A Clockwork Orange (1962) by Anthony Burgess is a very creative, original novel.
The book follows the story of protagonist Alex, 15, whose POV the book is told from. He is part of a violent gang consisting of himself and three other teenage boys Dim, Pete and Georgie. He calls them his Droogs (friends) and narrates in a created slang called Nadsat which is parts of Russian and Cockney English put together. It is a futuristic slang. This book is set in dystopian England in a Totalitarian society. Alex and the Droogs are into drugs and violence. They beat a writer up called F. Alexander and gang rape his wife. His wife dies. Soon after Alex kills a woman and is sent to jail for fourteen years. Here he kills a fellow inmate. The prison decide to try a program which is in its infancy on him to see if it can change his behaviour. The program is Ludovico’s Technique. He is forced to watch films about Nazi atrocities. When Alex is let out, he has changed and soon finds himself as the victim of violence when former Droogs (now policemen) beat him up. He meets F. Alexander again who does not remember him but when he does he tries to convince Alex to commit suicide. He escapes and at the hospital, they change him back to his old self.
This book is very thought-provoking. It deals with issues like free will and should that be tampered with? While I obviously would prefer Alex to not be hurting people, I don’t think it is healthy to tamper with someone’s free will. I think holding him accountable for his actions is completely correct. But I do think if he is going to change, it’s down to him. I don’t really believe that someone is really changing if they are being forced to change. That change I feel comes from within. While I think many people who do wrong things can change, I don’t believe someone as evil as Alex could personally. I thought Burgess wrote very well about how many of these people who were trying to change him were having more compassion for him than for the people he done things on and it was also interesting how he showed the business side of their brains in doing this for their own benefits and careers.
A very interesting part was F. Alexander who was all in favour of supporting Alex’s change of heart until he realised who he was. While I understood his love for his wife, he arguably didn’t care at all when he thought it was other people who suffered misery at Alex’s hands. I think this book asks a lot of questions of it’s readers and I think that is fantastic. I did agree with the chaplain at the prison whose belief was that change is only change if the person really truly wants to change. Apart from the chaplain, there wasn’t really likeable characters in this book and so it was excellent writing to make this book so amazing without many characters to like or identify with. Sometimes the slang got a bit confusing for me I will say but it suits the book so I’m happy it was in it.
It is a heavy book but an amazing book. A must-read.
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