A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess was released in the 1960s and is not considered a classic and essential read. It may then be surprising that I’ve only read it now, despite it having a place on my reading list for at least four years now.
What A Clockwork Orange Is About
The novel follows protagonist Alex’s fall from grace, reformation, and the aftermath of his “change.” Quite Orwellian in nature, the novel centers on disobedience and governmental control.
Alex and his friends frequely get drunk in milk bars and terrorise their families and their community. Although all his friends are violent, Alex is by far the most malevolent. Alex’s friends leave him as he gets arrested for murder. When the opporunity to get out of jail early if he undergoes a rehabilitation programe presents itself, Alex gets involved thinking he can beat the system. The programe raises questions about if its ethical to fundamentally change a person so radically and free will.
A Clockwork Orange is difficult to get into at first as Alex speaks in “Nadsat” which is teenage slang, that is influenced by Russian. At the start it’s very difficult to get into and understand, but you pick up some of the words as you go on. The language is used in such a way that you understand what is actually happening but the specifics or dialogue isn’t very clear, I’d recommend looking up the Nadsat dictionary and checking chapter summary’s if you struggle.
What I Thought
What I found interesting what that people were adamant that I shouldn’t read The Catcher in the Rye, which is one of my favourite books but A Clockwork Orange was much more violent, and disturbing. In fact, nothing in The Catcher in the Rye disturbed me, I was just mildly irritated by Holden at the end of it.
If death, sexual assault, and violence bother you then this absolutely is not the book for you. I found it difficult to read and Alex was by far the most volatile protagonist I think I’ve ever come across. I haven’t seen the movie, but if it’s true to the novel then I probably won’t watch it.
Although not an easy read, I still think it’s a cautionary tale and calls ethics into play. It came out in the 1960s but is still relevant today. Do we rob people of agency for the greater good? Or live in anarchy?
Honestly it was so disturbing that I didn’t enjoy it, but I made myself finish it. This is a book you should read once, and never again.
Have you read A Clockwork Orange?