade the reader well. The inclusion of the final chapter is especially necessary, so make sure you have a copy with it. When the American edition A Clockwork Orange was published in the United States, this essential chapter was left out, and was also left out of the movie. However, it is probably the most important chapter, for it really completes the idea concerning choice.
Anthony Burgess’s language in the novel is astounding. He managed to create a whole new vocabulary called “Nadsat.” At first, it is difficult to understand what Alex is saying or thinking, but it gets much easier as you go on. For instance, “litso” means face, “viddy” means see, “rooker” means arm, and there are many more. By learning this different language that Alex uses, it is easier to get inside his head and try to relate to this very unordinary person.
The plot in A Clockwork Orange is well thought out and very intriguing. Burgess never just lets an event take place and mean nothing. Almost everything that Alex does or experiences is referenced again by the end of the novel; nothing seems meaningless or unnecessary. The characters in this book are also very deep. Alex will sometimes surprise you with his actions, and other times will not, which is a very human characteristic. Again, the last chapter is very important in assessing Alex’s growth as a character, so please consider that. Other characters will also end up being different than the reader would think, but some stay the same throughout. Burgess uses a good mixture of flat and round characters in order to add variety to the story. Finally, the tone within the book keeps it interesting. At some points the tone is almost jovial, while at others it can be quite malicious. Since Alex is able to find such joy out of his life as a criminal, the tone of his thoughts often conflict with the tone of what is taking place. This creates some great contrast.
Overall, A Clockwork Orange was fascinating to me, and would at least be an interesting read for anyone else. From language to characters to tone, Burgess creates a truly sophisticated novel that delves into many important philosophical issues. This book is still very relevant today, and will make you think if nothing else.
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