A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange was written by Anthony Burgess in 1962, and set in the early years of the twenty first century. Like George Orwells 1984, and Aldous Huxleys Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange is a novel about a fictional futuristic city, controlled by a suppressive, totalitarian government. When Burgess reveals what horrific acts of crime occur within this society, the reader must ask what is better: the freedom of independent individuality that allows one to commit these acts or the brutality of the totalitarian state when reforming an individual.
The fictional society Burgess creates is heavily influenced by both Soviet style communism and American consumer capitalism. In the 1960s, the U.S.A and the U.S.S.R were both established as the worlds sole superpowers. This gave both nations a superior status, and therefore influence throughout the globe. With the weight of these nations so prevalent throughout the world, the English society Burgess creates is a feasible and realistic mixture of both super powers
There are many hints of Russian culture throughout the novel, from the names of businesses like the Korova Milkbar, to the Russian influenced slang words, moloki, chellovick, and ptitsas (milk, fellow, and women respectively).
Because A Clockwork Orange is written in Nadsat, a heavily influenced Russian slang, the reader may find the novel to be a disorienting piece that distracts one from his ability to understand the horrific acts that Alex commits. Alex and his cohorts, or droogs, as they were called in the text, communicate swiftly. With rookers as hands, glaznes as eyes, litso as face, Alex and his accomplices regularly commit crimes such as rape or ultra violence as it would be called. It wouldnt be unusual for the crew to be found tolchoking an innocent man in the Gulliver till he pours krovvy: Nadsat for hitting or beating an innocent man in the head till he pours blood. In Nadsat, even the word good becomes evil, being referred to as horror show. The language Burgess creates distracts one from understanding the severity of the crimes Alexs gang partakes in.
The communist mentality of this society is shown periodically throughout the novel. Alexs family is housed in Municipal Flat block 18a: his description of the interior of this building illustrates the communist like housing facilities civilians reside in. In the hallway was the good old municipal painting on the walls, vecks (guys) and ptitsas (girls) very well developed, stern in the dignity of labor, at workbench and machine with not one stitch of platties(clothes) on their well developed plots(bodies), but of course some of the malchicks (fellows) living in 18a had, as was to be expected, embellished and decorated the said big painting with handy pencil and ball point, adding hair and stiff rods and dirty ballooning slovos (words) out of the dignified rots ( mouths) of these nagory (naked) cheenas (women) and vecks. (Burgess p.36) Alex confirms the states ownership of Municipal Flat block 18a, and describes the large murals of nude men and women working hard. Similar facilities are most commonly seen in communist nations where property is owned and maintained by the state.
Burgesss emphasis on American influence is also apparent throughout the novel. Materialism, fashion, and style clearly exist. In one excerpt, Alex describes a group of women as being dressed in the height of fashion too, with purple and green orange wigs on their gullivers (heads), each one not costing less than three or four weeks of those sharps (girls) wages, I should reckon, and make up to match (rainbows round the glazzies, that is, and the rot painted very wide). Then they had long black very straight dresses. (Burgess p.5) Alex describes not only what the women are wearing, but also the societys materialistic and capitalist influence.
The influence of American culture is also seen in the large number of gangs within society. On any night, if the gang cannot find innocent civilians to harm, they have no trouble meeting one of the many rival gangs that prowl the city. It is as if, Society allows the gangs to rule the streets, and civilians must stay inside in order to avoid this large population of criminals. This is similar to the criminal organizations that control rough U.S neighborhoods. Within these high crime rate areas, citizens must know their boundaries and stroll at their own risk. The pervasiveness of gang culture in American society is seen also in the Broadway musical West Side Story, first performed in 1957, five years before the publication of A Clockwork Orange.
Though gangs are so commonly seen within this society, the reader must still question what fuels Alexs obsession with such ghastly violence. Alex is indifferent to money. In chapter one, Alex loots the corner store, but in chapter two he does not take anything of value after ravaging the writers house;
It is not greed that fuels such wickedness. What truly matters to Alex is the excitement he feels when knifing or punching a man, or beating or raping a woman. The brutality inflicted by Alex seems of little moral consequence to him.
In Alexs hands, violence becomes elegant and artistic; for example, he describes his razorblade as a tool he can flash and shine artistic.(Burgess p.) Violence becomes equivalent to an artistic creation he is working on, and once it is complete he will marvel at his masterpiece. Alex goes about inflicting harm with a certain methodology, like a composer or painter would while working on a long thought out piece of art. He swings his knife at a victim as a conductor raises his baton to an orchestra or a painter dabs at a canvas. In fact, Alex takes exceptional joy in doing vicious things while listening to pieces of classical music. Many people perceive Mozart and Beethovens works to be peaceful, beautiful, and moving. Unfortunately, when Alex hears this music he is drawn to violence and cruelty.
