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A Clockwork Orange
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1001 Monthly Group Read > October {2008} Discussion -- A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess

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mara | 220 comments Mod
Wow, now that was really interesting. So, was the "real" final chapter better than the movie's? Why and wherefore all those fake words and Shakepearian language. And what did you think of Little Alex? This one definitely got my mind buzzing. What did you think?

Silver | 312 comments A lot of the funny words were Russian and Russian slang. I think it brought a certain realisim to the story, as well most teenagers from any age tend to develope thier own langague among each other which usually only they can understand. In someways I also think using the slang langauge distracted from the burtality of the viloence. By inserting words to describe such secenes that appear nonsenstical to the reader.

Katharine | 24 comments I agree with that, I think that some of the violent scenes were hard to follow because of the slang included in the descriptions so I didn't find it as horrifying as I thought it would be. I really enjoyed this book, I was really interested in the idea of manipulating someone's mind to change their behaviour supposedly for the better.

I liked the fact that the people that claimed to be on his side were explioting him for their own cause, and by manipulating him into attempting suicide there were no better than the doctors that they were fighting against. I found myself rooting for Alex even though he was horrible.

As for the ending, I haven't seen the film, how does it differ?

Silver | 312 comments Yes, and I think part of the Shakesperian langauge used was a way to make Alex charming in his own way, even though he does horrible things, you develop a certain relationship with him. Though you do not apporve of what he does, and he deserves to be punished, you are drawn to him.

I have not seen the movie, but I have also heard the book itself has two different endings, that like the Amercian version has a different ending then the Brittish ending.

Charity (charityross) I have also heard the book itself has two different endings, that like the Amercian version has a different ending then the Brittish ending.

That is true and it is not true. American editions published prior to 1990 omitted the final chapter of the original British version. However, American editions published after 1990 should contain the full content.

A full-content edition of A Clockwork Orange is comprised of 3 sections, each containing 7 chapters, for a total of 21 chapters.

The movie adaptation did omit the final chapter of the original British version.

Michelle (fireweaver) | 104 comments the book edition the library provided (the one with the flames & screaming mouth at the bottom) has a lengthy introduction by burgess that touches on a lot of this stuff. Silver, the made-up slang was indeed intended as a distraction of sorts from the violent goings-on: he says he chose to write it with bits of another language so you could get the emotional immediacy of the beatings & sex without it being written as straight-up pornography. the russian tidbits, instead of using what was then-modern slang, have kept the teenagers' lingo timeless instead of hopelessly dated.

i loved the play with language in this one. i had a friend who read it in high school (different class assignment than i had) who said the slang was a struggle at first but got progressively easier. for me, the context clues from the surrounding sentences were enough of a tip-off to get the gist, and it did indeed become a non-issue by the end of the first section (some editions apparently came with a glossary; mine did not, the extensive wikipedia page has it for you). that alternating between trashy street drivel and high-shakespearean tongue entertained the hell out of me. maybe we find our little Alex so fascinating because he's so clearly more intelligent than his slum surroundings? the quickness with which he can whip out his "fine gentleman's goloss" says he has a good bit more moving in his brain than his fellow droogs.

for anyone else with this edition, did you think the author doth protest too much? after dismissing this as a work he likes less than other things he's written (rightfully attributing 'clockwork's longevity to Kubrick), he strongly defends that final chapter. he claims that the last bit is important to show character development and the triumph of the human spirit, yadda yadda. it came across to me as rather unrealistic: do you really think someone who's ring-led multiple rapes & beatings at the tender age of 15, not to mention the occasional murder, will just get tired of the scene and want to settle down with a wife & kid & picket fence? yes, that ending at chapter 20 (which, Silver, is pretty identical to Kubrick's ending, too, stopping with the razor-sarcasm of "I was cured all right”) is evil nihilistic human depravity at its worst...but it's true to the spirit of the rest of the book, i think.

Charity (charityross) Once again, Michelle, you have nailed my sentiments exactly!

With the exception of omitting the final chapter, I don't really see any glaring omissions in Kubrick's adaptation...something that can't be said for many other movie adaptations that continue to be churned out.

I found the final chapter to be the weakest in the book. The complete turnaround of an 18-yr.-old, whose former years were wrought with some of the most deplorable actions known to man, didn't seem the least bit plausible. I was reminded of how much I was annoyed with the final chapter in Choke and thought if Kubrick had directed the adaptation of that, he would have cut the last chapter of it also.

the russian tidbits, instead of using what was then-modern slang, have kept the teenagers' lingo timeless instead of hopelessly dated.

