In all of my reading, I have come to the conclusion that Anthony Burgess is the greatest literary genius of the twentieth century. His masterpiece, A Clockwork Orange, is unrivalled in depth, insight, and innovation. The novel is a work of such quality, such perfection, that it seems to be written by a literary demigod. The novel's main theme deals with free choice and spiritual freedom. More specifically, "[The ethical promise that 'A man who cannot choose ceases to be man'] can be taken as both the explicit and implicit themes of the novel" (Morgan 104). Anthony Burgess expresses his view that no matter how "good" one's actions are, unless one has free moral choice, he is spiritually damned. The novel revolves around one criminally minded teen, Alex, whose world consists of rape, murder, and ruthless violence. Alex is eventually setup by his "droogs" (friends) and is arrested and jailed. After some time in jail, Alex is placed in a new rehabilitating program that uses electro-shock therapy, new medicines, and exposure to violent film. The program breaks all that Alex holds dear and builds him up with a new artificial conscience. This part of the novel "presents the reader with a new, reformed Alex, an Alex without free will or freedom of choice, an Alex who has become a victim" (Magill's Critical Survey of World Lit. 293). Burgess considers this lack of freedom to be spiritually murderous and terribly wrong. Burgess knows that it is better to choose to be evil, than to be forced to be good. Alex is tormented by his new state of oppression. He is incapable of making any choice; he must always do what is good. Alex is then taken under the wing of a writer who is fighting the oppressive government. The writer greatly publicizes the oppressive rehabilitation the state put Alex through. But Alex is still tormented by his lack of choice, so tormented, that he even attempts suicide. While Alex is in the hospital following his suicide attempt, the tragedy of his oppression is highly publicized, in an attempt to stop public criticism, the state "fixed Alex." He once again has freedom of choice. Through these series of events, Burgess shows another conviction of his. "The 'spiritual death' can also be seen in the wider context of a political or philosophical sterility which afflicts whole countries given over to the totalitarian view of life" (Dix 27). Burgess believes that totalitarian governments take away one's individual choice and therefore suffocate his soul. The state in A Clockwork Orange is a general parallel to any overly oppressive or totalitarian government. Alex is a representative of the common man. "Burgess' attack on behaviorists and on totalitarian states is obvious" (Magill's Survey of World Lit. 293). By showing what torment Alex went through when rehabilitated by the state, Burgess shows his strong sentiment against governments taking away the choice of individuals, and therefore condemning the individual's spirit. Burgess's strong convictions on the subject of individual moral freedom seems odd and even backwards to some. But it is incredibly right when one grasps its full meaning. "Burgess replies...No matter how awful Alex's actions become, he should be allowed to choose them" (Magill's Survey of Long Fiction 370).To be forced to do good is truly wrong. If one is forced to do right, and he does what is right, it is not out of any ethical or moral conviction. When one does what he is forced to, he is merely a programmed pawn of the state. He becomes sub-human, he is merely a robotic existence. But when one has choice, he is an individual. When one who is free, chooses good, it is out of a moral conscience and good intent. He chooses to do good. The good done through free choice is infinitely better than the forced good of one who is oppressed into morality. Burgess, through his use of satire, rebukes the suppression of freedom (Morgan 104). Anthony Burgess is extremely clear in his message in A Clockwork Orange. His convictions on free choice and oppression are clearly stated and hidden in the dark satire of the violent tale. "Obviously Burgess's feeling is that there is potentially more good in a man who deliberately chooses evil, than in one who is forced to be good" (Dix 27). This masterpiece grows stronger and deeper in meaning every time one reads it. Burgess repeatedly reveals his powerful beliefs that it is even the most violent crimes are trivial when compared to the heinous crime of oppression. Burgess not only considers moral oppression to be a wrong against one's civil rights, but he also considers it to be a destructive wrong against one's spiritual existence. This book delivers this message so powerfully, so overwhelmingly, that it leaves the reader in a state of awe and profound musing for some time after the book is read. This book demands, and commands, one's full attention and thought. Burgess seems to be inspired on a somewhat holy mission. His war is against moral oppression and the governments causing it. His weapon, a powerful one, is his incredible satiric writing ability.
Burgess, a happily lapsed Catholic, frequently raised the oppositions of free will and predestination in various of his novels (outside A Clockwork Orange, see especially The Wanting Seed and Earthly Powers), describing his own faith as alternating between residues of Pelagianism and Augustinianism. Theology 101: Pelagianism (named after the British heretic Morgan, known generally as Pelagius, the Latin equivalent of his name) denies that God has predestined, or pre-ordained, or planned, our lives. A consequence of this is that salvation is effectively within human power (as God hasn't set it down for each of us, it's within our control), which eventually leads to a denial of original sin. Refutation of this eventually came from Augustine, who (a) fiercely upheld the doctrine of original sin, and (b) defended the orthodox doctrine of predestination from the implicit paradox with free choice of salvation (ie., while God has created us, and effectively writes the whole story of each of our lives, the ultimate choice between accepting or rejecting his salvation is ours) with a claim that yes, our nature is laid down when he creates us, but he effectively looks the other way (a "left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing" scenario) when it comes to that ultimate decision, so that the decision of salvation (though not the absolute power over it that Pelagius described) is ours. Or, at least, that's how Burgess saw it. In the history of the church the classic controversy concerning the nature of the Fall and its effects is that waged by Augustine at the beginning of the 5th century against the advocates of the Pelagian heresy. The latter taught that Adam's sin affected only himself and not the human race as a whole, that every individual is born free from sin and capable in his own power of living a sinless life, and that there had even been persons who had succeeded in doing so. The controversy and its implications may be studied with profit in Augustine's anti-Pelagian writings. Pelagianism, with its affirmation of the total ability of man, came to the fore again in the Socinianism of the 16th and 17th centuries, and continues under the guise of modern humaninstic religion. A halfway position is taken by the Roman Catholic Church, which teaches that what man lost through the Fall was a supernatural gift of original righteousness that did not belong properly to his being as man but was something extra added by God (donum superadditum), with the consequence that the Fall left man in his natural state as created (in puris naturalibus): he has suffered a negative rather than a positive evil; deprivation rather than depravation. This teaching opens the door for the affirmation of the ability and indeed necessity of unregenerate man to contribute towards the achievement of his salvation (semi-Pelagianism, synergism), which is characteristic of the Roman Catholic theology of man and grace. For a Roman Catholic view, see H.J. Richards, 'The Creation and the Fall', in Scripture 8, 1956, pp. 109-115. From P.E. Hughes, 'The Fall', in J.D. Douglas (editor), The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Inter-Varsity Press, England. 1980. Repentance is the chief point of interest in the prophetic writings... The prophets are often accused of a doctrine of repentance which lays stress on human will-power, as did the Pelagian heresy. But the prophets regarded repentance as inward (Joel 2:13). Ezekiel, who demanded that the individual should make himself a new heart (18:31), also recognized that a new heart can only be a gift of God's grace (36:26). With this agrees the 'new covenant' passage in Je. 31:31-34. From J.H. Stringer, 'Grace, Favour', ibid. The anti-Pelagian position that Burgess considered against Pelagianism was probably far closer to original Augustinism than the R.C. position referred to above; I'll eventually dig something more apropos up. Some of Burgess's musings on the subject relevant to A Clockwork Orange: Chaplain The question is whether such a technique can make a man good. Goodness comes from within, 6655321. Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man. Chaplain It may not be nice to be good, 6655321. It may be horrible to be good. I know I shall have many sleepless nights about this. What does God want? Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him? You are passing now to a region where you will be beyond the power of prayer. A terrible, terrible thing to consider. And yet, in a sense, in choosing to be deprived of the ability to make an ethical choice, you have in a sense really chosen the good. So I shall like to think. So, God help us all, 6655321, I shall like to think.
