Literature & Film discussion

Monthly Readings/Screenings > A Clockwork Orange (Nov. 07)

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message 1: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:16PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
I've decided to make A Clockwork Orange (the Anthony Burgess book/Stanley Kubrick film) the reading/screening for November. We've already got some good discussions going on this and I think even though several of you have read this already, you may have read the edited version.

Tosh also reminded me that quite a few of us are too busy reading War & Peace so I picked something that many of us could discuss without too much time commitment needed.

I'm not sure how well these monthly things will go but I wanted to try to keep the group active as I've noticed a lot of these Goodreads groups seem to fizzle out.

I'd like to keep the montly screenings to books/films that are in print/easily rented so anyone can participate but of course it is highly encouraged to just start a topic on whatever you're interested in!

message 2: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments An excellent choice. Anthony Burgess was reportedly very pleased with Kubrick's version (I don't if he ever commented on Warhol's) and wrote an essay in "Rolling Stone" at the time in which he reported on a conversation with Susan Sontag where the two of them agreed that the three most faithful movie adaptations of a book were "Lolita", "Slaughterhouse Five" and "A Clockwork Orange". (I'm writing this from memory of an article I read more than 30 years ago, so I could have a few details wrong..)
Speaking of which, Stanley Kubrick had nothing to do with the removal of the final chapter. It was removed by the American publisher and remained absent from every edition until 1986.
Burgess also responded to the charges that the film (more than the book)provoked violence in his short novel "The Clockwork Testament, or Enderby's End".
Kubrick's decision to withdraw the film from British release has never been thoroughly explained, but was undoubtedly a reaction to the tabloid-driven fever linking it to copy-cat crimes.
Are there any British members out there who can comment on the ban? I've heard stories of theatres across the Channel playing the film continuously for British tourists during the ban, and it obviously managed to influence other British filmmakers even when it impossible to see it legally.
A final note (gosh, he's wordy for a first-time poster).. Warner Home Video is releasing a new 2-disc DVD of the film soon, - today, in fact -.

message 3: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments A Clockwork Orange I think is a perfect subject matter for this group. I have to make sure if I read the original ending or not!!??!!

A 2-disc version of clockwork orange? Oh shit, I'm broke!

message 4: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Robert, welcome! And thanks for all the info!

How perfect that the new 2-disc set is coming out today. Yeah, I'm broke too. But I'll rent it, watch all the extras and then we can all get uber-geeky...

I'm looking forward to this and really glad that several of you are into it as well.

I know we'll have some good debates on the merits of the two endings.

message 5: by Danielle (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Danielle I'm ashamed to say that I've never actually read the book version of A Clockwork Orange. However, I absolutely adore the film.

By comment might open up a whole new bag of worms but...

What interests me most about the film is how truly shocking some people find it. I viewed the film once as a screening for a college class and one student was so offended by it that she got up and left the class before the ending. Another professor of mine told me a similar instance occured when she screened the film but she said more than one student left that particular time. Perhaps I'm a bit jaded...perhaps it's because I first saw the film when I was about 13...but I never once felt such a negative reaction toward the film that I had to shut it off or leave a screening. (Indeed, no film has ever induced such a reaction in me due to violence or obscenity!) I understand that it is quite violent and particularly the rape scene might hit a raw nerve with some people. But college students walking out?? By virtue of the fact that they are being shown this film in a classroom setting means they should view it more critically, right?

Additionally, think of the films that are out there making the big bucks today. Hostel, the Saw films, etc etc...gratuitous violence with (in my opinion) very little exploration of the human psyche. I certainly didn't feel all that thoughtful after viewing them! We will pay lots of money to see the insides of people's bodies but A Clockwork Orange is too offensive??

Has anyone else encountered similar experiences with the film or are these particularly isolated cases that I've experienced?

message 6: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Danielle, I haven't read the book either and am also a big fan of the movie so I'm looking forward to finally reading it.

