Reading the Classics discussion

74 views
Past Group Reads > A Clockwork Orange: Part 3

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jenn, moderator (new)

Jenn | 303 comments Mod
Please discuss Part 3, and the book as a whole.


message 2: by Jenn, moderator (last edited May 07, 2014 07:22PM) (new)

Jenn | 303 comments Mod
So Alex is pretty much shunned by his family and everyone else. So much for this helping him to have a better life. He finally finds some people who are nice to him, but they end up just trying to use him push their own political agendas.

It is here that we finally learn a little more about the title of the book. In the first part, we learned that clockwork orange means "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..." In this section Alec discerns that it means that people "nowadays were being turned into machines and that they were really...more like a natural growth like a fruit." I gather from both of these that this means that people are controlled by the government like machines, or pieces of clockwork, but that we still retain something real or "juicy" like and orange. Thoughts?

In the original US release of this novel, the final chapter was not included so that it ended with Alex losing the sick feeling whenever he encountered any violence and he pretty much decides he is going to go back to his old ways. Ironically, the government that first "cured" him is who...uncures?....him. What do you think of that? Is this just another way for the government to control things? It seems crazy that after all that work to make Alex a "good" person that they would just take it all back and let him return to his former life of crime.

Though not originally included in the US edition, Burgess did write another chapter, in which Alex feels a desire to grow up and have an adult life. How do you feel about the inclusion of this last chapter? Do you agree with the US publishers that it doesn't fit? Or do you think it a good way to tie up loose ends with Alex?


message 3: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) I found this section increasingly shocking. At first I thought , secretly, that this was a good outcome for Jude; though I profoundly disagree with his treatment. Unethical beyond unethical: the ends justify the means. Then when he couldn't bear to listen to his dear classical music that was such a low that every new step drew him further into a life without any meaning; without Alex, in effect.

His attempted suicide was obviously what the government were angling for; or indeed his suicide. He was totally a most exploited pawn in their system.

My reaction to the original ending was one of shock, but it made complete sense to me. The extra ending confused me somewhat. I confess that I either missed or forgot how he had arrived at this new state of being, though I infer from what you have said that the government was also responsible for this turn of events. I shall check back at some stage, but I really can't face any more of it just now. There are extra notes at the back of my book, so I really ought to try to find some answers.

I have to confess that I still don't know why the title is 'A Clockwork Orange'. The clockwork bit I get, but orange? Is it related to US prison uniform or is it his segmented character or something else that's staring me in the face?

The man who takes him in and treats him kindly, not knowing initially that he is the cause of the horrific assault on his wife, is writing 'A Clockwork Orange'. I know that later when we found that he was one of the government's men, his writing that book makes more sense. I can't help wondering if it was all In the government plan that Alex should turn up at the place marked 'Home'. It's almost as if he is being programmed to do what they want down to the last detail, but then the victim of his former crimes genuinely does not appear to recognise him for some time.

In short, I don't feel that the extra ending quite fits even though it appears to be more optimistic. No doubt I have missed something crucial to its understanding. I can understand why Burgess dithered between the two endings; holding on to both, though for two different nations.


message 4: by Kaycie (new)

Kaycie | 11 comments I think that the extended ending fits perfectly with the point of the book. Much of the ethical debate this book deals with is the idea of choice...the choice to be bad versus the choice to be good. About if the government has the right to make a "good" society of people who didn't choose to be that way. In the original ending when Alex CHOOSES to go back to being bad then in the extended ending chooses to be good, that is the whole point. He chose.

The shortened ending for the US audience would have fallen short for me. It still brought up much of the issues involved in the debate, but I would't have liked it nearly as much.


message 5: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) I'm sure that you have a valid point there, Kaycie. I shall have to have another look at it when I feel brave enough!


message 6: by Kate (new)

Kate | 22 comments Hi All

I didn't realise there were two endings. The version I read was when his mind seem to go back to what it was before receiving 'treatment', after he attempted suicide, however his old urges quickly were overcome as he matured towards making better choices.