A Criticism contributed by Jesse Keckler
John Gardner wrote that A Clockwork Orange was "...Burgess's most brilliant and blackest achievement." (85) I would agree that it was a great book, but I haven't read any of Anthony Burgess's work to compare ACO to. Gardner also writes about how Alex (the main character) commits horrible acts of violence while maintaining a "cheerful"(85) attitude, which makes the entire situation comical in a dark, morbid way. We see things how Alex sees them; he can commit horrible acts of violence without thought. In other words, he has no conscience. Gardner says too that "Alex makes it clear that he has chosen evil as a deliberate act of spiritual freedom in a world of sub-human conformists." (85) When Alex is treated to become sick at the thought of violence, this choice is impossible to make, turning him into "A Clockwork Orange". Or as the prison chaplain says: "When a man ceases to choose, he ceases to be a man." (67 Burgess).
A motif used in A Clockwork Orange is the repetition of the phrase: "So what's it going to be then, eh?" (various) at the beginning of each section. This shows the repetition in the world around Alex that he responds to.
Contemporary Literary Criticism vol.2 Gardner, John. The Southern Review. 5:1 (Winter 1969) : 239-40. Rpt. in "Burgess, Anthony." Contemporary Literary Criticism. 2. Carolyn Riley, Barbara Harte, ed. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1974. 85-6.
Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. New York: Ballantine Books, 1976.
"Burgess, Anthony." Current Biography. 1972. Charles Moritz, ed. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company. 1972, 85-7.
THREE KINDS OF CLOCKWORK ORANGES
Cameron B. Clark
The new American edition of the novel A Clockwork Orange features a final chapter that was omitted from the original American edition against the authors preference. Anthony Burgess, the novels author, provided for the new edition an introduction to explain not only the significance of the twenty-first chapter but also the purpose of the entire book which was the fundamental importance of moral choice. Burgess states that the twenty-first chapter was intended to show the maturation or moral progress of the youthful protagonist, Alex. The omission of the twenty-first chapter resulted, according to Burgess, in the reduction of the novel from fiction to fable, something untrue to life. Human beings change, and Burgess wanted his protagonist to mature rather than stay in adolescent aggression. The twenty-first chapter shows this change, and the chapter is important because it includes Alexs mature assessment of his own adolescence and shows the importance of maturity to moral freedom which is Burgesss main point. Burgess has presented his definition of moral freedom in both his introduction and in his novel. This definition will be discussed and it will be shown how Burgess relates it to three kinds of clockwork oranges.
Burgesss definition of moral freedom as the ability to perform both good and evil is presented by implication in his discussion of the first kind of clockwork orange. In his introduction, he states that if one "can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange - meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil or (since this is increasingly replacing both) the Almighty State." Burgess goes on to say, "It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil. The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate." This hypothetical type of clockwork orange nowhere appears in the novel because Alex is neither totally good nor totally evil but a mixture of both. This remains true even after Alexs conditioning by the Government. It is true that the Government tries to make Alex totally good through conditioning; however, since it is a coerced goodness, against Alexs will, total goodness is not achieved.
Burgess is correct when he states that evil has to exist along with good in order that moral choice may operate. He is not correct, however, when he states that it is inhuman to be totally good. He does not consider the possibility of totally good human beings that consistently choose good, either morally or amorally. One can have a perfectly good environment such as Heaven or the Garden of Eden where evil is only a possibility awaiting actualization by the free choice of totally good beings such as Lucifer the archangel or Adam the first man. Good beings may cause evil, and moral freedom only requires that one knows a possibility is evil before one chooses it. Only then can moral guilt be valid. If beings can only choose good or only choose evil, then they do not have moral freedom and the concepts of reward and punishment do not apply. Burgess calls such beings clockwork oranges and says that they would be inhuman. Personally, I wouldnt use the word inhuman. I prefer the word amoral and believe that it is possible to have amoral humans who are still free. Such humans would not be clockwork toys that have no free choices. They would be created beings with plenty of free choices but no moral ones. In other words, the ability to do evil is missing or removed. All choices would be amoral. Such, I believe, will be the state of those humans who enter Heaven. There will be no sin and suffering in the future Heaven because I think that God will remove the possibility of sin and suffering. Only amoral good will be possible. This is a personal opinion which I think the Christian scriptures allow.
Although Burgess considers one kind of clockwork orange inhuman, he does allow for another kind of clockwork orange that is human. Burgesss little Alex is a clockwork orange until he reaches maturity in the twenty-first chapter. Stanley Hyman, a literary critic, provided an afterword for the original American edition of A Clockwork Orange. In it he states that "Alex always was a clockwork orange, a machine for mechanical violence far below the level of choice...". One must remember that this afterword was written for an edition in which the important twenty-first chapter was missing. In that chapter, Alex himself states:
Youth must go, ah yes. But youth is only being in a way like it might be an animal. No, it is not just like being an animal so much as being like one of these malenky toys you viddy being sold in the streets, like little chellovecks made out of tin and with a spring inside and then a winding handle on the outside and you wind it up grr grr grr and off it itties, like walking, O my brothers. But it itties in a straight line and bangs straight into things bang bang and it cannot help what it is doing. Being young is like being like one of these malenky machines.
Alex goes on to apply this condition to his own hypothetical son and says that even if he explained this condition to him, he wouldnt understand or want to understand. He would probably end up killing somebody and Alex wouldnt be able to stop him any more than he would be able to stop his own son. And this repetition of youthful, clockwork aggression would continue until the end of the world. This repetition is compared to someone, like God, continuously turning an orange in his hands. Also, for the perceptive reader, it is compared to the repetition of the phrase "whats it going to be then, eh?" which begins the first chapter of each part until Alex states his intention of finding a wife to mother his son which is "like a new chapter beginning". He then concludes, "Thats what its going to be then, brothers, as I come to the like end of this tale." Alex grows up and becomes morally responsible. He is no longer a human clockwork orange.