I think it's great that the film is still shocking people. It's supposed to! It shocks me every time I watch it. As a matter of fact, I have to steel myself to watch this film. It's not an "easy" film to watch yet I do love it.

But I think there's a difference between being shocked and simply wanting to avoid the un-pleasantries of life. The film is meant to jolt people out of complacency and those who walk out are basically saying they want to remain complacent, keep their head in the sand and pretend that horrible things don't happen.

I think that the standard chop 'em up horror films that people don't find shocking are just too removed from reality to be shocked by. As a matter of fact, I believe people frequently laugh at these films (as part of their enjoyment, not mocking so much) because they are so removed.

Clockwork Orange - as surreal and bizarre as it is in parts - hits close to home and definitely jolts that raw nerve that you mentioned.

message 7: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Just an FYI for those interested. The new 2 DVD set of Clockwork Orange that Robert mentioned earlier is only $14.99 on Amazon. Not bad for such an amazing film.

message 8: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:19PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments Danielle's comment about people being offended by "Clockwork" was very interesting. There was, of course, a great deal of talk about how shocking the film was when it first opened (I remember a "Time" article linking it with Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs" and various Ken Russell films...) but I don't think I've ever seen anyone walk out of a screening. I suppose we can assume that a paying audience is more likely to know what they're in for than a student in a classroom, but I used the film in a class I taught on Kubrick a few years ago and had no hostile reactions.. But again, anyone taking a class on Kubrick would probably have some idea of what to expect too.

message 9: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:19PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Robert, you taught a class on Kubrick? How lucky are we to have you here! I can tell we will benefit greatly from your expertise.

Yeah, it is kind of hard to believe that people nowadays would walk out on this film. One would assume that the film and the director have enough of a reputation that anyone seeing it today would know what they were in for. I'm guessing Danielle's class may have been a more general film overview perhaps? Still, as Danielle said, one would hope that college students would be willing to sit and watch and critique after absorbing it...

But as I mentioned before I think it really speaks to the power of this film that people are indeed still shocked by it.

I wonder if the book still makes those stray "banned books" lists. I don't know much about how the book was initially received. Anyone know?

message 10: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:19PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments From the American Library Association:
"A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess

In 1973 a book seller in Orem, Utah, was arrested to selling the novel. Charges were later dropped, but the book seller as forced to close the store and relocate to another city. Removed from Aurora, Colo. high school (1976) due to "objectionable" language and from high school classrooms in Westport, Mass. (1977) because of "objectionable" language. Removed from two Anniston, Ala. High school libraries (1982), but later reinstated on a restricted basis. Source: 2004 Banned Books Resource Guide, ed. Robert P. Doyle."

It looks like the book has had it safe for awhile now, but that first item just makes the skin crawl, doesn't it?
I wonder if there have been similar incidents in other countries?
And in the other extreme, the copy I currently own was free, attached to an issue of the British film journal "Sight and Sound". I've heard that other British publication have also included it as an insert (This is a common marketing gimmick for newspapers in the U.K.). Can you get more mainstream than that?

message 11: by Melissa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:19PM) (new)

Melissa Carroll | 2 comments I've seen the film but I actually wasn't aware that it was a book (and I work at a bookstore - shame on me) so I'm definitely up for giving it a read.

message 12: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:20PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Robert, thanks for the book info! I figured it had to have created some controversy at some point.

And yeah, book banning (or censorship of any kind) only brings about a knee-jerk reaction on my part to immediately go out and buy the book even if it is a total piece of crap that wouldn't normally interest me...

Now, we have to figure out how to get U.S. marketers to give us some free books! I fear books may not be as big an incentive in the States as perhaps they are in the U.K.

message 13: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:20PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments In the Sixties, Andrew Loog Oldham who then was the producer and manager of the Rolling Stones purchased the film rights to "Clockwork Orange.'

