I just finished A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I asked my mom for this book last Christmas. I started reading it then, but was really turned off my the language of the book. Just like modern teenagers create slang languages of their own to distinguish themselves from their parents, the main character of this novel uses a weird Slavic-Russian slang where “droogs” are friends, a “gulliver” is someone’s head, the “litso” is the face, and if something is good it’s “horrorshow.” The slang is called Nadsat. At first, it was too much for me to want to read on my own. At the time, I was also still prepping for school that would start in January.
This time I picked the book up off the shelf of my own accord and decided to fight through the confusion. Once I got about a chapter in I got used to the slang, and it was much easier to follow along. This novella tells the story of a 15-year old named Alex in three parts. In the first, Alex and his droogs Pete, Georgie and Dim walk the streets at night after school terrorizing people, beating them up on the streets, raping women, etc. It’s a sort of dystopian novella where the world is run by corrupt politicians and young kids are hardened criminals. Throughout the story of one night, the boys beat up and old man who is leaving the library, fight with a rival gang, terrorize people at a newsstand and beat them up, break into a house, beat up the husband and gang-rape his wife, etc.
Eventually Alex is turned in by his rival gang and goes to jail for murder because people he mauled that night and the night after died from their injuries. In jail he kills another prisoner, and is put through a new experimental therapy to “cure” criminals. He is conditioned to associate violence with extreme illness.
Once released into the world again, he is beaten up by his old gang-mate who are now police. They desert him on the fringes of town where he happens upon a house, the house where he brutally mauled a man and raped his wife. The man takes him in and Alex finds out that his wife died after the gang raped her. The man is part of a political group determined to bring down the government. The group uses Alex as a figurehead, attempting to make him commit suicide to strengthen their point. Alex jumps from a window to escape and his conditioning is knocked out of him.
The main point in this dystopian novella is that a man who is robbed of the choice between good and evil and is made to do good is not a man at all, but a “clockwork orange,” something natural made mechanical. Alex was acting good while under the influence of the conditioning, not because he was good, but because it benefitted him to be good.
Overall, I liked this book. It was a quick read and made a quick little point about ethics and motives. I was ready to move on by the end, though.