Alex was also a clockwork orange after being conditioned in prison. In other words, he was a clockwork orange in two different senses at the same time. But this conditioning will be addressed later, after we examine the state of his being a clockwork orange by nature. Alexs adolescent state was not a case of total evil which Burgess calls an inhuman type of clockwork orange. Immature Alex was a mixture of good and evil possibilities with evil taking the upper hand. He liked the good of classical music even if he associated it with the evils of violence. What made Alex a type of clockwork orange was his lack of a moral sense of obligation that made him "bang straight into things" as he put it. Burgess defines this lack of moral obligation in Part One, Chapter Four, where Alex says he does evil because he likes it just as some people do good because they like it. According to Alex, what causes good or evil is desire. There is no sense of moral obligation or the possibility of moral guilt hovering over Alex when he chooses evil. He chooses evil because he likes it, nothing more. Instead of choosing good by a sense of moral obligation, his behavior is conditioned by his desires and in that sense he is a clockwork orange. One understandable complaint that may be raised against the novel is the fact that Alex appears to know that what he is doing is evil because he says so. He associates himself with the bad shop. So how can it be said that he lacks a sense of moral obligation and, therefore, lacks moral freedom? The only answer I can give is that maybe the immature Alex had no personal sense of obligation even if he knew that his behavior was called bad or evil by his society. This interpretation would save Burgess from an apparent contradiction by having Alex associate his youth with a wind-up toy which is the opposite of moral freedom. But this interpretation is weak because Alexs sarcasm throughout the novel implies that he really believes that some of his behavior is evil and he occasionally feigns sincerity to social authorities in order to better his condition. Also, Alex appears on occasion to sincerely protest the evil of others and on one occasion even calls his conditioning against classical music a "sin". So, one is left with what appears to be a contradiction and the twenty-first chapter does not seem to resolve it. Perhaps a deeper analysis of this novel will.
The adolescent Alex was operating under what Burgess in his introduction calls Original Sin. Original sin is the natural and repetitive violence that occurs under the providence of God and will continue until the end of the world, as the mature Alex points out. The term Original Sin is theological and refers to Adams first sin and its effects as inherited from his descendants. The doctrine states that everyone inherits a sinful nature and physical death as a result of Adams sin. There are differences of opinion among Christians as to whether Adams guilt was also imputed to his descendants. Those who follow the tradition of John Calvin (1509 - 1564) hold that all are guilty with Adam for their sinful natures. On the other hand, those who follow the tradition of Jacobus (or James) Arminius (1560 - 1609) hold that a sinful nature and physical death are inherited from Adam but guilt occurs only from a personal choice to sin which is possible only after one reaches an age of moral accountability.
There is a third tradition, following Pelagius (360 - 420), that denys original sin altogether. This tradition is referenced in Burgesss introduction when he mentions his own "Pelagian unwillingness to accept that a human being could be a model of unregenerable evil". This reference is a bit misleading because Burgess seems to agree with the idea of original sin shared by both Reformed Calvinists and Arminians and is merely disagreeing with the idea of unregenerable evil. Aside from the question of guilt, both Calvinists and Arminians agree that all humans inherit a sinful nature that is played out automatically in youth until the time when maturity brings moral perception which does not remove original sin but at least checks it. One thing that is debatable is when youths in general become morally perceptive. Burgess seems to say that it occurs at around eighteen years of age, the time when Alex starts reflecting and changing his ways in chapter twenty-one. But irregardless of the age, the point is that it does occur and naturally so. It is not something that is freely chosen. Moral freedom is possible only after moral perception is given by God. Only God, not humans, can create moral freedom.
The third type of clockwork orange is the one which Alex undergoes when he is conditioned by the Government against certain desires for violence and classical music. This type of clockwork orange is easily confused with the one previously discussed because of differing definitions of moral freedom. Some think that doing what you desire is moral freedom whereas others, like myself, think that doing what you know you ought to do is moral freedom. Desires can be good or evil, so the difference is between doing what you feel verses doing what you know is right or wrong. I reject the Reformed Calvinist position which holds that the will always chooses according to its strongest inclination at the moment. I believe that the will can reject its strongest inclination if it knows that it is wrong. Only then is one morally free. To be moved by nothing but desires is to be a clockwork orange as Alex was before he became morally responsible.
Alexs conditioning against his desires is a violation not of his moral freedom, which he supposedly doesnt have yet, but of his circumstantial freedom. Mortimer J. Adler, a contemporary American philosopher, in his Philosophical Dictionary, distinguishes three fundamental types of freedom. One type is circumstantial freedom. This is the freedom to do as one pleases. Alex loses his ability to do certain things he wants to do because he is conditioned to feel physically sick whenever certain things are desired. What makes this type of clockwork orange so interesting and controversial is the fact that circumstantial freedom is the type of freedom that the Government restricts whenever it locks up somebody for breaking the law. Prisons are intended to restrict circumstantial freedom so that murderers and rapists, for example, cant murder and rape any more. But, as the novel shows, this is no guarantee against "crime in the midst of punishment". A man is murdered in prison. So, the Government in the novel moves this restriction of circumstantial freedom from the physical to the psychological realm by the use of conditioning. Alex becomes a walking prison! He is conditioned by physical sickness to refrain from fulfilling the evil desires he wants to fulfill.
The Governments move from the physical to the psychological realm raises the question of whether moral freedom, which occurs in the psychological realm, can be removed. This question is valid even without considering whether youthful Alex, before his conditioning, had moral freedom or not. The novels prison chaplain, and possibly Burgess also, was terribly worried that such conditioning could remove the possibility of moral choice. I, however, do not think it can. Moral pain (felt guilt) is different than physical pain. Alex, apparently, didnt feel any moral pain when he indulged in ultra-violence. But even if he had, such guilt would not be strong enough to stop him from performing acts of violence. On the other hand, his conditioning, based on physical pain, did stop him from performing acts of violence. My contention is that moral freedom could co-exist with the conditioning because moral freedom does not require physical performance as much as mental assent, even if the mental assent results in physical sickness. Also, since only God can give moral freedom, only he can remove it.
None of the previous observations, however, should be taken as consenting to psychological or behavioural conditioning. The intent was only to emphasize the difference between moral and circumstantial freedom. The moral protest to such conditioning is based on the fact that no human has the right to say who should be conditioned and who shouldnt as if some humans (like Doctors Brodsky and Branom in the novel) are morally perfect. As Alex points out, the ones who made the films he had to watch are just as bad, if not more so, than the criminals performing the gruesome acts in the films. Why should he have to be sick when watching those films when Brodsky and others sit around and say how excellent the whole thing is. This, I believe, is the novels most powerful point. It basically states that there are no morally perfect humans since original sin infects everybody and willful sin is still possible. Human governments cannot make individuals morally perfect (a true Christian as Dr. Brodsky said) so they shouldnt try. Attempts to do so will only result in a conditioned type of clockwork orange, a coerced goodness, and not a natural or chosen one. It is the mutual responsibility of God and the individual to reach moral perfection; the one giving moral freedom and removing original sin and the other rightly exercising that freedom to include acceptance of Gods forgiveness for willful sin.