One night Alex and his Droogs decide they would like to commit an act of ultra violence. They drive to a small home in a village outside of town. When they arrive, Alex knocks on the door; a woman answers and Alex proceed to tell her in a refined manner of speech that his friend has been hit by a car and is in the street dying. He asks the woman if he could please come in to use her telephone, and she replies she hasnt one. Then Alex, Pete, Georgie and Dim break in. They find it is the home of a writer, whom they beat and then perform ultra violence on his wife. While this occurs, Alex picks up a piece of the writers work titled A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by F. Alexander. From what Alex can understand, F. Alexander thinks of people as fruit that grow on a great tree planted by God. These people, however, are in danger of being turned into machines by the modern world. At this moment, Alex considers F.Alexander crazy to create such a far-fetched prospect.
Though he may partake in violent acts regularly, Alex is not free to wreak havoc forever. After his gang betrays him in a house robbery soon after, he is imprisoned and sentenced to 14 years in # 84F state jail. His life quickly changes and his freedom is pulled from him. The tables are then turned and Alex must fear being beaten by guards and raped by fellow inmates.
In jail, Alex partakes in a fight, and finds himself beating his cellmate to death. Due to this, the prison is put on lockdown until the governor and minister of the interior arrive. Upon their arrival, Alex and the minister discuss possible opportunities for Alexs reform. The minister than chooses Alex to be the first in a new criminal correctional program. He is selected for a reclamation treatment dubbed the Ludarico technique, a two-week program that will conclude with Alexs release. Awaiting the treatment, Alex is delighted to hear he will be set free, but he is also warned of the drastic effects of this process.
Soon after, his treatment begins. Alex is brought into a movie theatre, drugged, strapped into a chair and forced to watch films of cruel acts. The medicine given to Alex induces in him extreme nausea at the first thought of violence. In one film Alex watches WWII German concentration camps while listening to classical music. While at the beginning of the novel Alex was extremely fond of classical music, now, as a consequence of his treatment, he becomes grossly nauseous at the sound of Beethoven. This is an ironic twist because he has been stripped of his one love and his favorite pastime in exchange for his freedom. His treatment ends, and he is transformed into a machine like object that can be read like clockwork. Alex is programmed to feel ill at the thought or sight of violence: he is A Clockwork Orange.
Alex soon finds that he suffers several undesirable consequences as a result of his treatment. For example, he is unable to make his own moral judgments. Soon after his release, Alex finds himself in a library, facing a former victim. The victim proceeds to seek revenge for Alex s past misdeeds. Alex cannot defend himself, due to his inability to participate in violence. Eventually the police arrive, but they are none other than his past enemy Billy Boy, and former accomplice Dim. They then drag Alex to the outskirts of town, and beat him mercilessly. Once again, Alex finds himself defenseless. After the beating, Alex wanders to a near by cottage to seek help and runs into the writer, from the beginning of the novel, whose wife he and his droogs raped. This writer has since become a political dissident and through the course of conversation begins to realize Alex and he may have met before. He also recalls reading of Alexs treatment in the newspaper. He finds that Alex has does epitomize the evils of a fascist regime. The writer proceeds to draw vast amounts of negative publicity about the shortcoming of fascism and totalitarianism.
Ultimately, the writer draws Alex to an apartment where he is locked in a room, and classical music is played through the walls. Due to this treatment he is forced to either remain extremely ill or jump from the apartment window. He jumps but miraculously survives. Days later he finds, due to the publicity about his nearly fatal injuries the government has chosen to return him to his original state. The writer/activist uses this as an example of the negative effect of fascism and fights the totalitarian regime with this occurrence.
It is clear that Alex has suffered tremendously as a result of this treatment. When he had full control over his moral judgments, he found himself to have experienced much less pain and suffering than the machine he is transformed into as A Clockwork Orange. As a result, it is apparent the cure is not worth the hardships Alex suffers as A Clockwork Orange. After Alex is returned to his normal self he finds it to be in his best interest to return to gang life, for he was less affected as an individual when he participated in that lifestyle.
Antony Burgesss Novel is a brilliant reflection of the detrimental affects of communist reform. Alexs situation provokes him to return to his life of crime merely to escape the pain and hardships faced during his treatment. In Burgesss society it is more beneficial for the population to allow individual freedom then to experience the effects of such distressing reform policies.