Recently, I had to read this novel for a college course: Post-War British Literature. It is a shame I haven’t read this before. It is such a classic book and film that I am surprised I have never read or seen it before. I have seen it now and Id like to share my thoughts about the book and film.
Everyone has heard of A Clockwork Orange, whether you have read it or not. It is on all the lists of books you need to read before you die. The same can be said for the film by Stanley Kubrick. Before the British Literature course, I heard of A Clockwork Orange, but I never knew what it was about. The story was a mystery to me and to hear that it had controversy around it, I was interested in delving into it and understand why. After reading it, I understand why this was such a controversial story.
The story of A Clockwork Orange is about a dystopian world of Britain where youth can run rampant and commit a bit of “ultra-violence” every night. The story follows the protagonist, fifteen year old, Alex on his adventures with his “droogs” (friends) and committing a bit of the “shop-crasting” (robbing) and a bit of a violent “in-and-out” (raping). Eventually, Alex’s violent antics get him caught and sent to jail. In order to leave jail early, Alex agrees to take part in “The Ludovico Technique,” which is an aversion therapy that psychologically affects Alex when we witnesses or experiences violence. Alex is released from jail, prone to violent illness when he has thoughts of the violence he was akin to at the beginning of the novel. After he was released, everything went against him. His parents threw him out, he was beaten with an inch of his life from the police and became a toy within a bigger political agenda.
My thoughts? Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it, as it was an engaging story. I liked following in the footsteps of a unique villain such as Alex. Anthony Burgess did a brilliant job of conveying the hopelessness within Alex’s world through the treatment of authority in the novel. He created a convincing dystopian world with an interesting main character. However, I did have a few problems with it.
First, the language of the novel.
Anthony Burgess created a new language for Alexand his droogs to speak in A Clockowork Orange which was called Nadsat. It is a Russian-influence English that is only spoken by the teenagers in Burgess’s novel. Burgess was a linguist and decided when writing the novel, to create his own language so it wouldn’t be outdated by the time the novel was published. Personally, I liked the language. When I listened to the audiobook version of A Clockwork Orange, I liked the sound of the Nadsat language such as “devotchka” (young woman), “gulliver” (head) and “moloko” (milk). There are many more examples within the novel and it represents the voice of Alex in the novel. However, I did find it difficult to translate when I first started reading it. I had to have a wiki in front of me so I could look up the meaning behind each word. It was difficult at first, but I adapted to it quite quickly and began to love it. The language makes what the novel, A Clockwork Orange, what it is. It represents the youth of this novel and it gives a perfect insight into Alex’s character. But I can understand why Stanley Kubrick’s film left out most of the Nadsat language.
Second, the violence.
Now, compared to the film, the violence in the book was necessary to portray the world Alex lived in and showcase how much of a callous person Alex was. However, I didn’t like the violent scenes within the book. There is a lot of rape and beatings in the novel that are quite graphic. They serve a purpose to the story, but I still didn’t appreciate some of the scenes within the novel.
Overall, A Clockwork Orange was an interesting read. My favourite part of reading this novel was to exploration of Alex as the protagonist. Throughout the novel, Alex commits deplorable acts of violence and doesn’t feel any empathy towards the people he hurts. There is a divided opinion on whether people feel sorry for Alex in the second half of the book where he gets punished for his misdeeds. Do you think he deserved and you didn’t feel sorry for him or do you think that the punishments put on him were too much?
Personally, I didn’t feel sorry for Alex throughout the second half of the book. I felt that he deserved everything that came to him. However, I did feel sorry for him during two instances. One was when he couldn’t sleep because of the affects of the Ludivocko treatment and when his parents threw him out. Even though he is a terrible human being, he was still a teenager and in the end, he needed his parents in that moment when he got out of jail. I don’t condone his character and I believe he deserved all the misfortune he got. However, Burgess does a great job at portraying this character is a despicable way and in the end, provide him with a hopeful ending.
A Clockwork Orange was a great read and got me thinking of my FYP. The thought of criminals and heroes in literature strike me in this novel and I am currently writing an essay about this novel in relation to the representation of heroes. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear answer to this question, especially in relation to Alex in A Clockwork Orange. It is an interesting concept though and I feel A Clockwork Orange would make an interesting case study. If you are interested in looking into this story, give it a read or watch the Stanley Kubrick’s film. Personally, I prefer the book.