A Clockwork Orange – Written by Anthony Burgess
A Clockwork Orange is a modern English classic and a novel that has been on my to-read list for quite some time. Burgess’ evil future England is considered the quintessential example of dystopian literature, especially with his diverse use of language which includes mostly slang and jargon. The journey of our narrator Alex, a young teenage boy with a preference for disgusting acts of ultra-violence, is no simple walk in the park. Burgess’ novel takes time to understand, filled with complicated argot for the reader to figure out on their own (vech, horrorshow, malchick, devotcha, ptista, gulliver, rot, viddy, etc.) Perhaps this aspect of the tale is what makes it so valuable to literary history and Burgess a cherished and talented author.
I found myself surprised at how heavy handed A Clockwork Orange was in terms of violence. At the start of the novel, before the reader truly catches on to Alex and his friends’ slang, we see cruel and unusual actions performed on innocent people. As the story continues, and the reader understands more and more, the violence and cruelty really just becomes worse and more realistic. Also, the fact that you do not truly find out how old Alex is until halfway through the novel (fourteen years old, FYI) is astonishing. By the middle of Part Two, A Clockwork Orange had me bewildered by the corruption of the future-England youth. The way Burgess brings the narrator to life, he almost had me feeling sorry for Alex’s imprisonment and government experimentation on how to cure him of violence.
One thing I found particularly interesting in Burgess’ story is the idea of goodness and where it comes from. In prison, Alex is chosen to undergo an experimental treatment named the ‘Ludovico Technique’; basically, the technique tricks the criminals’ mind into pairing violence with feeling ill in order to restrict them from continuing criminal activity. However, this defeats the concept of goodness. Ridding Alex the ability to feel anything but sick towards violence doesn’t cure him by choice, but by force, therefore sacrificing the idea that Alex is truly “changed.” This resolution and change by will is something we do see at the end of the story – IF you read the restored addition of the novel. The original publisher in the U.S. left out the last chapter where Alex realizes for himself he wants to truly grow up and become an adult with a wife and a family. Instead, the story ends with Alex being cured of his “reclamation” and resorting back to cruelty and violence. There is no resolution or transformation of the character in this case.
In the 1960s, it is easy to see why A Clockwork Orange would be seen as highly controversial. Burgess brings not just incredibly crude and unusual acts of violence to the table but the idea of government control and deeply rooted internal moral code. To have finally read this novel is an accomplishment, but I would only recommend the story to ambitious readers with time and patience to understand Burgess’ terminology and language.
“A Clockwork Orange” – Directed by Stanley Kubrick
This is an example of a mook that can stand alone as both a book and a movie while still being successful. Obviously, there are aspects of the story where the written version succeeds the film and vice versa, but in general this was a pretty awesome mook experience and definitely moved its way to the top of my list. Malcolm McDowell, who plays Alex, portrays this villain in the post perfect sociopathic way and [this movie] pioneered McDowell’s series of villainous roles.
Kubrick’s film, released in 1971, was criticized for its exemplary violence and sadism, however these were the parts which I felt were done incredibly well. “A Clockwork Orange” is directed so Alex’s world seem almost comical in a sick and twisted way, which is imperative to the success of the story. Alex and his droogs (buddies) do not have an idea of what is right or wrong, good or evil. This is the core question of both the novel and the movie, making it important to come across on screen.
The use of music in this film was perfect. Since classical music is so important to Alex, mostly Beethoven who he refers to as Ludwig van, this is something that I felt could make or break the movie. Kubrick used music in the exact way it should have been used – to intrigue the viewer and emphasize the obscenity of major plot points. When Alex is being treated with the Ludovico Technique, he becomes inconsolable and distraught at the use of Ludwig van’s music to instill fear within him. It is clear that something he loves dearly is being used against him, making “A Clockwork Orange” even more screwed up than it already is.
The film was hard to watch, just as the book was hard to read, but I loved it. Malcolm McDowell was incredible as the lead role and I made me realize why many viewers would be easily disturbed by the production. I don’t recommend this mook if you are truly appalled by violence and cruelty, but for anyone looking for a good story you should dive right in.
Mook Rating – ★★★★