henningkatie24, April 2, 2014 (view all comments by henningkatie24)
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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DanielleART, January 3, 2011 (view all comments by DanielleART)
Although the slang made reading this book hard to read in the beginning, I was instantly sucked in. I would say everyone should read this book sometime in their life, as it makes you think about what is right and wrong and what really makes some one a "good person" Also a good example of classical conditioning.
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nathan2010, May 3, 2010 (view all comments by nathan2010)
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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seph00017, April 30, 2009 (view all comments by seph00017)
Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange is a dystopian novel written as a social commentary. The country is run by a repressive government that often oversteps moral boundaries, and the streets are run by a violent subculture of youth, wherein rape, stealing, assault, and murder are all commonplace. Alex, a violent fifteen year old boy, and his droogs (friends or gang) are part of this criminal subculture. After Alex is arrested, he is subject to a controversial therapy known as the Ludovico treatment. Through unique literary style and Alex’s crimes, arrest, treatment, and reintroduction into society, Burgess creates a social commentary of human freedom, choice, and the evils of government.
A Clockwork Orange is an extremely unique book in terms of style. This is because of the novel’s narrator, Alex, who speaks in a fictional teenage dialect of English called Nadsat. The entire story is told in Nadsat, a combination of cockney rhyming slang, English, and Russian, so the reader must become accustomed to Alex’s unique matter of speech. Through context, one eventually is able to understand Alex and discovers that ‘rot’ means mouth, ‘droog’ means friend (most commonly used for Alex’s gang), ‘viddy’ means to see, and ‘slooshy’ means to hear. An example of this speech would be, “so you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrorshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog” (3). The unique voice used in the novel and the first person point of view create a deep characterization of Alex for the reader.
Alex’s unique voice gives the reader an understanding of the youth in the world of A Clockwork Orange. Since the narrator speaks in Nadsat, the book has a very low level of diction and poor syntax. This style reflects the teenage subculture; the low diction and syntax show the uneducated and uncultured nature of the youth. There are several adult characters in the novel that do not understand Alex when he speaks. The fact that the teenagers of the novel use an entirely different language shows how separate the subculture actually is from the adult world.
The novel is told in first person, through the eyes of the anti-hero Alex. Alex relays all his thoughts as well as his actions as he tells his story, which gives the reader a peek into his mind and creates a deep understanding of his character. When Alex is in a knife fight with a rival gang member he reveals he, “was dancing about with my [razor] like I might be a barber on board a ship on a very rough sea…And, my brothers, it was real satisfaction to me to waltz—left two three, right two three—and carve left cheeky and right cheeky, so that two curtains of blood seemed to pour out at the same time” (20). Alex finds an aesthetic value to violence, rather than thinking about the pain he is causing his victims. Burgess intricately characterizes Alex through his language, the law defying subculture he belongs to, his personal thoughts, and love of violence. Through the government’s attempt to correct Alex’s ways, Burgess addresses several themes.
Alex is submitted to a torturous aversion therapy called the Ludovico treatment, wherein he is forced to watch movies of rape, violence and war while being subjected to drugs that make him sick. Because of this treatment, Alex becomes sick at the mere thought of violence and is forced to do only good. The treatment corrects his criminal activity at the cost of his ability to make decisions. After receiving the treatment, the chaplain at Alex’s prison states, “Choice…He has no real choice, has he? Self-interest, fear of physical pain, drove him to that grotesque act of self-abasement. Its insincerity was clearly to be seen. He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice” (140). He does not do good because he chooses so—it is because he is forced to by the treatment. The novel raises the question, is it better to be forced into doing good rather than choosing evil.
The theme of choice is what inspired the name of the novel; Alex is the clockwork orange. After the Ludovico treatment has taken its full effect Alex screams, “Am I just to be like a clockwork orange?” (141). Alex has lost his humanity along with his ability to choose; he has been turned into something mechanical and clockwork. He has been turned into a slave of the Ludovico treatment unable to evaluate good and evil. The novel’s overbearing government stepped over a moral boundary by subjecting Alex to the torturous Ludovico treatment.
Another theme present in A Clockwork Orange is the role of government and how much power it should have. When addressed with the immorality of the treatment, the Minister of the Interior responds, “These are subtleties…We are not concerned with motive, with the higher ethics. We are concerned only with cutting down crime” (141). The government cares only for the ends and will go through unjust means to achieve them. Even though reducing crime is a good cause, stripping someone of their personality and humanity is not just compensation. In the novel, there is a book also named A Clockwork Orange that embodies the message of Burgess’ novel. “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, against this I raise my swordpen” (25).
In A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess creates a social commentary scolding government and questioning human choice. He uses a unique style and story to create a dystopia that illustrates these ideas. Through the misadventures and suffering of criminal teenager Alex, Burgess shows how government overextends its power and what happens to a human without choice.
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W. W. Norton & Company -
by The New York Times,
"Anthony Burgess reads chapters of his novel A Clockwork Orange with hair-raising drive and energy. Although it is a fantasy set in an Orwellian future, this is anything but a bedtime story."
by Roald Dahl,
"A terrifying and marvelous book."
by William S. Burroughs,
"I do not know of any other writer who has done as much with language as Mr. Burgess has done here — the fact that this is also a very funny book may pass unnoticed."
The only American edition of the cult classic novel.
by Hold All,
The only American edition of the cult classic novel.
In Burgess's infamous nightmare vision of youth culture in revolt, 15-year-old Alex and his friends set out on a diabolical orgy of robbery, rape, torture and murder. Alex is jailed for his teenage delinquency and the state tries to reform him — but at what cost?
A vicious fifteen-year-old "droog" is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick's magnificent film of the same title. In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex--to "redeem" him--the novel asks, "At what cost?" This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition and Burgess's introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.