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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Effie, May 27, 2007 (view all comments by Effie)
Violence begets violence. There's a morality tale at the heart of this novel, and it's not that more violence is what curtails it. Too much of what Burgess wrote about so many years ago that was ironic and fictional then has unfortuantely become factual today.
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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 eBooks — here at Powells.com.