I especially agree with your take on this. There were many times while reading the book I thought of how easily the Nadsat language used in the book could be substituted over the years with each generation's 'teen language'. Would a modern version of this story be written in textspeak? If it were, I'd still need a glossary. :-)

Laura (laurita) | 44 comments So I was reading somewhere about the greater implication of the Clockwork Orange concept, that whole bit about a man who cannot choose ceases to be a man. I think that the great joke about the book (a very terrifying sort of joke) is that the whole society is a clockwork orange and even having been cured of the effects of the treatment, he is still in many ways a man without choice. The controls of the government have removed any real option of choice- there is no autonomous idea of good espoused anywhere in the book except that which is reached through following Christian tenets. I can see why the book has been discussed as being a sort of christian propaganda...

On the other hand, an argument can be made that in actuality, the ideas harken back to the classic philosophical conundrum of morality without god. Without such a belief, who is to judge the morality of Alex's atrocities? We can 'feel' that what he does is wrong, but how can we assert that one action is inherently better than another when morality is an arbitrary ruling of an oppressive state?

I don't know, just some thoughts that had been bouncing around in my mind.

Silver | 312 comments In someways I enjoyed the last chapter of the book, I thought it spoke to the continuation of the cycle of violence. I think the final chapter gives the book an even darker meaning. It shows the activities Alex's to be nothing more then a pahse of yought. He does not "turnaround" truly becasue he has any moral breakthroughs or becasue he changes as a person, but becasue as he grows up, it just becomes boring. All of this droogs are maturing around him, and he just "grows" out of the phase and moves on with his life. But in this, there is no hope for his children, for if they follow the same path he once did, he does not acutally condem such behavior, and this his children will grow up with the same attitudes to pass on, and so on. Nothing is really "learned" Though some people aruge that last chapeter Alex is taken "out of character" I would disagree because he does not turly become a nice and decent guy, he just grows up and looses interest in his old childish ways without ever seeing the wrong doing in them.

Michelle (fireweaver) | 104 comments wow, Silver, i never would have thought of that interpretation on my own. we're saying basically the same thing - there's no dramatic change, no impetus toward this shift in behavior - only i was seeing it as unrealistic that a psychopath simply grows out of it, you're saying nope he's still a psychopath. and you're right, that is a far more chilling view of that last chapter.

Charity, oddly enough, the other list book that i've both read and seen the movie - patrick suskind's 'perfume'- likewise was a very very faithful adaptation of the text. i'm debating whether or not i need to see 'choke'...

Lorena Walker (rocklovinggirl) | 4 comments I completely agree with Silver on the book! I also think the language made you feel closer to Alex and I was rooting for him too even though he was a bad guy. Whenever he had to get his eyes forced open, I started to fee sorry for him.
Anyway, "A Clockwork Orange," has been one of my favorite books for a few years now-I have only read it two or three times but was very excited when we decided on this book!

Silver | 312 comments At first the language was difficult to read, I remember in like the first chapter, I was totally confussed but after a while you pick up on it, and for a time after reading the book I started using the slang myself, but I fear I have forgotten much of it now. But it was stuck in my head for a while.

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Amira (liightningbolt) | 11 comments I'm trying so hard to read this novel but it's just SO DIFFICULT; I can't manage to grasp the language. Everytime I read it, I stop and then a couple of days later, I re-start. Annoying as hell but I'm stubborn and because it's on the 'Banned Books' list, well as a teenager, that just adds to my motivation.

Silver | 312 comments What I ended up doing and what will help the overall reading as well as getting a grasp on the langauge, is you can find online translators which explain what all the words mean, and look it up as you go along untill you start to memorize what certain words mean.

Here is the one I used

Michelle (fireweaver) | 104 comments like i mentioned upthread, a buddy of mine reading it in high school had a struggle with the language, too. for some reason, i really didn't, once i got into the "mood" of the book. as a sort of strange metaphor, it was like unfocusing my eyes... if i homed in on the one strange word, it made no sense ("platties" for clothes kept snagging me, i couldn't tell if it was pants or shirt specifically), but if i read on past it & took in the sentence as a whole, everything was fine.

the wiki page on nadsat has another awesome glossary, including the origin of each particular word:

Chloe (countessofblooms) | 140 comments Laura, I like your idea that the society at large is a clockwork orange that forces people to act within proscribed boundaries. There's the illusion of choice but is it true choice when you are only choosing one of a handful of pre-approved futures?