AP English IV
21 November 1997
Redefining a Battered Fruit: A Critical Look at the Use of Violence in A Clockwork Orange
Sporting a garish pink boa and a hair dye whose lumen emissions equal those of Las Vegas, Perry Farrell, the famed godfather of "funk," steps up to a lonely microphone. Amid frenzied cheers and a rhythmic drum overture to the anthemic "Ted, Just Admit It," he breaks into a melodic hum which crescendos into a falsetto shout. Like the rapid fire of a sub-machine gun, he spouts off a rhapsody of "sex is violent," a simple but piercing epigram that soon launches him onto center stage of a national debate. Farrell has an innate talent for stirring things up, and the dust he inevitably raised has reddened the eyes of Conservative America. Because of ostensibly indecent lyrics, he got into hot water with the PMRC and garnered a charter parental advisory warning on a subsequent album. Yet, censors rarely take the time to delve beneath the surface of a work to examine its latent content. Under closer scrutiny, the seemingly violent lyrics of "Ted, Just Admit It" are actually a sardonic peek into the dementia of serial killer Ted Bundy. In fact, not only is Farrell not condoning Bundy's actions, but he vehemently lambastes the murderer for attributing his reign of terror to a pornographic sweet tooth. Only the incarnate of pure evil, Farrell explains, could pervert something as natural as the nude form into a heightener for violence. Comstockery is historically blind to the deeper meanings behind art or literature; thirty years before Perry Farrell's clash with the PMRC, Anthony Burgess had similar woes with unfair criticism. Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, a critically acclaimed masterstroke on the horrors of conditioning, is unfairly attacked for apparently gratuitous violence while it merely uses brutality, as well as linguistics and a contentious dénouement, as a vehicle for deeper themes.
Although attacks on A Clockwork Orange are often unwarranted, it is fatuous to defend the novel as nonviolent; in lurid content, its opening chapters are trumped only by wanton killfests like Natural Born Killers. Burgess' Ted Bundy, a teenage Lucifer named Alex, is a far cry from the typical, spray paint-wielding juvenile delinquent. With his band of "droogs," or friends, Alex goes on a rampage of sadistic rape and "ultraviolence." As the tale unfolds, the foursome rob a small shop, beat the proprietor and his wife unconscious and then undress the old woman for kicks (Burgess, A Clockwork Orange 13-14). When the moon climbs to its zenith, they get an ache for "the old surprise visit"(Burgess, Orange 24). Donning masks of Elvis, Disraeli and the like, they storm a writer's home and beat him to a pulp, tear up his cherished manuscript, urinate in the fire place and rape his wife while the author is forced to look on in horror (Burgess, Orange 27-29). The following day, Alex, taking a much needed break from school, lures two ten-year-old girls to his room, gets them drunk and rapes them to a backdrop of Beethoven's Ninth (Burgess, Orange 50-54).
Although laden with violence, the novel is not intensely graphic; abrasive episodes are softened by the use of Nadsat, a teen argot of the author's own design. As a Stanley Kubrick film, however, Orange is an immediate shocker. The lack of a linguistic cushion, as well as the necessity to show on-stage violence, propelled the flick into an intense storm of controversy (Burgess, "A Clockwork Orange: A play with music"). The movie was pulled from British theaters in the early seventies and is still illegal, in any form, in the United Kingdom (Contemporary Authors 491). In addition, ripples from the film tarnished the novel's popular image. On account of the movie, some readers regard the book as "a flip testimonial on behalf of mindless, juvenile violence" (Edelheit 126), and Burgess is dubbed "an antisocial writer" and the "stepfather" of a "punk cult" (Burgess, "A Clockwork Orange: A play with music") which sprung up around the Kubrick film.
Compiled upon the movie-galvanized image of the novel, the handiwork of ignorant critics cements Orange's reputation as a phantasmagoria of sex and violence. An anonymous reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement once labeled the tome "a nasty little shocker" (qtd. in Burgess, "A Clockwork Orange: A play with music"), and the pithy epithet now graces the cover of the novel's most recent American printing. Yet, through it all, the author maintains that he took no pleasure in documenting Alex's brutality and even invented Nadsat in an effort to make the violence symbolic (Burgess, Contemporary Literary Criticism 38). He never seeks to justify Alex's actions and believes that his crimes "must be checked and punished" in a "properly run society" (Burgess, Contemporary Literary Criticism 38). In addition, Burgess bases the most horrific scene in the novel -- the rape of the writer's wife -- on personal experience. During a London blackout, his own wife was robbed and beaten by American GIs and suffered a miscarriage as a result. Consequently, Burgess labels the parallel rape in Orange as "an act of catharsis and an act of charity" (Burgess, Contemporary Literary Criticism 38).
Ironically, the hearty dose of violence in A Clockwork Orange did not catalyze its ban from high school libraries and reading lists; it was the novel's linguistic aspects which raised a few eyebrows. Orange was removed from classrooms in Aurora, Colorado and Westport, Rhode Island and from an Anniston, Alabama high school library because of "objectionable" language ("Banned Book Week '96"). Oddly enough, not a single one of George Carlin's famous seven dirty words appear the book. Since much of the vulgar slang essential in a work of its thematic nature appears in the cryptic form of Nadsat, Orange is toned down to a mildly PG level of obscenity. On the other hand, the teen-speak, itself, may be responsible for Orange's removal from high schools because it makes a relatively easy novel difficult to comprehend.
In spite of the novel's risqué reputation, critiques of A Clockwork Orange have been overwhelmingly positive; the phrase "tour de force" recurs ad infinitum in critical reviews. The novel is hailed as "Burgess' most brilliant and blackest achievement" and "a superb piece of mimetic writing"(85) by reviewer Bernard Berganzi and "as a satire and linguistic tour de force"(70) by critic Geoffrey Aggler. Of course, Orange still has its detractors. One critic disparages the novel as "a failure, on artistic grounds probably and surely on moral"(Evans 33). The most censorious attacks on A Clockwork Orange, though, come from its reluctant author. Burgess admits being eager to disown the novel (Introduction v) and bashes it as "a work too didactic to be artistic" (Introduction x).
