“A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess follows the life of a young juvenile delinquent by the name of Alex. Throughout the novel we learn in depth about the young protagonist, Alex, including his love for music and his apparent passion toward violence. Burgess uses bizarre, yet apt language choice in this novel which helps you relate to the main character in an easier manner, hence improving the appeal and success of this text. The novel deals with varying issues however the main theme of the novel is the idea of how much freedom of thought Alex has and therefore this will be my area of focus for my essay.
Immediately after the first few lines we find out the novel is written in first person narrative. I found this a very intelligent use of language and structure by Burgess as the manner in which he has written this relates exactly to the character. Very seldom does Alex use “normal” language and I think this is because he has complete freedom of thought and he wants to have his own language that only his friends and him can understand. In my opinion the style and structure of this novel is extremely important to the understanding of the text.
Alex goes through three main changes as a character, and this is reflected in the way Burgess has structured the novel. The novel is split into three sections, each describing a significant chapter in Alex’s life. An example of this is the idea of the book revolving “full circle”. In 20 chapters Alex has completely changed, but at the start of chapter 21 the novel begins the exact same as it did at chapter one. Alex revisits the place called HOME and him and his new “droogs” commit another unprovoked attack, however this time something has changed.
Alex has matured and basically decides he doesn’t want this life anymore and the reason why â€“ he has matured and comes to his senses. So the reader begins to feel sorry for Alex â€“ after all what is a life without any choice? ” Goodness comes from with, 6655321, goodness is something chosen, he who cant choose, ceases to be a man” Burgess has deliberately intended the thoughts and feelings of the reader to sway during the novel. As the novel progresses Alex looses his choice â€“ consequently becoming ” A Clockwork Orange”, which changes the reader’s attitude towards him.
I feel this therefore relates to the theme of Alex’s freedom of thought because after undergoing “the ludovico’s technique” Alex looses all of this and effectively becomes a walking, talking government experiment. In my opinion Burgess superbly sculpts this idea and so the reader’s feelings for Alex change. In the beginning of the novel Alex is the practitioner of nothing but violent acts, who spends his nights with his “droogs”, terrorizing the public with their acts of “ultra violence” and engaging in the old “in-out, in-out”.
He beats the elderly, fights other gangs with his “britva”, robs stores, breaks into houses, rapes young girls, drinks milk laced with drugs and is eventually even convicted of murder. Burgess portrays the life of the young immature Alex, as a series of mostly evil events. As the reader is embroiled in Alex’s life he/she begins to feel nothing but hatred towards Alex and this is mainly down to the disgusting and explicit manner in which they are described.
” O, my brothers, while I untrussed and got ready for the plunge. Plunging I could slooshy cries of agony”
For me I feel this is a very significant point. Burgess has summed up Alex as a whole in the language he has used here. The quote is actually describing Alex as he prepares perform the “old in-out in-out” rape on a young women. I feel the word “plunge” is used to great success. It has very negative connotations and shows the reader truly how violent Alex is at this stage of the novel. Also I feel the manner in which I imagine Alex saying this is imperative. I feel it is said with a zealous tone, again telling the reader a lot about how Alex thinks and feels toward violence.
After studying this text I went through many thoughts and feelings towards the young protagonist of Alex. At first it doesn’t seem as if Alex can change and it’s as if he doesn’t want to â€“ no one is in control of him and at it seems nothing can change him. However after close examination of the passage I found certain instances where signs of a different Alex shone through.
” And, my brothers, it was real satisfaction to me to waltz â€“ left two three, right two three ”
This is a modus operandi technique is one for which Burgess must be credited for. The situation being described is when Alex is involved in an attack on a defenseless man. What I find unusual, yet pertinent about this piece of text is the manner in which Burgess relates Alex’s two loves, music and violence. I think this therefore presents the question of could music help change Alex. Yes! Because he has his all-important freedom of thought. The possibility of change is always there at the beginning of the novel, unlike in the latter stages of the novel when Alex becomes ” A Clockwork Orange ”
Soon after committing a series of rapes, attacks and even a murder Alex is set up by his so called “droogs” and is sent to prison for fourteen years. However after only two years of his sentence he is drafted in to take part in a government experiment called the “Ludovico technique”, which would convert him into a creature capable of only sweetness â€“ a clockwork orange.”
” You mean, I said, it will be just like going to the pictures ”
Alex is overjoyed when he is told his treatment involved watching movies: little did he know these movies would change his life completely. His initial thoughts are that of excitement and happiness as he thinks soon he will be a free man ready to get back to his old ways. At this stage Alex never knew what exactly the “Ludovico technique” entailed and it was this technique that changes Alex and the opinion of the reader.
After two torturous weeks of viewing nauseating films Alex is released into a world in which he could no longer even contemplate violent acts. He struggled to adjust to a life without choice â€“ you could even question the fact was it a life anymore. He thought he could rely on his parents or ” pee and em ” as he would call them â€“ however he was wrong, they too turned their backs on him. After re-visiting the place called HOME and being tortured by the music he once loved dearly Alex committed suicide.
“What I wanted was not something violent but something that would make me go off gentle to sleep and that be the end of your humble narrator”
This is a significant point in the novel as it is a turning point. In my opinion this is when the reader begins to change their attitude towards Alex. I feel that a life with out choice is not a life; hence it’s not fair to subject Alex to such cruelty as not being able to think about his own suicide. Surely everyone is allowed to have his or her own freedom of thoughts, even if these thought are evil.
Soon after committing suicide Alex is submitted to hospital where once again his life would go through a major turning point. After increasing press attention the government is forced into removing the affects of the experiment and Alex is finally cured.
” I was cured all right ”
Many now think Alex will return to his old ways by committing the “in out in out” and participating in the odd attack here and there: many would think wrong. After leaving hospital Alex does soon return to his old life of sitting in the Korova milk bar while planning the gang’s attacks for the evening, however something has changed. Alex is no longer “A Clockwork Orange” and he realizes this life of violence is wrong and vows to change.
In my opinion the way in which ” A Clockwork Orange ” finishes is vital in understanding the main theme of the prose. Alex ends the novel by reaching a level of spiritual maturity where he discovers life doesn’t revolve around violence and makes a promise to himself vowing to change.
” That’s what it’s going to be then, brothers, as I come to the like end of this tale ”
I feel the way in which Burgess has written this piece of prose is noteworthy. The word ” tale ” suggests to the reader Alex has real plans for the future â€“ as if to say this is the end of one tale but there is many more tales to come.
Burgess points out an interesting question in this novel. Would it be better to be forced to do good or to choose evil with freedom of choice? Would it be right to live our lives “perfectly,” on the condition that we had no control over it? Burgess states his answer in the words spoken by the prison chaplain, who says, “He who can’t choose, ceases to be a man.” I feel in this captivating novel Alex is treated dreadfully unfairly and everyone needs their own freedom of thought. In the last chapter Alex proves something extremely significant and that is that anyone with their own choice is capable of changing.
The experiment to change Alex did no good what so ever and in the end it was his own choice to change. I feel this is an extremely well written novel that asks the reader a lot about their feelings towards Alex and for this reason I found ” A Clockwork Orange ” a very superior novel.