To me, the whole book seems to suggest that governments are looking at solving social issues, but from the wrong angle. Even if the government had structures in place that dealt with prevention, rather than intervention, his parents were a huge part of the problem. I agree with the novel's message about who has the right to choose, but I also think this book has a lot to do with discipline, respect and accountability. It was written in an era when western society was moving away from more harsh forms of discipline in parenting towards allowing children to make their own choices and have their own voices, for fear of being liken to Nazi dictatorship. I think that what Burgess might be trying to say (or seems to be saying) is that boundaries were also removed, along with discipline, which has been the cause of behavioural issues amongst adolescents (and children in general), to the point where some youths are allowed to run riot with little deterrent or rules.


message 7: by swwords (new)

swwords (-sww) | 19 comments I finished this now. It was a really challenging but worthwhile read.

I also did not realise there were two ending until I read the intro in my book. I thought reading it without chapter 21 to me suggests that the deprogramed Alex will not change. Whereas with C21 I thought it showed Alex just lost his urge for violence.

I also thought at first the story was about government control but then I thought maybe it's about the choices made, not sure though.


message 8: by Dolores, co-moderator (new)

Dolores (dizzydee39) | 275 comments Mod
Burgess did not write two endings. When he wrote the book and originally published it in England there was 3 sections with 7 chapters in each section. All translations in Europe and Asia are from this original version. When he went to publish the book in the USA, the publishers in New York did not want to use the 21st chapter because they believed it was "a sellout." "It was bland and it showed a Pelagian unwillingness to accept that a human being could be a model of unregenerable evil. The Americans," said the New York publisher, "were tougher than the British and could face up to reality." However, Burgess wanted it published as intended with 21 chapters but he also realized that he needed money "and if the condition of the book's acceptance was also its truncation - well, so be it."

Quotes are from Anthony Burgess' Introduction to the 1986 publication.


message 9: by Dolores, co-moderator (new)

Dolores (dizzydee39) | 275 comments Mod
Also in the Introduction to the 1986 publication of the book, Anthony Burgess gives us an idea of what a clockwork orange is. "Clockwork oranges don't exist, except in the speech of old Londoners. The image was a bizarre one, always used for a bizarre thing....I mean it to stand for the application of a mechanistic morality to a living organism oozing with juice and sweetness."


message 10: by swwords (new)

swwords (-sww) | 19 comments Thanks Dolores for explaining about the different editions. I thought the last chapter in places did not have the same verve as the rest of the book, but understand that this could possibly be to demonstrate that Alex has changed.

It's also interesting what you say about 'clockwork orange'. When these words appeared in the text I had this vague sense of it being something mechanical. I got this impression from quotes like at the end of chapter 7, pt 2 Alex says: "'Am I just to be like a clockwork orange?'". But reading your explanation I get it now, and yep that is one bizarre image.


message 11: by Phil (new)

Phil (lanark) Odd that I'm reading a UK Penguin edition published in 1974 and that doesn't have the "missing chapter". It ends with Alex listening to his music and imagining all the horrorshow razratz and violent in-out-in-out he'll have.

In the end, I thought that Alex was such a crappy human being, he was better under the influence of the Ludovico Technique - even though he hated having other people be kind and caring to him and he being forced to be kind and gentle back. Now, I have to go online to try to find the missing chapter to read Burgess's original ending.

I'm completely non-plussed as to how this edition is incomplete.


message 12: by Phil (new)

Phil (lanark) I crasted the missing chapter illegally online - Alex would have been proud.


message 13: by Phil (new)

Phil (lanark) One interesting thing I took from the last chapter was that the nadsat teens aren't representative of all youth - when Alex meets Pete and his wife she doesn't understand a word of what Alex is saying, so although we're given the impression that all youth culture is running riot, maybe that's just how it feels in Alex's world.


message 14: by Dolores, co-moderator (new)

Dolores (dizzydee39) | 275 comments Mod
Phil wrote: "Odd that I'm reading a UK Penguin edition published in 1974 and that doesn't have the "missing chapter". It ends with Alex listening to his music and imagining all the horrorshow razratz and violen..."