Outside the sphere of violence, critics have honed in on Nadsat more than any other element of Orange. A few malign the argot. It is pegged "a silly little joke that didn't come off"( Burgess, "A Clockwork Orange: A play with music") by one aspiring H. L. Menken. Nonetheless, a sweeping majority of reviewers tout Nadsat's richness and versatility. Burgess describes the lingo in terms of a sum of its parts: "Odd bits of old rhyming slang...a bit of gypsy talk, too. But most of the roots are Slav. Propaganda. Subliminal Penetration." (Orange 132). Readers attach varying symbolism to the individual components of the language. According to some analysts, the use of Russian has a totalitarian ring (Evans 33), while others claim that a vein of Elizabethan English endows Alex with an air of authority (Carson 53). Furthermore, Nadsat is applauded for its "poetic intensity"(De Vitis 105); standard English is pale in comparison to the linguistic cornucopia of Alex's speech (Morris 29). The lingo is also inundated with onomatopoeia. The Nadsat "groodies," for instance, conveys far more fullness than the English "breasts," "plot," meaning torso, suggests a body being hit (Tilton 105) and "the old in-out-in-out" indicates mechanical copulation (Hyman 24). Other Burgess neologisms are puns -- such as "charlie" for chaplain -- and clever analogies -- cigarettes are known as "cancers"(Evans 32). Yet, artistic value is not the only catalyst behind the creation of Nadsat. In addition to muffling the raw clout of violent descriptions, the argot adds a quality of timelessness to the novel -- the fictional tongue does not become outdated as genuine slang does (Tilton 105). Moreover, by allowing the reader to develop a subliminal knowledge of Russian, it offers a first-hand insight into the technique of brainwashing (Burgess Contemporary Literary Criticism 38).
When not mulling over Nadsat, critics focus a considerable amount of attention on the novel's dénouement. When Burgess originally published A Clockwork Orange, it contained a twenty-first chapter which showed Alex jaded with "ultraviolence" and ready to settle down (Burgess, A Clockwork Orange 207-219). In the tradition of "rites of passage" novels such as Huck Finn and Catcher in the Rye, he emerges from various trials with the cold, cruel adult world with a new-found threshold for love (Connelly 42). Alex develops a penchant for maudlin pop songs, a sharp contrast to the dynamic symphonies he once adored (Burgess, Orange 212). He is ready to trade in "the old in-out-in-out" for romantic love (Connelly 43) and expresses the desire to marry and father a son (Burgess, Orange 212). He has matured and now likens his youth to a clockwork toy (Rabinovitz 55).
W. W. Norton, the American publisher of Orange, insisted on "censoring" the manuscript before sending it to the presses. According to him, he final chapter seems inanely optimistic and Disneyesque and an inappropriate cap for the sensational novel. Norton desired "evil prancing on the pages and, up to the very last line, sneering in the face of all inherited beliefs"(Burgess, Introduction ix). He wanted shock waves and Burgess' dénouement only offered "a Pelagian unwillingness to accept that a human being could be a model of unregenerable evil"(Burgess, Introduction ix). Some critics concur with this delineation. According to Shirley Chew, the last chapter falls "into the sentimental"(qtd. in Rabinovitz 55), and A. A. De Vitis agrees that it is "wisely omitted from the American edition"(110). It is "unconvincing and inconsistent with the style and intent of the book," notes Kubrick, commenting on its omission from the film version.
Others claim that the last chapter is an asset rather than an albatross to the novel (Tilton 104). The lack of its original conclusion launches Orange in a direction completely foreign to anything Burgess intends. "Even trashy bestsellers show people changing"(Introduction, viii), the author tersely explains. In order to explicate the theme of free choice, Alex undergoes aversion therapy, an effort on the part of the State to curb his penchant for sadism (Burgess, Orange 115-121), which is reversed after various complications ensue. Stripped of its terminal chapter, the novel ends with his sardonic exclamation of "I was cured all right"(Burgess Orange 205) and Alex reverts to his old preconditioned regimen of "tolchocking" and "razzrezzing." By ending the tale on this low note, society seems better off with Alex conditioned and rendered harmless (Rabinovitz 55). Thus the novel becomes a promotional in favor of aversion therapy, rather than an acerbic diatribe against it, or "an unsatisfying shriek of violence remaining horrifyingly neutral"(Connelly 42). In addition, Burgess chips away at Alex's monster facade in the last chapter and makes it possible for readers to sympathize with their "humble narrator"(Rabinovitz 55). Moreover, without the disclosure of Alex's view point as he relates his misadventures, the first person narrative looses its significance (Tilton 104). From close examination of critical essays, the necessity of the final chapter is blatantly obvious. An interpretation of A Clockwork Orange, by reviewers such as Robert Evans, as a cynical tract with "no sign of hope for the future"(32) is likely caused by sole exposure to the American edition. Others, such as Wayne Connelly, view the tome as "a story...of growing up an renewal"(42) in its untruncated form.
For all the attention given to violence, linguistics and the conclusion of Orange, they are merely ciphers in conveying the novel's over-riding themes. For example, Burgess exemplifies an existential apotheosis of free choice, by hammering in Alex's choice of violence over benevolence. Alex has a good "smeck" (laugh), in one instance, over a newspaper article which blames juvenile crime on a dearth of parental authority, knowing that his own is a product of free will (Burgess, Orange 48). Likewise, the metamorphosis in chapter twenty-one adds fuel to the credo of free choice. Although aversion therapy did little to stifle his innate taste for "ultraviolence," Alex reforms when left to his own devices. Even Nadsat, when viewed in terms of a brainwashing primer, relates back to this point, since it illustrates a process which can annul free will.
As Burgess ardently adheres, Alex's violence not only aids the clarification of free choice but is absolutely essential for the thesis to hold water. If the Pavlovian treatment is to have any substance, Burgess asserts, the reader must see what Alex is "being reclaimed from"(Contemporary Literary Criticism 38). Echoing the author's sentiments on the necessity of violence, Kubrick contends; "It must be clear that it is wrong to turn even unforgivably vicious criminals into vegetables, otherwise the story would fall into the same logical trap as did the old, anti-lynching Hollywood westerns which always nullified their theme by lunching an innocent person."
Given its astronomical degree of reinforcement, freedom of choice stands out as the dominating theme of A Clockwork Orange. The biggest paladin of these principles is the prison "charlie," through whom Burgess expands the metaphysics of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard into a social context (Morris 27). F. Alexander, the hapless victim of Alex's surprise visit, echoes similar sentiments about free will (Burgess, Orange 26-27). Even the laconic blurb "what's it going to be then, eh?" which is repeated throughout the narrative, has existential overtones (Rabinovitz 56). Intermingled in this web of existentialism, Dostoevsky's ideal that free choice is a prerequisite for salvation (Bowie 64), brings the novel into the realm of Christian theology as well as philosophy.
As the foremost enemy of choice, Burgess attacks behavioral conditioning. He "stacks the deck against the behaviorists," as advocates of aversion therapy, and "casts himself as the béte noir of B. F. Skinner"(Stinson 77). A leader of the behaviorist school in psychology, Skinner proposes a utopia where Pavlov's techniques are expanded to anthropoids. Man feels free in this idealized society, held in check by invisible shackles which he cannot sense. In Walden II, Skinner expands on his case with a grave sense of urgency. "We not only can control human behavior," he argues, "we must"(89). Through his mouthpiece the prison "charlie," Burgess impugns Skinner's views. "Goodness comes from within...," the chaplain explains, "When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man"(Burgess, A Orange, 95-96).