At the time there were plans to have Mick and the Boys play Alex and his gang. Can you imagine? Also there is a Andy Warhol version of the novel called Vinyl.

Saying that I have a copy of the book and started reading it. Let the fun go wild!

message 14: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:20PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments I started re-reading the novel this morning (last time I read it was over 30 years ago... right before I saw the movie.) and I'm curious about something. I used to own an old Ballantine paperback edition (it actually said "Soon to be a major motion picture" on the cover) and I seem to recall that it had a glossary of the Nadsat words in the back, something my current Penguin edition lacks. Do US editions of the book still have it?

message 15: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments Robert, you are actually correct! The old American editions used to have the dictionary in the end, but the current edition does not!

message 16: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
For those interested, there's a screening of Warhol's Vinyl (his version of Clockwork Orange) this Saturday at NYC's Museum of the Moving image. Info here:

Anyone seen this? I haven't but will try to check it out if I can.

message 17: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

Alison There was not a glossary in the edition I got from the library, either. There is a glossary for Nadsat on Wikipedia if interested. I'm kind of enjoying not knowing what half the words mean. It helps me digest a little of the brutality. It's like a constant reminder to me...this is fiction. I kind of need that!

message 18: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments A Clockwork Novel.. I am really enjoying the reading of this book the second-time around. First of all it's interesting to point out that the two girls Alex picks up at his local record store are ten years old! He seemed to be happy about it, but it seems the two have their doubts.

The band Heaven 17 is name checked in the novel as well in the film. So that's cool. And structure wise Kubrick seems to follow the book to the 't.' So far....

Also, the language of the novel just flows out... It's really well-written. I don't want to use the word "beautiful," but the language really flows in a nice way.

message 19: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:23PM) (new)

Alison I am reading the book for the first time, and I have never seen the movie, but so far, the language is the sheer genius of the novel to me. I mean, without it, the story would be no less shocking, or meaningful...but much less stylish. (is that proper English? posting makes me paranoid).

Also, I'm always surprised when the narrator refers to his readers..."And that's where you came in." Very clever.

I'm sensing some major foreshadowing in chapter 8. "Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man." I don't know exactly where this is going, but that was of note to me. I don't think that's a spoiler--let me know if so.

message 20: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:23PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
I just got a new copy of the book that has a really interesting intro by Burgess written in 1986.

Apparently, the missing ending on American versions of the book was always missing since it was first published in the States in 1962 - long before Kubrick's film. The American publisher felt Burgess's ending didn't suit American sensibilities and I guess Kubrick (an American after all) agreed that it was better without. In Burgess's intro, he says the American publisher wouldn't publish the book without removing his ending so, being a starving writer, he caved. Then there's a funny "publisher's note" at the back saying removing the ending was merely a "suggestion". Marshall, this is where you get to rail at the underhanded, evil nature of the publishing world!

Though, knowing what I know of the Kubrick ending and what I can gather from this intro about Burgess's original ending, I'm wondering whether or not this was just a good editorial call. I'll definitely want to discuss this more once I've actually read it. Burgess himself says he doesn't feel that this was one of his best pieces of writing (merely popular because of the film) and that it was too didactic and I'm guessing his original ending probably adds to that. But then again, writers are never very good at judging their own work. OK, I should stop guessing, stop rambling and start reading.

I really recommend everyone try to read Burgess's intro. It's just a few pages so it's easy to just stand at a bookstore and read it quickly without having to buy a new copy of the book.

And can I say, Alison, that I am kinda jealous that you're getting to go into this with a fresh perspective. I've seen the movie several times but haven't read the book so of course I've already thought a great deal about the story but I am really looking forward to delving into the book and the language of his written word.

message 21: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:23PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments Alison you are a good reader! I am at the point of the novel as well. And like Kimley, I have seen the film several times as well. So far, there is not a huge difference between the film and book - plot wise. It's even paced the same.

