Violence in Society as Seen Through A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The combination of sex, violence, criminal activity, and teenage drinking makes for an entertaining novel that definitely captures the attention of the reader. Anthony Burgess effectively uses the life of Alex and his droogs, or group of friends, to portray the evil existing in our society, and a failed attempt at reforming the evil out of youth. By incorporating the government into the plot, Burgess writes a thorough, scarily realistic story concerning the evils in our world.
A major aspect of this book was Burgess’s choice to write from Alex’s perspective. Instead of a third-person viewpoint, the author puts us in the criminal’s shoes and lets the reader understand the crime, rape, and thievery from the one leading these delinquencies. This point of view gives the reader a more personal connection to Alex both when he is committing crimes as well as when he is tortured by the treatment. The author also gives us access to Alex’s motives and feelings before, during, and after his jail time and subsequent treatment.
One of the unique characteristics of this book is the constant inclusion of slang – a foreign language spoken by Alex and his gang. Since the book is written from Alex’s perspective, the reader can see how he and his posse communicate in their own semi-foreign language, symbolizing the teenagers’ disconnect from the rest of society. Words such as “droogs,” “moloko,” “horrorshow,” and “viddy” are common language in the book, as this is how Alex and his gang communicate during their criminal actions. Even after his treatment, Alex continues to use this same language, symbolizing the limits of the attempted reformation, as not all of Alex’s past identity could be eradicated.
The controversy regarding this book comes in the conclusion, in which two different versions were published. While the American publishing ended with the twentieth chapter, Burgess intended there to be a twenty-first chapter, as published in the United Kingdom. This controversial twenty-first chapter tells of how Alex is beginning to grow tired of violence, especially when he runs into his old droog Pete who is at this point a married working man. Alex begins to think of a normal life with children of his own, suggesting the possibility of an end to his criminal ways. It is no coincidence that this is Chapter 21, with 21 being an age usually associated with the coming of age and becoming an adult. This final chapter brings into question whether the reforming treatment has a remaining impact on Alex, or if he is beginning to mature, and this character development was inevitable with or without the treatment.
Overall, Anthony Burgess crafted an entertaining, thought-provoking novel in A Clockwork Orange. This book was a joy for our group to read, and its literary merit provides an underlying meaning to the engaging storyline.