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A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Updated on October 20, 2010

A Clockwork Orange published in 1962 attracts our attention for its melancholic depiction of violent juvenile acts. Alex, the protagonist describes his experiences as a juvenile delinquent whose aberrant behavior leads him to state sponsored correctional rehabilitation center. Can human nature be perfected? That’s exactly the issue raise by the novel even as contemporary political systems would present us with models of perfect human beings that can have ludicrous impact (Kuiper 252). The book goes on to satire the political system and society that fail to see human being for what they are including their psychopathic traits.

Alex passionately loves classical music but is also under the sway of melancholic violent traits compelling him to amoral violent acts of brutality including rape and murder without the least sense of guilt. He is captured and imprisoned at a correctional center that promises him to transform him into a good citizen at a cost that makes him incapable of making moral choices. He becomes a good citizen but is neutralized. In other words, he is no longer his original self. He refrains from criminalities not because he chooses so but because he has no choice. He is simply incapable as a castrated beast is incapable of brutalities. He is a Clockwork Orange. However, his original self resurfaces toward end. In the British edition of the work, Alex is shown aware of his responsibilities (Kuiper 252).

Readers may not find it difficult to identify with Alex and the precarious condition he is in fighting a lonely battle against repression, against the system, and against the establishment. And yet he suffers in ways, we the normal people are probably incapable of. He suffers during brainwashing. He suffers when parents reject him. He weeps. He bleeds. He cries for death.

Alex gets his daily dose of injection as he is held by several strong men. The impact of medication is guaranteed provoke an unbearable nausea. He is also led into the studio where he is compelled to watch movies depicting ultra-violence that are replete with horror and brutalities. These are parts of his therapy for several weeks when Dr Brodsky declares him cured and fit to lead a civilized life in society.

The book depicts two opposing characteristics that Alex probably shares with all of us. There are passions and animal instincts deep rooted in men as Freud would have us believe on one hand, and morality with a sense of responsibility on the other. The passionate and animal self remains dormant and hidden in most of us. There are exceptions like Alex who can barely control their passionate and violent self that breaks off established rules, traditions and morals. These are the people with criminal tendencies. They kill, maim and rape remorselessly. Their conscience remains undeveloped or underdeveloped.

The transformation witnessed in Alex through therapy and medication highlights the other side of self, the hitherto hidden aspect of personality. However, the price of transformation is rather tragic. The price of transformation is complete incapacity leaving no room for moral choice as Ludovico treatment renders him nauseus.

Finally, we might ask how we notice private passion of Alex coming in conflict with his responsibilities. Responsibility comes with choice and morality. Contrary to Alex’s completely amoral indulgence in violent orgies, there are things that Alex does as a matter of choice. He, for instance, desperately wants to listen to his beloved classical music. Alex suffers and he knows what suffering is. Towards the end, Alex contemplates upon renouncing violence and settling down as a productive family man.

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    • A_K profile image
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      Ajit Kumar Jha 7 years ago from Delhi

      I haven't seen the movie. Perhaps movie vesion might have deviated from the book.

    • indigored profile image

      indigored 7 years ago from The Emerald City

      This movie was one of the most impactful movies of my life. I hated it and yet I cannot forget it even after all these years. Do you really think he contemplated renouncing violence? The way I remember it, the treatment didn't take... I would love a different ending!

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