Kubrick I think has a lot of respect for his sources. Sometimes one reads something and think "I can riff off that!" But it seems (so far) Kubrick wanted to stay true to the novel.

Saying that, I don't have the foggiest idea what happens in the end - due to the "new" ending chapter.

message 22: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:23PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments I suspect that the reference to the girls Alex picks up at the record shop as being 10 years old is not meant to be taken literally . (You may recall that the girl being raped by Billyboy and gang in Chapter 2 is also described as "not more than ten") I suspect that this is a way for Alex to establish a distance between himself and a less refined youth culture, though it occurs to me that the British conception of all of the various "young rebellion" issues at the time of the novel may well refer to an even younger, pre-adolescent age.

message 23: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:23PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
I'm two chapters in now and am pretty impressed so far. The prose is so lyrical, almost Shakepearean. It really contrasts with what's actually taking place - simultaneously distancing one from the action and heightening it. Burgess is clearly a master of "goloss".

It's a very visual book so I see why Kubrick had so much fun with the "look" in his film. Burgess spends a lot of time discussing the clothes and accessories which I wasn't expecting - sort of thought that was all Kubrick. And I love when Alex bemoans the fact that Dim is a mess after a fight. Why do we always prefer a stylish malcontent???

On the age issue, the back cover blurb on my copy says Alex is only 15 himself... Though I haven't read any specific indication of age yet in the actual book.

message 24: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:23PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments Robert/Kimley, the age issues are fascinating. And at the moment I can't get my head around it. Yes, Alex is 15, but he sounds like a man in his early 20's. Not that far off from Bateman in American Psycho.

Except Alex is more defined by his taste in classical music, his dandyism, and his embrassment over Dim's behaviour and neatness issues. Bateman wants to join the world as its equal, but Alex wants to keep a distance... perhaps?

Maybe "A Clockwork Orange" reflects where the teenage disappears. There is childhood (which is sort of like the teen years) and then straight to young person - whatever that means.

Right now I am just riffing on the top of my head. But I think this novel maybe making noises about the state of teens in a world where teens are not... What?

Due to Alex and droogs crimes, they have a great deal of lesure time - compared to Alex's parents who has to work, etc. So there is almost a class difference in that the parents/grown-ups work and the youth .....what?

message 25: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:23PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
I just got back from seeing the Warhol version of Clockwork Orange - Vinyl. It's pretty "Warholian"! I would say it's less informed by the novel and more informed by a mix of Rebel Without a Cause (the Droogs are called J.D.s), a little bit of Cocteau's Orphee (maybe it was just Gerard Melanga in a leather jacket that reminded me of this) and a lot of homo-erotic S&M...

The film is probably best known for being Edie Sedgwick's first film with Warhol. She just sits on a trunk on the side sort of watching everything with a beautiful blank stare.

message 26: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:23PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments Yes, is it better than the Kubrick version??? Warhol actually owned the film rights to the book. As far as I know they never showed 'Vinyl" in Los Angeles.

With respect to the novel and the Kubrick version is the language due to some sort of occupation - or just a cultural occupation of some sort?

When the two doctors listen to Alex they said:

..."The dialect of the tribe. Do you know anything of its provenance, Branom?"

"odd bits of old rhyming slang,' said Dr. Branom, ...."A bit of gipsy talk, too. But most of the roots are Slav. Propaganda. Subliminal penetration."

message 27: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:24PM) (new)

Alison Here's my take on the age thing...

I had a lot of reservation starting this book, and once I started reading it, there were a lot of times that I wondered if I should stop. I was just in such constant dread of the violence & brutality that was to come. Can I take it? Will there be meaning? And if so, will it be worth it?