This hearkens back to the very strong impression I took away that the tale was a sort of existential parable. Humanity is defined by its ability to choose. At every moment we are choosing and creating our identity through our actions in the world. When that choice is removed from Alex and he is no longer able to choose to rape and pillage, he quickly becomes a miserable creature that evokes a mix of sympathy and disgust.

There's a lot that you can take away from this book and I have the feeling that we're only starting to scrape at the top of it. But I need more coffee...

message 17: by mara (last edited Oct 20, 2008 07:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
Amira, sometimes it helps not to try too hard. Michelle gave good advice. Most of the time a good rule is to ask yourself what would make sense. You also have to be okay with not knowing for sure. Often, details that were confusing at first become more clear as you read on and get used to them. If you can't relax in the uncertainties, keep a notebook to keep track of what you know or think you know (1 column for each) so you can reference it when you feel the details piling up and you're getting overwhelmed.

I'm enjoying all the comments. Interesting ideas about the slang softening the brutality. I think Silver said that. Hadn't thought of that. I wonder too if anyone thought Alex's roughness and the effect of cheapening/neutering/making irrelevant the gentleman's golloss and Shakespeare rather than the other way around. Maybe Burgess was trying to say something about language and relativity.

I like your explanation of the free-will idea Logan. Though I have to admit, I didn't feel much for Alex either way. I felt what I would feel watching a viper on Animal Planet attack and then get attacked. I didn't really care so to speak, but thought the way it played out was interesting

Other random thoughts

1. I thought the 21st chapter was more effective than the blunt bwwwahaha villain tip-toe of the "I was cured" chapter. As said up thread, yes, he grows out of it. It was chilling in a more subtle way to read about his son - "and I would not be really able to stop him, nor would he be able to stop his own son, brothers." I like how at that point it departs from Alex and becomes humankind.

2. It's supposed to be set in the future as a kind of dystopia right? So what is wrong with this society? It's not just Alex who is dark. It struck me how there were no positive authorities in the book. The droogs and the police seemed to want the same thing - power and violence - on different sides. His parents are afraid of him and can be easily bribed. The old women want his booze money. Where are the grandfathers mothers, fathers, priests, teachers, mentors, etc. to provide guidance, set boundaries, and establish consequences? There is a disconnect between youth and adults. The latter are really just overgrown Alex's sipping their chai or if they are not complacent, as is the case with the doctors, you still have the same problem - rather than teach Alex, rather than actually communicate, they use drugs. There are no real relationships, no human warmth, in this novel, just a lot of people using people, don't you think?

We haven't talked about the music yet. ..I was fascinated by that part but have no idea what I think about that. Why make that a main component of the story?

Silver | 312 comments Yes I would agree that Burgess was using langauge in a very intentional way within this story, and it is an interesting contradiction of Alex's refinement vs. his violent nature. Using the Shakesperian langauge, as well as listening to all the classical music. The music is an interesting part of the story and the effect which it has, as well I think there is a reason why he choose the music he choose within this story.

That is an interesting observation about the relationship, or lack of one between adults and the youth within the story. As well Alex was not just some lone pyschopath in the story. His behavior was the norm of the soceity.

I think when Alex was in jail, there was the interesting relationship between Alex and the preiest. While I think the priest was genuine and truly wanted to reach out to Alex, Alex was just putting him on.

Laura (laurita) | 44 comments Mara, I would argue that the priest was a an ethical human who offered Alex as much warmth as was possible under the circumstances. Yes, he was using Alex to advance his career but Alex was using him to get access to music and advance his release date. In a sense, humanity is a tit for tat social structure. It's just a matter of degree.

I agree with you, Silver, that you can't look at Alex and his cohort as an aberration within the society but rather as a natural evolutionary result. After all, isn't that how it works in modern day society? We make the monsters and then we punish them for being monsters. I wonder what Burgess would say to a sort of socialism that is truly socially responsible and accounts for its wrongs as a whole rather than pulling out and discarding the bad parts.

As far as the music goes, it strikes me that it's an actual avenue that Alex could use to develop his emotions beyond the impetus toward rape and murder. He obviously feels something when he listens to it, to a degree that he even confuses that feeling with a sexual urge. He doesn't seem to know what else to do with it because he's never been given the tools. The only times throughout the novel that I felt sympathy for Alex were in his passion for music. I think it's Burgess' way of saying "Look, there was hope for him inherently" so that the eventual tearing down would feel all the more poignant.

message 20: by mara (new) - rated it 4 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
Maybe it's also saying something about relativity there too. The theme of the music is joy and joy to Alex means something we would consider sinister. I do like the idea that his love of music gives us hope. Does it mean he has a soul, that he's not a monster, or make us just feel sorry for Beethoven for the rape of symphany five. I can't help but think of what the Nazis did to Wagner.