The whole dilemma of conditioning arises as Alex, who is incarcerated for the death of an old woman, becomes a guinea pig for criminal aversion therapy. The State gives him the option of launching the experimental "Ludovico's Technique," which is equivalent to time served, or festering in the State jail, the "Staja," for fifteen years (Burgess, Orange 108). He naturally opts for the former. As part of the procedure, A team of psychologists straps Alex to chair resembling an iron maiden, pry open his eyelids, and force him to "viddy," or watch, violent scenes played out on a movie reel (Burgess, Orange 116-118). A drug injected shortly before the production induces vomiting and dry retching which he learns to associate with thoughts of violence (Burgess, Orange 120). His only recourse is to preform acts of kindness and submission, and Alex morphs into a do-gooder automaton (Burgess, Orange 143-144). As the title suggest, he is transformed into "a clockwork orange," an "organism which, like a fruit, was capable of colour and sweetness"(Burgess qtd. in Lund) on whom mechanical laws are imposed. In addition to stripping Alex of his humanity, the experiment has other adverse side effects. The former victimizer is transformed into a lame duck; the procedure leaves him defenseless against former victims and puts him at the mercy of the loose cannons of law enforcement. Even more sinister, the Beethoven-loving thug is now conditioned against powerful symphonies since classical music is used as accompaniment to the State's brutal films (Burgess, Orange 131).
Burgess, while not condoning Alex's actions, stresses that the denial of choice is a greater evil than violence (Burgess, Contemporary Liteary Criticism, 38). In the noble cause of making him "good," the State destroys the good already in Alex; it kills his love for music (Tilton 107) and obliterates his humanity (Morris 30). Furthermore, the gates of heaven were barred to Alex because he is denied the freedom to choose good over evil (qtd. in Lund). Once again, music factors into the equation; it is "a figure of celestial bliss"(Burgess qtd. in Lund) and, therefore, a symbol of salvation. Moreover, "Ludovico's Techniquet," which indirectly drives Alex to suicide -- the "nadir of moral sin"(Morris 30) -- actually augments his evil tendencies when it leads to his self-destruction.
As an ancillary theme, Burgess explicates original sin. Since Alex's evil is a congenitally human trait, he argues, a green-light on his conditioning justifies similar treatment for all mankind (Burgess, Contemporary Literary Criticism 37). However, for this thesis to pass a litmus test in believability, Burgess must first establish the narrator as "evil, not merely misguided"(Burgess, Contemporary Literary Criticism 37), and once again, the necessity of violence rears its ugly head. Alex requires an unmitigated mean streak to pass for a convincing exemplar of pure evil (Burgess, Contemporary Literary Criticism 38). By resigning Alex to the watered-down violence of the harmless-sounding "teddy-boys", a London gang whose burgeoning brutality inspired the novel (Burgess, Contemporary Literary Criticism 38), A Clockwork Orange would more resemble a bad after-school special than the caustic moral commentary as which it is hailed.
In addition to using "ultraviolence" to depict Alex's evil nature, Burgess employs a perversion of innocence motif to reach the same end. Milk, for example, is traditionally considered the beverage of choice for small children. It carries a harmless reputation; the satirical image of a big, brawny outlaw taking his in a dirty glass is based on this standard. Alex, however, twists it into something more potent. He drinks milk with "knives in it," undoubtedly a form of speed, which sharpens him up for a night on the town (Burgess, Orange 3). When incarcerated, Alex receives his daily fix of rape and "ultraviolence" from an unlikly source -- holy scriptures printed on thin Bible leaf. He is enthralled by the less kosher exploits of the patriarchs (Burgess, Orange 91) and daydreams about the crucifixion of Jesus, juxtaposing himself in the place of a legionnaire brandishing a cat-o'-nine-tails (Burgess, Orange 92).
Alex is obviously evil, but in order to place this evil in the context of original sin, Burgess must prove that it extends to all mankind. He begins by casting Alex as a genuine everyman rather than a heartless monster. Burgess endows his protagonist with human characteristics: a love for music, a sharp wit (Stinson 79) and even a trace of generosity (Burgess, Orange 12). In addition, the author uses first person narration as a "trick" to build reader sympathy for Alex and augment his humanity in the process (Stinsen 79). In the second phase of his two pronged approach, Burgess depicts evil as endemic in mankind. According to the author, the cycle of youth violence followed by adult maturity is as natural as the progression of generations itself (Rabinovitz 55). Violence is also portrayed as "typical adult behavior"(Tilton 106), although it is usually realized when safety controls exist as a shield to negative consequences. After Alex lost the ability to defend himself, an orderly, feeling self-assured, gives the protagonist a sock across the jaw (Burgess, Orange 139). Even the humanist F. Alexander sinks to an animalistic level of vengeance. He is last heard "howling for [Alex's] blood" (Burgess, Orange 203) when circumstances reveal the identity of his wife's rapist. According to Aaron Stern, the former head of the MPAA rating board and a practicing psychiatrist, Alex represents the base tendencies of the id, an innate facet of all mankind (Kubrick). Although only Alex's evil is made manifest through violence, the potential for brutality is nonetheless there, locked deep within the dark recesses of the psyche, for the remaining six billion who claim membership in his species.
On a higher plane, the novel highlights the battle between Pelagianism and Augustinianism, two conflicting religious doctrines. Pelagianism, a philosophy of the British heretic Morgan, denies the Catholic concepts of original sin and predestination, while the rival view point, with St. Augustine as its champion, upholds these views but contends that God often cuts man loose to carve his own fate. Burgess takes an Anti-Pelagian stance in Orange, associating the views of Morgan with those of Skinner ("Free Will Versus Predestination").
Apart from being a religious and philosophical tract, A Clockwork Orange is a scathing social commentary. The novel, which is applauded as a biting satire, seems humorous at times because it reflects conditions which existentialists describe as "the Absurd"(Connelly 43). A lot of tongue in cheek is used, for instance, in describing the Minister of the Interior, or "Inferior" as Alex mockingly tags him (Burgess, Orange 202). Also, as the discerning reader will notice, the biggest bastion of Christian values, the prison "charlie" is perceptually plastered (Burgess, Orange 110). Outside the realm of comic satire, Burgess further critiques the hypocrisy of the adult world. F. Alexander, the most vocal defender of freedom in Orange, is willing to sell-out the common man in the name of liberty (Bowie 67) and forsakes every shred of his principles in pursuit of vengeance against Alex (Tilton 106). P. R. Deltoid, a case worker with a vested interest in Alex, spits in the delinquent's face during an interrogation (Burgess, Orange 80). Both a dissident political party and the establishment use the protagonist as a tool to advance their own interests (Burgess, Orange 203), and, by pinning him with a gang murder, even Alex's cell mates play Judas on him (Burgess, Orange 104).