But here's the thing, after finishing the first two sections...I have almost come to see the gut-wrenching bruality, the excessive need to take the violence to the next level as an exaggeration in order for the reader to try to conceptualize the worst state of immorality imaginable. Like, if these kids were just out drinking & driving, vandalizing, committing petty crimes and so forth, how is the author going to make his point? The first section of this book for me just served to illustrate the nastiest goings-on we could imagine...the young girls...all of it...he wanted us to see the true face of evil and it was almost necessary for him to make it as wicked as he could. By the second section, I, personally was ready for justice, and I think this is just where the author wanted us to be.

Maybe I'm just trying to rationalize the violence because I am really captivated by the book now, but I do at this point see it as necessary. And I do, now, see that there will be significance.

You know, I think the people who have the biggest problem with this book are the ones who try to separate the violence from the context of the story. Like Marshall said above, "getting to the root issues seems to be too difficult for many to contemplate."

message 28: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:24PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments The book is brutal, but it is also funny. But then again the story is brutal. Alex does violence, and violence is done on him. Like clockwork. Also due to Alex's accent or language there is also a class aspect to the story as well. The Doctors and Grown-ups don't use the same language as Alex and his fellows.

message 29: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:24PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Alison, I totally agree with all your points. I'm also very sensitive/squeamish when it comes to violence and will only subject myself to it in my "entertainment" when there's really some "value" behind it. (Just reread this and it sounds really lame but I think you all know what I mean - not interested in gratuitous violence...)

Like you I've found this book to be incredibly enjoyable despite the violence. Burgess really seduces us with his language. Despite the very visceral nature of the descriptions of the violence there is still this beauty that sucks us in. I think Kubrick similarly sucks us in with the visual beauty of his film. The film is both gorgeous and horrifying to watch.

And then, yes, as Tosh mentioned - the humor! Nobody else has mentioned that yet but this book is brutally funny. Which yet again sucks us in and the "O my brothers" etc. almost make us feel conspiratorial.

I'm about half way through now and really enjoying this book! And I'm really looking forward to rewatching the film now.

message 30: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:24PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments So far Kubrick adopted this book faithfully. Locations have been changed (very slightly) but the action is pretty much the same as the novel. What you do get is the beautiful slang/word use that's fantastic to read. Shakespeare thug style language!

I am now interested in re-reading Lolita and seeing the film again. I am kind of shocked for some odd reason with the respect to "A Clockwork Orange" and how close it is to the book

message 31: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:24PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Tosh, I've also been amazed at how faithful the film adaptation is. And now that I think about it, except for the obvious censorship changes made for Lolita, it was a pretty faithful adaptation as well. Now, why oh why wasn't Kubrick faithful to Dream Story (Eyes Wide Shut)??? But I'll try not to have another rant about that...

message 32: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:25PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments At the end of Part One Alex indeed says that he is 15, so maybe the other age references are meant to be taken at face value after all. It's apparent from other films and books at the time that Britain was doing a great deal of fretting about youth culture in the late 50s and early 60s, so his projection into the future of an even younger entry into delinquency makes sense. it's also worth noting that the very concept of a "teenager" is a modern one: The OED's earliest usage of the term comes from 1941.
In that respect, I recall that "Vinyl" -barely recognizable as an adaptation of the book, places its Alex figure as something of a homoeroticized "Rebel Without a cause". But I'll defer to Kimley for any commentary on that as I haven't seen the film in five or six years.

Two other random notes/thoughts.
I recall reading somewhere that Burgess' inspiration for the book was an incident in which his wife was attacked. Does anyone have any information on that?
I also read a reference recently - I don't think it was in this group - to a version of the screenplay by Terry Southern. Southern did indeed write an adaptation with (and for) British producer Michael Cooper, to star David Hemmings (though Mick Jagger was said to want the role). They were told that it was unfilmable. Kubrick's involvement came later and, as far as I can tell, had nothing to do with their script..

message 33: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:25PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments I just finished the book yesterday. Remarkable work. Both film and novel.