Coalbanks | 30 comments Msg # 18 Silver; There are few true penitents within the prison walls. The measure of success comes not in their words while inside but their deeds if they ever regain their freedom.

Stephanie "Jedigal" (jedigal) | 271 comments I am behind in finishing/commenting, as I had been reading a super-long off-list book previously (Aztec).

Great book.

The slang was great, good choice to not use “real” slang. And I definitely agree it diminished the impact of the violence. Was one possible purpose of this to help us stay “with” Alex, and have some sympathy for him?

Thank you, Charity, for your very clear explanation of what the complete content consisted of. My copy was from the 60s, so I needed to find the last chapter on the internet.

I think the “growing up” ending reinforces the interpretation that we all do NOT really have choice. That we all are acting out of our biological or societally imposed natures. And, like a real orange, the outside results are just what happens as a result of the inner clockwork running. Of course, what a sad vision – and we can be inspired by this book to act in opposition to that.

Not much else to say – everyone has touched on so much. Great discussion! I love people who read and think.

Kristi (kristilarson) | 266 comments (This is off-topic, sorry.)
Stephanie--I read Aztec this summer. I didn't enjoy it much. Maybe I was bitter that it took me so long to read, I probably could have read 10 other books in the time it took!

I haven't commented on A Clockwork Orange, but all of your comments are great. I read it a few years ago, so I am not close enough to it to have any real insight. I tried to watch the movie a few months ago, but was very disturbed and couldn't get through it.

Silver | 312 comments I loved Aztec

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Amira (liightningbolt) | 11 comments ^^Thanks btw, guys. It's working slowly but surely. =D

message 26: by mara (last edited Oct 29, 2008 07:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
I was a little surprised that the movie was more disturbing than the book. Somehow cod pieces shaped like, what was it? masks? etc. don't play as viscerally on the page as on a screen, and what did they wear? whitish space suit type leotards right? That detail stood out after after watching the movie (yeeh!) 14 years ago. But in the book I barely took note.

Any other movie vs. book thoughts?

Terrea (terreawithat) Didn't participate in this one, as a friend and I are starting to read it together in a couple of weeks!

I cheated and read the discussion, though, and I can't wait to start reading it!

message 28: by mara (new) - rated it 4 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
I'm glad we inspired you Terrea - feel free to post when you're done :-)

Laura (laurita) | 44 comments Welcome to the group, Brett.

Yeah, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since re-reading it recently. I suppose that it makes since that those eternal concepts of goodness and choice would keep coming up. I was glad that this time around, the underlying themes are what stuck with me, and not the horror or the violence. I think you have to read it more than once to get past the shock value of it.

Alana (alanasbooks) | 124 comments Several of you mentioned thoughts I had as well (such as the joy of music becoming something dark and sinister, the idea that they are mostly a product of a society gone even more horribly wrong than now, everyone just in it for themselves, morality of nature vs. nurture, even some hints at Christian morality themes, etc). 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?

message 31: by Feliks (last edited May 30, 2015 11:11PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) Latecomer. My comments irrelevant. But my god, this discussion. All over the map. Not the most coherent I've witnessed; certainly not worthy of the topic. Just a random comment-fest; mixing and mishmashing a horde of observations that mostly don't belong together at all. It is to no purpose to haggle over editions and versions and missing chapters. Treat the product that reached the widest audience. Tackle the gist of the story. Stop fretting about how well you personally grasped the story due to the inventive language. Its a book of ideas. What are those ideas? That's what counts. Approach the tale from a philosophical POV. That's my peanut-gallery advice.

Alana (alanasbooks) | 124 comments I don't know that it matters weekday way we discuss the nook so much as the fact that we ARE discussing it and sharing our ideas and observations. I wouldn't want to feel like I shouldn't comment in a book discussion because my thoughts aren't intelligent enough. Isn't getting more out of the book from learning from each other part of the book discussion experience?

Charity (charityross) Feliks -- the purpose of these book discussion threads is to discuss not just the themes and premises of the books, but also our experiences while reading the books. Other aspects like editions, translations, and technique can and do factor into how one reads and/or enjoys a particular book. People in this group are free to express their opinions about the group read books -- even if those opinions are not necessarily focused. If you are looking for a more structured discussion, you may click on any edition of a book on Goodreads and scroll to the bottom of the book page for a list of discussions going on about said book.

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