In addition to social commentary, Orange is a futuristic "horrorshow" which hints at a dismal totalitarian future. A typical fictionalized dystopia, the novel is tagged an "Orwellian proleptic nightmare"(Aggeler 70) and closely parallels Huxley's Brave New World -- Burgess even uses "hypnopaedia" to label the treatment used to reverse Alex's conditioning (Burgess, Orange 201). The author envisions futuristic England as "a limp and listless socialism"(Hyman 24) which deadens the mind by stifling individuality and free expression (Tilton 107). The government of his somnambulist nation subjects the masses to "dehumanizing flatblock living"(Tilton 107), and a law on the books requires everyone to hold a job (Burgess, Orange 42). In addition, the State rules with an iron fist. The pressure to condition Alex, for instance, comes from a need to free up prison space for political offenders (Burgess, Orange 106). Police brutality is a growing problem since common street thugs are recruited into law enforcement (Burgess, Orange 184), and the ruling party actually fuels high crime rates in order to tighten its hold on the people (Morris 30). To further elaborate on these social conditions, Burgess returns to his favorite vectors for conveying themes. He uses violence to paint a hopeless picture of the future (Evans 32) and, according to some critics, utilizes Nadsat to connote communist dictatorship (Evans 33).
Burgess also employs violence to elucidate Alex's rebellion against the unsavory aspects of his society (Bergonzi 85). Like a watch that is wound too far, Alex is pushed to the limits by government repression (Tilton 107). A spring in his natural clockwork snaps, something goes tragically wrong, and the result is an "ultraviolent" anomaly. Denied other outlets for expression, brutal attacks become a means of communication (Morris 27) for this "poet of violence"(Tilton 105). His acts of sadism are graceful and even resemble a ballet; they are "works of art, planned with exquisite care and attention to detail, executed with conscious style"(Tilton 105). In addition, Alex rebels against the two-faced world of Deltoid which condemns the violence of the younger generation but sinks to the same level to combat it. "If you bastards are on the side of the Good," Alex retorts when bullied by a few bobbies after his arrest, "then I'm glad I belong to the other shop"(Burgess, A Clockwork Orange 81). Nadsat, in addition to violence, helps connote Alex's nonconformity. It removes him from the main-line of humanity, placing him "half in and half out of the human race"(Time 103).
Granted the incredible array of subjects mentioned in A Clockwork Orange, it is an excellent addition to any reading list. Once a reader gets past the initial shock of "ultraviolence," the lofty themes of original sin and free choice make interesting subjects for analysis. Furthermore, Nadsat is a good linguistic exercise and offers some compelling insights into the origins of slang. In addition, Burgess also broaches many hot-button issues of the 90s, such as teen crime and violence in music -- Alex reads an article which claims classical music and an appreciation for the arts would quiet down boisterous teens; he knows from personal experience that this is not the case (Burgess, Orange 48-49) . Furthermore, the politics in Orange are relevant to industrial "democracies" such as Britain and the United States. Unlike Orwell's Oceania and other totalitarian dystopias, Burgess' England mirrors the parliamentary republics which dominate the Western world. As in any multi-party system, there are clashes between progressive and reactionary groups; Burgess headlines one such pre-election strife between the Minister of the "Inferior" and F. Alexander's political camp (Kubrick). Moreover, Orange is especially appropriate for a high school age level. As a "rite of passage" novel, it is concerned with the trials and tribulations of adolescence. In addition, Burgess seems to identify well with teenagers and accurately describes their viewpoint. Rather than patronize or disparage his protagonist, the author ascribes more intelligence and wit to Alex than to the petty adults who run his violent play land. Most of all, the dire reality of Burgess' predictions makes A Clockwork Orange an essential read. Even before the novel was published, talk was bandied around about the use of conditioning as a panacea for youth violence ("Anthony Burgess About A Clockwork Orange"). More recently, aversion therapy was used on homosexuals ("Anthony Burgess About A Clockwork Orange"), and, in the 1970s, American criminals were subjected to therapy reminiscent of "Ludovico's Technique"(Stinsen 77).
While the prophesies of Orwell and Huxley seem infinitely distant, those of Anthony Burgess are more tangible. With crime seemingly on the rise, or at least getting more press than it did in the past, and paranoia reaching the gravity of a maelstrom, the push for aversion therapy has made considerable leeway. Burgess' warning is more urgent today than it ever was in 1962 when a certain "nasty little shocker" first hit bookstores. Yet, few ears have perked to his message. Burgess is condemned to Cassandra's grim fate; he is granted the gift of prophesy, but his words are doomed to fall only on deaf ears. Years ago, a similar plight was shared by Pablo Picasso. When he painted Guernica, a stark testimonial to the horrors of war, critics raved and dealers applauded, but only a handful grasped its message. The bombing depicted by the mural was only a test run of the Nazi war machine, and it was a horrifying portent of things to come. World War II, the sequel to Guernica, is the largest, most consuming conflict ever recorded in the annals of history. Perhaps Burgess' warning is only the tired ranting of a single man, but perhaps it, too, is a sign of things to come.
Alicia D. Large-Fesi
1 March 1998
Modernistic Features of :
A Clockwork Orange ( European Version) - Anthony Burgess
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, published in 1962, technically falls after the period deemed as Modernism, yet it embodies all of the features that were characteristic of that literary era. Burgesss novel is a futuristic look at a Totalitarian government. The main character (or
anti-hero) is Alex, who is an ultra-violent thief who has no qualms about using force to get the in-out-in-out. The beginning of the story takes us through a night in the life of Alex and his Droogs, and details the adventures that occupy their time. At fifteen years old Alex is set up by
his Droogs (Pete, Dim, and Georgie) and was sent to jail and convicted of murder. At the Staja ( the State Penitentiary) he became 6655321 and spent two years (in a sentence of fourteen) there. Alex is chosen by the government to undergo an experimental new Ludvicos Technique,
administered by Dr. Brodsky, that was to cure him of all that was bad (Reclamation Therapy). Alex is given injections and made to watch films of rape and violence and the mixture of these images and the drug cause him to associate feelings of panic and nausea with violence. He is released after a fortnight ( two weeks) of treatment and after a few encounters with past
victims finds himself at the HOME of a radical writer (who ironically had also been a victim of Alexs, but does not recognize him) who is strongly opposed to the new treatment the government has subjected him to. This writer (F. Alexander) believes that this method robs the recipient of
freedom of choice and moral decision therefore depriving him of being human at all (a clockwork orange). Alex eventually attempts suicide and the State is forced to admit that the therapy was a mistake and cures him again. The last chapter of the novel (which was omitted from the American version and Stanley Kubricks film) shows Alexs realization that he is
growing up and out of his ultra-violent ways on his own. He realizes that he wants a wife and son of his own.