Robert, my father was a friend of Michael Cooper. He was a photographer who took a lot of pictures of the Stones from late 67' to 69'. He shot their Santanic Request album cover as well as the Sgt. Pepper cover. The whole family stayed in London in the summer of '67, and recall seeing a script of "A Clockwork Orange around various tables. I think you are right. Terry Southern wrote a screenplay that wasn't produced. I heard that the Stones were going to do it - but it didn't happen. The Kubrick version I think had nothing to do with that particular script.

message 34: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:25PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments Also the language is only spoken by teenagers or young people. All the adults thought that the language came from gypies or another tribe. At first I thought it was some sort of occupation - but now not sure. It has class issues. Maybe the new language is sort of cockney????

message 35: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:25PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments The language is definitely limited to teenagers, as Alex points out several times in the last section, and Nadsat is even used synonymously with teenager on at least one occasion. Though there are bits of cockney thrown in, it's not clear if its class-oriented as well as age-oriented, since there are no teenagers of any other class presented. As for why such a strong Russian influence would have taken over, I can't think of a particular clear reason. Though various shades of political activity appear in the final section (and are more or less absent from the film), the book's position seems to be that Alex is equally alienated from both the Left and the Right.
Marshall's suggestion that it hints at a Cold War capitulation makes sense - but why only among teenagers?
incidentally, My information on Southern's screenplay comes from Lee Hill's biography "A Grand Guy"

message 36: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
I think Burgess made the main character a teenager because this is, to a great extent, a book about making moral decisions and it is in our teen years when we first begin to realize we can make decisions that have any actual bearing on anything. Prior to our teen years, we're lucky if we can make the decision whether or not to eat the brocolli on our plate.

Typically, this new-found discovery of our power in decision-making leads us all to just rebel against everything we've known up to that point in life - simply because we can - exercising our power so to speak.

I think their language is uniquely their own just like every generation of teens has a codified language all their own. Look at the kids today with their highly evolved text messaging language.

As for the Russian influence, I think the things you've all said definitely make sense but it could also just be more of the teenage rebellion - coopting the language of their parent's enemies type thing. You know, he who is my enemy's enemy is my friend. I know I messed that quote up. But it could be much like Middle Eastern kids today who love American pop culture and sprinkle their language with American slang. It's forbidden which makes it all the more desirable...

message 37: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments Not to give away the ending to those unfamiliar with the book (okay, stop reading this right now) but Alex's age becomes a very significant theme in the final chapters, and especially in the 21st. The treatment is a form of rebirth for him and a way for Burgess to compare the "innocence" of human nature with the demands society makes on us.

message 38: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Alison Great insight up there. I finished the book, as well, and there were a couple of things I've been thinking about...DON'T read if you haven't finished...

1. Did anyone notice how Alex and his friends had a special loathing for the older generation..."I was like made sick by the von of old age and disease which came from these near-dead moodges." Any special significance to that, or just another illustration of Alex's selfish, egotistical, youth-centric character?

2. Also, I felt throughout that the author wanted to make clear that not only was Alex a perpetrator, but a victim as well. He was a vitim of the Governemnt's agenda, a victim of his friend's betrayal, a victim of the men at the end who also wanted to use him for political gain, his parents betrayed him. The only person who doesn't victimize him but shows actual concern for him appears to be the chaplain in the prison (and they said this novel was immoral--there's your priest at the moral center). Why the need to create sympathy for Alex? Was he trying to say that Alex himself was not really to blame for his actions, but was a merely a product of "modern society?" Did a society void of morals create Alex? Is that why it's so wrong that Alex is denied free will? Because it's not really his fault that he's the way he is? Or is it just because he's a human being?

Maybe I just worked it out for myself. haha.

