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A Clockwork Orange
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A Clockwork Orange group project ENH295 3/21/10


OverviewEdit

A Clockwork Orange is a novel written by author Anthony Burgess published in 1962. It is the 9th novel published by the author. The story is told from the point of view of the protagonist, Alex Delarge, in a vernacular termed "Nadsat." This slang was invented by Burgess from a mix of mostly Russian and gypsy based words. A Clockwork Orange is divided into three parts, each with seven chapters. U.S. publications have an omitted last chapter, so American copies printed after 1980 only total to 20 chapters.

The novel has been converted to film, play, and radio formats. Most noted is Stanley Kubrik's version of the book. This controversial movie brought the most attention to the novel. A Clockwork Orange (1971) the film has been widely criticized for its portrayal of graphic violence and has been banned from several countries in the past. One of the countries that prohibited showing of the film was England, where the movie was shot and directed, as well as where the book was originally written and published.


SymbolismEdit

Symbolism is found all throughout Anthony Burgess’s book. The entire book is conveyed under one meaning, or theme. This theme that is apparent in his book has to do with the freedom of choice. All the plot, characterizations, and events conjure together to represent the underlying message. That the freedom to control your conscious thoughts is a God given right that should not be substituted for anything. The symbolism only starts to become apparent after Alex gets enrolled in the Reform Experiment. He gave up his freedom of choice in order for freedom out of the jail system and to live a normal life again within society. Soon he realizes that nothing is worth sacrificing in return for his freedom of thought. Everything that Burgess did had some form of symbolism within it. For example, the use of Nasdat, the fictional language used within the text, was actually put in there for a purpose. It represented a form of slang that only the youth used. Burgess then went even further to show how Alex grew as a human being, and rid himself of the immaturity. Along with getting rid of the immature mental side of him, he also got rid of the use of Nasdat. This represented that he was no longer a youth, and that his experiences have taught him to grow up and become a man, which meant speaking like one. Another example of symbolism in the book is the author’s use of chapters. The author’s original version of the book had 21 chapters in it, but for good reason. The symbolism behind the number of chapters, 21, is that twenty one represents the age a human being is to be considered an adult, and no longer a child. So, in the end of the book, when Alex finally grows up, he loses his Nasdat dialect, and it happens in the 21st chapter symbolising the age he would be considered an adult. These creative uses of symbolism within the text are small, but actually play an integral part in the book. Anthony Burgess’s symbolism was strategically thought out, and was presented in a way that any reader can relate to.

Major Character ListEdit

Alex - The antagonist and narrator of the story. Leader of a small gang, Alex is in charge of his "friends" as well as his parents at home. Alex is an avid lover of classical music, especially Ludwig van Beethoven. Beginning the tale he is 15 years old and has a known criminal past. Ultraviolence is Alex's passion. His character is defined by mischief for the start of the novel, though he goes through much change as the story progresses. By the end of the story he has changed his ways and is now the protagonist.

George - A member of Alex's gang, the second in command. Being the most voiced against Alex's rule, he eventually sets forth a plan to remove Alex from power.

Dim - Another member of Alex's gang. Described as being slow-witted but a great fighter and chain-swinger. Disapproves of Alex's insults and leadership. He plays a role in Alex's story further along the storyline as well.

Pete - The final member of Alex's gang. He is the most loyal (or at least the most vocal) of the three "droogs," but still plays a part in Alex's arrest.

Billyboy - An enemy of Alex who leads a rival gang. The two gangs clash in the beginning, Alex's being victorious. Billyboy also appears later in the story alongside of Dim.

Pee - Alex's name for his father. A passive but curious character. Disapproves of his son's actions but is devoted to his son by either submission or guilt.

Em - Alex's nickname for his mother. She is also very submissive to her son and is deeply upset by his actions and personality. In the first part of the book, Alex's parents are scared of him. This is replaced by emotional severence and further replaced by guilt as the story unfolds.

P.R. Deltoid - Alex's correctional officer. Has seen Alex graduate from detention centers and is responsible for keeping the boy out of trouble.

Prison Chaplain - The man who aids Alex somewhat in prison. He allows Alex to play the music during church processions. An open advocate against the techniques used on Alex during his reformation.

