Author: Anthony Burgess
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Clockwork Orange brings us to 1963, during a futuristic setting where crime prevails as nighttime sets in. We are introduced to our young, 15 year old male protagonist and narrator Alex, as he frequents the milkbar getting high with his droogs Pete, Georgie, and Dim. Each evening the clan sets out in search of ultra-violence, as they terrorize individuals during their heinous crime sprees. One evening after a disagreement among his droogs who are tired of being “led”, Alex finds himself abandoned and apprehended by state authorities during an assault where he has bludgeoned his victim to death. While serving his sentence, Alex eagerly agrees to be treated by the Ludovico Technique with Dr. Brodsky in hopes of reducing his sentence.
I found Clockwork Orange to be a challenging read for the first few chapters. The pages are filled with “nadsat”, a fictional teen slang spoken by our young narrator. I spent somewhere between two to three chapters focused more on the language than the actual events. So I am calling this the “adjustment” period.
Full of graphic violence and sexual content, I am amazed at how many times I have stumbled across this title on “Teen Must Read” lists! There is absolutely no way I could possibly recommend this to a young reader. Clockwork Orange is explicit. Make no mistakes about it. Many adults might find the material unsettling as they pour through the pages of ultra-violence and red kroovy.
Once I was finally tuned into the fictional slang and acclimated myself to the violent scenes, I realized that there was so much more to this novel than simply the cruel depictions occurring through the eyes of our young narrator. What I discovered was a brilliant story that questioned the morality of the government’s involvement in the reformation of human behavior. Clockwork Orange compels the reader to consider freedom of choice versus total obedience on a magnificent scale. What price are we willing to pay as a society to drive out crime? Should government have the authority to strip freedom from individuals in order to create an idealistic society?
“When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.”
I found this dark, vivid story to be as terrifying as it is beautiful. The authors use of colorful, fiction slang and choice of first person narrative, immersed me within a terrific world that stimulated thought and encouraged the visualization a world stripped of free morality. I am easily giving Clockwork Orange 5 stars for this very reason.
I wanted to also mention in this review that this is one of the few titles where I am going to mention that I actually viewed the film first. I normally try to avoid this, but Clockwork Orange is an exception. More often than not, I find myself disappointed with film adaptations of great books. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I equally enjoyed both the novel and movie. While there are definitely discrepancies and the film lacked the events of the true final chapter, I felt both were able to beautifully convey the true symbolism behind Anthony Burgess’ twisted dystopian tale.
* I would encourage anyone who has not read this classic to make sure they are picking up the copy which includes the final chapter not originally published in American editions. This copy includes the authors introduction “A Clockwork Orange Resucked”. American editions were first published with twenty chapters, when in reality there were twenty-one. After reading the introduction and considering the final chapter, I found that the inclusion of the twenty-first chapter altered my reading experience, pinpointing the whole morality that was to be conveyed to the reader.