“It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil.”


Clockwork Orange

Author: Anthony Burgess

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Pages: 192

Genre: Satire/Dystopian

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


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.

My Review:

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.

2 thoughts on ““It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil.”

  1. Clockwork Orange is a brilliant piece of literature, no doubt about it. I, too, loved it because it’s more than just a novel, it’s a long piece of philosophy about what makes us human and the importance of free will. In many ways, I see it as a smack in the face towards the bogus philosophy of B.F. Skinner, a man who promulgated hard determinism, a philosophy that denies that humanity has free will, opting that we are all victims of our own environment and upbringing, and that whatever choice we make, no matter how small, isn’t an act of freedom. I could only imagine B.F. Skinner approving of the operation that Alex went through that made him be good by thus taking away his free will. Skinner probably wouldn’t have seen it as robbing Alex of free will, seeing as Skinner would have said Alex had no free will to begin with, but merely changing his behaviors for the betterment of society. The idea that people aren’t free is a dangerous mindset that conveniently ignores that we are complex creatures with many different layers and modes of thinking and reasoning. In short, free will is very important.

    When working at a jail, questions of justice entered my mind a lot. What is cruel and unusual punishment? Are we being too harsh? Are we being too lenient? I always thought that life in prison, including for lesser offenses, was draconian, but Burgess showed his readers another kind of draconian punishment, making people prisoners when outside of prison by incarcerating them with thoughts of always being good.

    Furthermore, there is the religious aspect of it. I believe that God gave people free agency and that in order to be like God we have to learn right from wrong. Goodness can’t be forced. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have laws. But it does mean that it’s morally wrong to police the thoughts of people to the point that their agency is obliterated.

    Lastly, as much as I love Clockwork Orange, the author has written a plethora of other novels that are just as good if not, dare I say it, better. It’s not a secret that Anthony Burgess hated Clockwork Orange. Just hated it. He wanted people to read his other work and not just be known for one novel. Might I recommend to you his book The End of the World News? It’s a strange piece of literature, part musical of Trotsky, part biography of Sigmund Freud, and part science fiction doomsday. Any Old Iron is another interesting piece by him, about a Jewish-Welsh family in the first half of the 20th century and the birth of Israel. Then there is The Long Day Wanes, a part of the Malayan trilogy, and Burgess’s first book. It’s a fictional colonial novel about the British occupation of Malaya.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the recommendations! I will be looking them up. My apologies for the late response here as I have been offline due to health. I have to agree with all that you are saying here. I think my work in psych and mental health as a nurse has also broadened my sight in terms of free will and human nature. While this review is older, I have read this again since, and am amazed with how much more I continue to take from it. I may revisit the book in a post soon to touch on the themes in more depth!

      Liked by 1 person

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