P.S. I love this book. I'm still a little bit nervous about watching the movie!!

message 39: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments Again giving away the ending..
re: Alison's comment above. Yes, Alex's generation truly detests the adult world and that's what makes the final chapter so moving. He's embarassed to discover that he's turning into one (though in keeping with the confusion of ages in the book, he's only 19)

message 40: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments And Alison - while I've seen the movie many times, but only read the novel twice - I found the book to be much more brutal. In a sense, the movie shows how Alex gets away with some of the things he does through sheer personality (i.e., that of Malcolm McDowell). In a sense, it lets us turn away from some of the things that the Alex of the novel describes so graphically. In the film, the violence is given an extra audio-visual dimension through music and other effects that softens it, aestheticizes it, and makes us absorb it from Alex's point of view. This was, of course, one one of the more controversial aspects of the film when it first appeared, but it's hard to deny that the film's use of music is powerful - and perfectly in keeping with the aesthetic sense of the Alex of the novel.

message 41: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments Fascinating conversation all around! So in a nutshell:

- The book deals with the Teenager in an immoral world

- Language is sort of an identity factor for youth that seperates them from the adult world

Yet Alex has his own particular aesthetic - his love for classical music - while most of his fellow youths love the current pop music.

For sure (I wasn't sure at first) there is no Russian occupation of the U.K. or even a major aesthetic influence - yet the book was written in the height of the cold war between Russia and Europe.

With respect to Kubrick, I think he got rid of the complex issues that the book raises and focused on the subject matter of power always staying in power - and that basically the human race will always head for disaster of some sort. In a sense there is no good or evil. Just naked power, which I guess is sort of evil. Or am I reading Kubrick with too much of a broad brush stroke?

I think he's less interested in individuals, and more interested in how societies function. When you get down to it - A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, and Barry Lyndon are basically the same film. Even Lolita falls in that vain in that Humbert is not seen as an individual, but as part of a machine part that functions in 'society.' Kubrick is very cold, and one can admire Alex (in the film) for his characteristics and certain charm - he's still a clog in the wheel.

And again, I am just riffing off the top of my head....

message 42: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:27PM) (new)

Jim | 45 comments looking forward to reading book and seeing film - 1st saw on date of release which was Valentines Day 1972 - 1st date too - looked up etymology - was windup-doll and under control of god and devil - thus, a clockwork orange person didn't have control over actions - by the way, date worked out and continued for 6 months or so until she went back home to Casablanca

message 43: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:28PM) (new)

Alison Thanks, Robert, for the encouragement. I guess what you're trying to say is, if I made it through the novel emotionally unscathed, I should be up for the film!

Nice wording on the "aestheticization of violence." (I didn't come up with that term, I stole it). I actually heard that two days ago in reference to movies such as "Kill Bill", where the violence is meant to be visually stunning. (Loved that movie by the way). I guess that's part of what separates "movies" from "films" as my friend is always telling me. I know most of the people here are much more advanced in their appreciation of literature/film, but thanks for letting me put my two cents in. I would have never read ACO if it hadn't been for this group.

Jim, I hope you enjoy the book. Very brave using "A Clockwork Orange" as a first date. I'm glad it worked out!!

Happy Halloween, book/film people!

message 44: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:28PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments One thing I noticed from Kubrick is that the imagery around the film uses sex as an object - the milk bar has women statues as tables (I can't remember the chairs) and the actual milk bar is a nipple that the milk comes from.

Alex and Droogs wear oversized jock straps, which in shadows looks phallic - the Cat Woman collects or makes 'erotic' art. So the surroundings are quite eroticized.

Except for Alex's bedroom, which has a large Beethoven image and Jesus S&M imagery. But I don't recall anything overly pornographic in his bedroom. Alex is basically an aesthetic dandy, both in the film and the novel.

message 45: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:28PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments Marshall, that an interesting date. And you have good reasons to fear her. I would think that film was a date-killer - but alas I am wrong (I guess).

message 46: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:29PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
I stopped reading this thread for a bit until I finished the book so thanks for the spoiler alerts! And I will say here also that I plan to discuss the end so SPOILER ALERT...