Minister of the Interior - A newly elected government official who vows to rid the streets of crime. Allows for experimentation of new drugs and techniques to eliminate violence in the country.

Dr. Brodsky - Co-founder of the "Ludovico Technique," the experimental procedure used to reform Alex. He injects Alex with a serum and subjects the teen to cinematic acts of violence and violent symphonic scores.

F. Alexander - An extremist political writer who believes in overthrowing the current government. Alex finds himself at this man's mercy, though Alex has personally wronged him in the past. F. Alexander is the author of a novel entitled "A Clockwork Orange," a title which stuck in Alex's head through his incarceration. The man eventually sees the protagonist as an asset and ends up using Alex for political gains.

AnalysisEdit

A Clockwork Orange is a fictional work created by Anthony Burgess. The novel is supposedly based upon an experience Burgess’ wife had in London during World War II. The book’s setting is a bleak, crime-ridden England in the “not too distant future.” In this world, day is a time of business and professional exchange much like the world we live in today, though the night is run by the youth. Chaos fills the city streets as there is a lack of police enforcement. Adults all stay indoors during the nocturnal hours, entranced by the glow of their televisions. Older members of society are aware of the mischief caused by gangs and other hooligans alike, though avoidance seems to be their solution to the violence that exists in their country. Robberies, theft, rape and brutal assault are libel to happen at any given moment of any night. It is in this tense atmosphere that the story begins to take shape.

Told from the point of view of a teenage hell raiser, the reader gets a sense from the beginning that the type of violence and perversion that are occurring in the city are natural occurrences. Alex, the narrator, describes his acts of “ultraviolence” with ecstasy and glee, which proves to be a powerful tool used by Burgess. Though Alex commits terrible deeds, because he is telling the story and explaining his actions, the effect of the brutality is softened a great deal. He may be a scoundrel by most standards, but a sort of teenage naivety transforms the boy’s guilt into a sort of innocence. Alex’s speech is something of a riddle to understand as a reader, as well, for Burgess concocted an original slang for the novel. What Alex describes as “Nadsat” fills every page of the book (a dictionary of examples can be found here: http://soomka.com/nadsat.html). The language is understandable in the context of the story, but deciphering Alex’s coded sentences involves the reader further into the work. This aspect works to relate the reader to the narrator in a unique fashion, adding another facet to the mystery of A Clockwork Orange. The character of Alex is a master of manipulation. Not only does he lead a gang of peers and have dominance over his parental figures, he narrates in such a way as to bend a reader’s emotions at will. As the reader becomes acquainted with his actions and thought process, readers may find themselves shaking off the boy’s rash behavior, and perhaps even feeling sympathetic to his worries and concerns. In this way, Burgess presents the power of language in a subliminal manner.

Alex’s stay in prison changes the mood of the story beginning in part two of the novel. The prison population is high, and the overcrowding he describes creates a despairing, almost fearful setting. Alex, being only 15 when incarcerated, is much younger than many of the other inmates. We the reader feel Alex’s angst and almost constant alertness, waiting for some criminal to abuse our narrator. He says that he does not belong amongst these wrong-doers, and we seem to agree. The cruel atmosphere that Alex had been placed in seems to justify his need to get out. When the opportunity arises, he jumps on it, becoming the subject of experimental treatment. Because Alex knows nothing about the treatment except that it will get him out of prison sooner, we know nothing more of it; an optimism illuminates a chapter until the “rehabilitation” process begins. As our protagonist is subjected to torturous brain-washing, readers again sympathize with the teenage anti-hero. Another rise comes as Alex is released from the penitentiary, though it is followed shortly with another fall. Major and minor, Anthony Burgess conducts this work in an almost symphonic way. Alex’s tale is one that presents critical questions of morality within both societal and personal contexts.

Though it is his best known work and a critically-acclaimed classic novel, Burgess considered A Clockwork Orange one of his poorest works. A powerful message of man’s free will is presented, a pertinent and pressing matter to any society. This message is often overlooked by critical readers who consider the novel to glorify violence. Burgess’ intentions have obviously been skewed and interpreted freely by readers throughout time. Being a very talented and intellectual man, Burgess was haunted by the reputation that A Clockwork Orange provided him. While not bitter about the work, the author did often shrug the book off as being of little importance.


Clockw copy

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