I wonder if that edition may have used the 1962 New York edition to publish from since it is a Penguin edition. All I know is what Anthony Burgess said himself in the introduction to the edition that I read.


message 15: by Dolores, co-moderator (new)

Dolores (dizzydee39) | 275 comments Mod
Phil wrote: "One interesting thing I took from the last chapter was that the nadsat teens aren't representative of all youth - when Alex meets Pete and his wife she doesn't understand a word of what Alex is say..."

I like that. It sort of gives you hope that there not all bad the same way that Pete changing when he grew up and Alex changing gives you the feeling that the badness of the teens doesn't last.


message 16: by Donna (new)

Donna | 2 comments During the first third of this book, I wasn't sure I was going to make it through to the end of this book, but I was pleasantly surprised at how it moved along for the remainder of the book. At times, I even laughed out loud at parts. There was a touch of humor and irony when I realized who was living in the HOME... I kept saying, no way... Could it be?

The crazy language came more naturally after a bit and I am thankful to the person who noticed the "charm" and creative genius it took to add that twist to the novel. I may not have payed much attention to how hard that must have been to incorporate unless I had read that comment!

I love that the last chapter causes so much debate! Personally, I do like how the original extended version ends. It seems to be a more realistic ending to me. But I can see how some people wanted to get rid of it.

What I am not understanding from what I have seen online about this book is the analogy to God that this book is supposed to have? Can anyone speak to that topic? :)


message 17: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) The only thing that comes to mind, at the moment, Donna, is the idea that God gives people free will and did not create us to be robots. In a sense, the government in C.O. is 'playing God' in over-riding Alex's ability to choose. He is no longer a free agent. It reminds of the Stepford wives movies: the attempt to create a perfect society.


message 18: by Joseph (new)

Joseph Renini | 4 comments Belated comment (sorry, been traveling for work):

Great comments:

I also ask if Burgess is commenting on the need for rehabilitation. Society might save time and energy by simply letting criminals age in prison until they mature. Studies have shown that most repeat offenders stop wrongdoing during middle age. Does this suggest that we should drop attempts to physically or spiritually reform prisoners?


message 19: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments While I think some of it would be believable if the character and his group had merely done childish pranks such as vandalism, maybe a little petty theft, joyriding, and just bullying other kids (NONE of which is excusable, because, as stated, adolescents are moral creatures capable of understanding right and wrong as well) it might be believable that he "grew out of it" (at 18????), but let's remember he beat a man half to death, stole copiously, BRUTALLY RAPED A WOMAN TO DEATH, among other things. He's supposed to just "grow up" and put all that behind him? I don't buy it.

Burgess' description in his intro about the publisher in America not wanting the last chapter was interesting. Frankly, while I'm normally all about the author's desire for their work, I would have to agree with the publisher on this one, although as someone mentioned above, I did also feel that the final chapter alludes to not so much a changed man as a kid who is bored with his previous adventures and merely wanting to move on to the next thing, not feeling any remorse for anything he's done, not seeing "the error of his ways." And regardless of which chapter it ends on in your version, nothing is ever addressed about the document that Alex signs, not knowing what it was, even though the author makes such a big point about it. What are the consequences? Or is that the point, that it's ambiguous?

I also like the idea that not all the youth are "bad," as was pointed out. This was a subsection of a culture, like various teen groups today. I remember being a youth myself, and a bunch of kids I knew used all kinds of ridiculous slang (mostly so the adults wouldn't understand them) and you could tell they were involved in all kinds of unruly "extracurricular activities," but the majority that I hung out with had fairly "adult" speech and didn't talk (or act) like that.


back to top