A Clockwork Orange abandons normal language (which Modernists believed couldnt always convey meaning anyway) and is written in Nadsat ( which means teenager). It is a slang that is spoken by the teenagers at the time. Burgess uses approximately two-hundred and fifty nadsat words (most of which have Russian roots) to convey his story. This gives the reader a sense of intimacy with Alex and his droogs (friends) due to the fact that the adults in the novel cant understand what they are govoreeting (saying). There is also a disruption of the linear flow of
narrative aside from this private language; Alex (Our Humble Narrator) tells the story in a remembering type sequence, but often interjects with thoughts or questions posed directly at the reader. Aside from the strange language that is found on the pages of this novel, one of the most obvious modernistic features is Burgesss ability to shock. There are many different scenes that are quite disturbing and violent. Alexs propensity to rape young girls (ten years old), and his absolute joy in the sight of blood and pain. while I ripped away at this and that and the otherand real good horrorshow [good] groodies [breasts] they were that then exhibited their pink glazzies [eyes], O my brothers, while I untrussed [undresses] and got ready for the plunge. Plunging I could slooshy [hear] the cries of agony ( Burgess 23). This ties in with the fact that, as
readers, we tend to follow the actions of Alex and his droogs and it is easy to get caught up in all this violent action and loose sight of the real meaning of Burgesss novel. Burgess writes this novel from and to the "ID". Alex and his droogs embody all animal or primal instincts and the tale that has been set before the reader has little respect for realism. We are presented with a world in which the teenagers rule the nights, keeping all real people in their houses. A world where there are milk bars (moloko kordova) in which fifteen year olds can be served with milk that
was laden with drugs. This is a fantastical world where Burgess can exaggerate potential societal problems to show the absurdity of them.
Another characteristic of this novel is the blurring of normal understanding, or the frustration of conventional expectations. Alex takes every chance to scoff at books, education, and learning. There is also the lack of remorse and guilt in Alex for all of his violent acts. Alex steals
and kills for no other reason than for his own personal pleasure. He states that he does not steal for the want of money, but for the pleasure of it. Though all of these things are definitely different from what the reader may expect, the fact that Alex is the hero is probably the most bizarre. The reader has relived each of these horrific incidents with him yet at the end of the novel the author solicits our empathy or sympathy for him. Alex obviously is in strong conflict with the norm (or the bourgeoisie). He is a depiction of the bad element of society that England was dealing
with at the time that Burgess wrote this novel. Alex is the embodiment of all that society would like to ignore or eliminate. Aside from pitting Alex against the bourgeoisie, Burgess uses his story to magnify their decline. He uses this surreal method of aversion therapy (which was actually being discussed at the time) to show the dangers of this type of human experiment. Alex loses his identity first in prison when he becomes 6655321, and then the therapy ultimately takes away his ability to choose to do wrong. I believe that the leftist writer in this story is Burgess himself, and that the Reclamation Therapy and Dr. Brodsky are meant to depict a composite of B.F. Skinner and Pavlov. Burgess was greatly opposed to this sort of treatment, and though his own experience mirrored that of the writer in the book (Burgesss wife was raped and died due to an
intruder in their home when Burgess was away in WWII) and he was a victim of a person such as Alex, he was still opposed to what he believes to be unethical. Burgess uses the Bible verse, "What god has put together, let no man put asunder" to explicate this point. This may be a bit of a stretch, but I have read that Modernist writers often flirt with ideas of Fascism, and it seems that this idea is seen often in the friendship of Alex and his droogs. Alex does not treat his
friends as equals and is only satisfied with complete control and a dictator-like position, at one point even referring to one of his droogs as Dim the soviet (54). This idea is often tested in physical confrontation. This is one of the recurrent themes of the novel. Another reoccurring theme is that each section (and the final chapter) all begin with the line, "Whats it going to be then, eh?" I believe that the purpose of this is to show the repetitiveness of Alexs life, and the
vicious circle that society has placed him in. This serves to bind the whole of the novel together, even to the final chapter where Our Humble narrator is finally ready to break the repetition of violence and crime.
I found one of the most disturbing aspects of the novel was how Burgess choose to question religious norms. Alex often has thoughts that link God and drugs, and that fact that music was better than either. As I sloosied [listened], my glazzies [eyes] tight shut to shut in the bliss that was
better than any synthetic Bog [god] or God, I knew such lovely pictures. There were vecks [guys] and ptitsas [girls], both young and starry [ancient or old], lying on the ground screaming for mercy, and I was smecking [laughing] all over my rot [mouth] and grinding my boot in their litsos
[faces] (33). There are two different places in the book in which Alex imagines himself as the one who is whipping Jesus and nailing him to the cross. I closed my glazzies [eyes] and viddied [saw] myself helping in and even taking charge of the tolcholcking [whipping] and the nailing in,
being dressed in a like toga that was the height of Roman fashion (79). This, in itself, fulfills almost every criteria of Modernism. The ultimate purpose of the novel which is Predestination verses Free Will is also an age old religious debate which Burgess (being a lapsed Catholic) is well
aquatinted with. Music, which is a devise that was to bring one closer to God, brought Alex violent pictures of joy. The illustration of the deconstruction of individualism, and the reconception of social issues in terms of the masses rather than individuals is a continual theme. Alex
is viewed as inhuman by society ( he is inconsequential and without a vote), and therefore a cure is welcome even at the cost of Alexs freedom of choice and identity as a human being. The good of society is put ahead of individual rights. The State and society will both profit from Alexs
reclamation. There is also a reference to a mural that seems to possess characteristics of the impressionistic features of Modernism. Nudes were usually gods or goddesses lounging around and in the Municipal painting in Municipal Flat 18a that Alex describes is naked men and women that are stern in the dignity of labour at workbench and machine (31). Burgess has rendered a
magnificent thriller of a novel that embodies all of the objectives and concerns of the modernist writer. Burgess introduces the idea of new alternatives in the final chapter (the one that is missing from the American version). Alex has lived a life of horror and crime, but has the opportunity to make a change of his own free will, and decides to do just that. This is Burgesss forum to magnify the potential horrors of a government (and of the science of consciousness and repetition) that he saw was threatening to deprive people of their essential right to choose. His message is that it is better to have the choice to do bad than to be forced to do good. Burgess delves into his own experience with a nadsat like Alex to give this novel its force and to give validity to its ultimate
message. I saw Stanley Kubricks film version of A Clockwork Orange several years ago, and hated it. At the time, I felt that it was a film that was glorifying rape, violence and the degradation of women. I am glad that I did not let this discourage me from reading this novel. I found
Burgesss tale to be not only intriguing but extremely poignant in issues of State and religion