I had mixed feelings about Burgess's ending. I really enjoyed the Kubrick/American ending because when he says "I was cured all right." there's that great satisfaction in screwing the state, screwing the minister of the inferior interior (cracked up everytime I read that!) and knowing that our little droog maintained his free will.

But Burgess's ending which I did find overly sentimental does bring a whole other layer to the story which I think is important. If we don't believe people can ultimately change - of their own free will - then what is the point of having free will in the first place....

message 47: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:29PM) (new)

Alison Ohhhhh, thank you guys, because my brain hurts.


I have to admit, my first impression of the final chapter was that it felt a little forced and dishonest. I felt that Alex's "coming around" was a betrayal of his character and was meant to say that Alex was not truly evil, but just immature and that over time, the violence of youth will wane if given the chance to naturally progress. And I didn't really buy that. Alex was much too selfish and heartless to be won over by a cute baby (and I do love cute babies!)

But, after what Marshall said above, I can see how Burgess needed to take Alex to that level of maturity voluntarily to illustrate..."what is Alex's brainwashed state of non-violence worth if it doesn't really change him fundamentally, but only his behavior?" As a reader, I understood this not too subtle message of the book, but I can see how the author wanted to expand that idea by showing how much better it would be if Alex made choices not by force, but because he saw what could work for good in society and because of a SINCERE desire to be a part of that.

message 48: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:29PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments Re Tosh. Excellent observation on Kubrick's use of sexuality. One could also add the references to homosexuality in the film, something completely absent from the novel (except for in the prison sequence - which is virtually the only portion of the novel left out of the film.)
Re: Kimley, Marshall and Alison: The ending of the film (and of Chapter 20) is wonderfully ironic and I still think of it as the "real" ending. But I found the last chapter touching and not so much sentimental as it was bitter. Here's Alex, no longer able to enjoy his earlier pursuits (despite the "cure" of the previous page), trying awkwardly to define himself as an adult and feeling very, very old..
And he's only 17 or 18.
If we assume that the message of Chapter 20 is that the state has no right to put limits on free will, - the last chapter seems to suggest that Alex has somehow lost that freedom on his own...

message 49: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:29PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Robert, I understand what you're saying about the bittersweet nature of the last chapter but what do you think Burgess is saying if Alex has lost his free will on his own - that free will is just an illusion?

For me that last chapter served to demonstrate why it is that we value free will so much. We aren't born to just be one kind of pre-defined person. We have the power to change at any time. And the fact that Alex chooses to grow up (of his own free will in my opinion) isn't really a complete surprise since Burgess makes a concerted effort for us to understand that Alex isn't a typical teenage hoodlum. He's extremely intelligent, has a heightened sense of aesthetics and loves classical music. Clearly he's already open to a world beyond the small scope of teenage wildlife. So, it seems fairly logical to me that he would decide on his own to explore a new "grown-up" life.

I think the main problem I had with that last chapter is that the change was too sudden (in the storytelling) and felt like Burgess was trying to drive a point home that he hadn't thoroughly introduced anywhere else in the story therefore seeming forced and in Burgess's own words overly didactic.

message 50: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:29PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments Marshall and Kimley:
When I say that Alex has lost his freedom and his free will in the last chapter, that's meant not so much literally as it is that he no longer takes any great pleasure out of the antisocial activities that defined his youth. It's his fondness for violence and debauchery which Kubrick so cleverly calls his cure in the last scene of the movie, and if we omit the final chapter, the point might very well be that a person has to have the freedom to be themselves even at the expense of "moral" behavior. The government is forced to let Alex return to his wild side. I suspect that in the last chapter is saying that convention, morality and the superego have the last laugh, because Alex reluctantly outgrows his wild side on his own.
Kimley, you're right that the change is very sudden, but I look at the final chapter as something more like a coda. From the way Alex speaks, you'd think it took place 20 years after the rest of the book.

I don't recall if Burgess' theatrical adaptation kept the novel's ending or not. No one's really said much about either of the two theatrical adaptions.

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