Absentminded Scientist's Reviews > A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
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Jan 11, 2012

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Read from December 28 to 31, 2011

That starry chelloveck Anthony Burgess had some sodding guttiwuts to write such a horroshow piece of ultra-violent fiction. And the lingo. My, oh my! All the starry lewdies won't even pony what us molodoys are gavoreeting about, O my brothers and sisters! If only my droogs would join in this bezoomy cal.

I know not all of you would get what I just said. But don't worry, no one does in the beginning. You slowly start to get the hang of it as you progress through the story narrated by the 15 year old juvenile delinquent protagonist. Alex is a strange mix of sophistication, charm, violence and sadism. He enjoys classical music and beating helpless people to pulp. The book starts with Alex and his 'droogs' setting out in the night to hit their favorite hangout and do drugs. They go on to mug an old scholar, a convenience store owner and establish a strong alibi by bribing some old ladies with free booze. Later that night, the four steal a vehicle and end up at a little cottage on the outskirts of the city. The cottage belongs to a writer by the name of Alexander and his wife. Alexander seems to be working on a manuscript titled "A Clockwork Orange". Alex and the droogs gain entry into Alexander's cottage by force and beat him up while taking turns to rape his wife. They leave the couple battered and bruised without showing an ounce of remorse. Alex even admits to feeling a little "fagged" after "the old in-out-in-out" and wonders how he might attend school the next day owing to the lateness of the hour and his inability to get enough sleep.

They again make an appearance at the "milk bar" where Alex and one of the droogs named Dim get into an altercation; this is eventually broken up by the other two members of the group - Georgie and Pete. Although being cautious, both Gorgie and Pete show their displeasure at Alex's high-handed behaviour.
The next evening, Alex and the droogs decide to break and enter into an old woman's mansion in the posh part of the city. And though Alex finds this venture a little too fishy, he agrees when the others insist. Unbeknownst to him, Dim, Georgie and Pete set him up and Alex alone is caught by the police who arrive at the crime scene to catch him red-handed. The old lady later dies of her injuries and is tried for murder. He is sentenced to a long term in prison.

While there, Alex beguiles the prison chaplain (who he calls "Charlie" in his slang) into thinking that he has changed for good. He finds a great opportunity to escape early when he gets to know about the Ludovico Technique which can "cure" criminals of their criminal tendency. These ex-criminals are then considered "safe" to go back into normal society and are hence released early from prison. The chaplain does not consider Alex's request until he is blamed for the death of a cell-mate. Alex is then carted off to the building where this technique is put into practice. He is made to watch violent films while being injected with severe nausea-inducing drugs. As a result of this, he develops a profound abhorrence for any form of violence. Also, as a side-effect of it, he becomes unable to listen to his belove classical music as well (which was a soundtrack to one of the films shown to him. He is then let out into the outside world, apparently all "cured" of the criminal illness.What happens next is the crux of the story. But for that, you'll have to read the novel, won't you? ;)

I personally thought the Nadsat slang used by the narrator keeps the characters from sounding dated or obsolete in today's world. Remember, this is supposed to be set in a dystopian future, so the characters need to sound so too. And since the novel was written in the early '60s, that could have been a problem; which was very cleverly solve by Burgess (a multilingual man himself). The way the violence is portrayed could be a tad too much for some people, but maybe it was necessary to be so over-the-top to make us realize the extent of Alex's delinquency. The way he feels no remorse whatsoever after having raped a young woman and beaten her husband within an inch of his life points to a very messed up way of thinking. I personally HATED Alex for all his charm and sadism.

But the Ludovico technique was another extreme altogether. It indicates the extremes that society would go to so as to make an individual conform to the standards generally termed "normal or acceptable" by everyone. A complex teenager like Alex is hard to handle, no doubt about that. But to take away a person's right to free will is a total and complete violation. But then, condemning someone to a life in prison violates their right to free will too, doesn't it? So, faced with a choice like that, what would today's society choose? The lesser of the two evils, obviously. They'd rather lock a man up against his free will than play with his mind and brainwash him to abhor violence. But really, is that any better?

The edition that I read was the one with a different ending than that showed in the film. And in my honest opinion, I liked it better than the film version. It showed Alex in a more human, a more mature light; as a man who was hopeful, as well as worried, about what the future held for him and those around him. That is a much better prospect to imagine than one where there is no hope and no way of knowing whether he really was "curable" in the first place. Overall, I liked the novel, but I can't say I'm in LOVE with it. It is hard for me to identify with situations that seem too extreme or too hopeless. That is just how I am. But as far as the writing goes, Burgess was a GENIUS!

Verdict: Love it or hate it, it's a classic and will remain that way.
Rating: 3/5
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Reading Progress

12/28/2011 "I'm getting a serious tolchok in my gulliver viddying the scenarios in this book. That starry veck Anthony was a horrorshow writer! He was like, "Yarbles to the world if they don't pony my argot!" 8)"

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Absentminded Scientist Thanks Brian :)

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