Analysis of “A Clockwork Orange”, Written by Anthony Burgess

June 30, 2021 by Essay Writer

Ever considered what a dystopian town where the totalitarian government’s idea to a perfect society is to brainwash its citizens would be like? A Clockwork Orange, written by Anthony Burgess, is a dystopian novel following the character of Alex. During the first part of the novel, Alex’s and his droogs assault old men, steal from corner stores, and even rape a few women. However, when conflict builds up between Alex and Dim (one of the droogs), Dim finds a way to get Alex in trouble. When they are stealing from a house, and fail to do so, Dim hits Alex with a chain, knocking him out. The police arrive, and Alex is sent to jail. There, he is blamed for the murder of another prisoner, and is forced to undergo the Ludovico Technique. Alex is shown a series of violent clips and injected with a serum that associates violence with sickness. This is the government’s way of brainwashing Alex into staying away from violence, because they want to make him feel ill every time he thinks about it. When he is released from prison, and innocent, he is raped by his former droogs and disowned by his parents. Eventually, he ends up jumping out of window to kill himself, but he is badly injured. However, he is ‘cured’ because he can think of violence and rape, without feeling ill. Alex, thereafter, reflects on his life and begins his new life. Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange conveys that one shall be willing to change for the good. They should not be brainwashed because that will only lead to unstable minds. The focus of this essay will prove that brainwashing one to alter their actions is not the ideal solution, instead, that individual should go through psychological treatment that will make them choose the more positive path. The tone and diction of the novel shows how the outcoming events of the treatment are negative, the real-life connections demonstrate how the real world could have resembled the novel, the overall novel shows how unstable Alex becomes from the Ludovico Technique, and the theme of ‘free will vs. a clockwork orange’ suggests that a society undergoing full control will be very unstable.

To begin, the tone and diction Burgess uses throughout the novel shows how the Ludovico Technique just felt wrong. To the reader, it did not seem like the right thing to do, to treat Alex’s violent thoughts. The tone that Burgess uses, after Alex’s treatment, implies that he is weak and the treatment completely broke him down. When the doctors were conducting the treatment, they were acting very eerie, and it suggested a frightening tone. The way Burgess wrote these parts of the novel, indicated that he wanted to show how the treatment is morally wrong. When the doctors see that Alex is in great pain and wants to be taken off the chair, they just stood in the back and laughed in an evil manner, “Then all the teeth were wrenched out with a pair of pliers, and the creeching and the blood were terrific. Then I slooshied this very please galoss of Dr Brodsky going ‘Excellent, excellent, excellent.” (Burgess, 78). To explain, the diction the author uses shows what the doctor says provides a very dark tone. The way repetition is used when the doctor says ‘excellent’ implies that he may be an evil person, who is conducting a terrible treatment. He probably does not have good intentions with this experiment. The mood this part gives off makes the reader think of a typical mad scientist, and how this treatment is not going to end well. This, in a way, foreshadows that Alex will be negatively affected by this treatment and will not be able to function properly in the future. As well, after Alex’s treatment, one of the events that took place was when Alex encountered his former droog and rival, Dim and Billyboy. They were now police officers, and at first, it seemed as if they were trying to help Alex from the men that were beating him, but afterwards they took him on a ride to the outskirts of the town. There, they beat him and left him there in the harsh weather, “I will not go into what they did, but it was all panting and thudding against this like background of whirring farm, engines and the twittwittwittering in the bare or nagoy branches. […] I cried myself boo hoo.” (Burgess, 111/112). To elaborate, this part that Alex narrates is very vague, but it can be assumed that he was raped by Dim and Billyboy. At the end of the quote, he says how he cried himself to sleep. This is one of the first events that takes place after Alex was released from the prison. Burgess uses the same tone during this part to make the reader feel upset and tremendous for Alex. Overall, the diction used in these two incidents make the reader feel that the Ludovico Technique is wrong, and no one should undergo it. In the beginning of the novel, the reader felt like Alex was a very evil character, but during part three, Alex was helpless. The reader believes that there should have been another way to ‘cure’ Alex because the treatment limited him to the choices he wanted to make.

Second, when Burgess was writing this novel, he was mainly influenced by the real world. Burgess began writing A Clockwork Orange in 1961. In the 1950s, a psychologist, by the name of B.F. Skinner, studied behaviour changes within humans and animals. He conducted experiments where injected a serum into humans or animals, and discovered that he is able to change the behaviour of the subject. For instance, Skinner was able to teach pigeons to play ping pong. Burgess witnessed this and thought about the consequences that can come with it, if more research and experiments were done. The novel is a satire of Skinner’s experiments, and Burgess looks at one of the possible outcomes. Burgess’ interpretation of Skinner’s experiments was that they are morally wrong if done to humans, and predicted that they could damage their minds. This proves that one of the reasons Burgess wrote this novel was to make people aware of experiments that can be altering human behaviour and its consequences. Additionally, the Nadsat slang Burgess uses is also influenced by the real world. Before writing the novel, Burgess was in Russia, where he saw many teenager gangs. The Nadsat slang was based off basic Russian and the words that the gangs used. Some of the terms were real, whereas, others were made up. The whole point of the Nadsat slang was to create a tone that shows how Alex and his droogs are able to do whatever they desired and that they are just some teenagers. However, this novel gives the reader a real life experience of a psychological treatment. Burgess has said, “[The Nadsat slang] was meant to turn A Clockwork Orange into a brainwashing primer. You should read the book and at the end you should find yourself in possession of a minimal Russian vocabulary – without effort, with surprise.” By this, Burgess is conveying how easy it is to change someone’s thoughts. By reading the novel, the reader does not even realize that they are picking up terms from the Nadsat slang. By the end, they will have remembered a few terms, and that can make they reflect upon the Ludovico Technique as a whole. It will make them realize that treatments, such as Skinner’s, are very possible and can be developed even more. However, they may not be developed for the good. Briefly, the real life example of the treatments and the real life experience that the readers’ undergo, show that Burgess’ purpose of the novel is to make the reader realize that treatments are very possible and that they may not end well for the subject. The reader can reflect and determine their own opinions, but according to Burgess, the readers’ opinion will likely state that treatments are not the way to go. Instead, an individual who is in help should look for an alternative for psychological treatment.

Third, the overall novel shows how the Ludovico Technique negatively affected Alex. In the second part of the novel, he undergoes the terrifying treatment, and in the third part, he is released from jail. He arrives at his parents house, only to find out they have rented out his old room for another man. Alex runs away, crying, and goes to a music store to listen to Mozart’s Fortieth Symphony. However, the treatment used various symphonies, and every time he heard one, he felt very ill. Eventually, he is helped by another man and given an apartment to live in. While he is sleeping, he hears a familiar symphony coming from another room, and decides to jump out of the window, “I creeched out to the world: ‘Good-bye, good-bye, may Bog forgive you for a ruined life.’ Then I got on to the sill, the muse blasting away to my left, and I shut my glazzies and felt the cold wind on my litso, then I jumped.” (Burgess, 124). This quote illustrates the part where Alex had jumped out, and shows how mentally unstable Alex had become due to the treatment. The treatment had ruined music for him because he feels ill, and when the music would not stop playing, he was left with no choice. For this sequence, Burgess uses the mood literary device to create a feeling in the reader. He wants the reader to feel sympathy for Alex, because he was forced to undergo the treatment and in turn, it ruined his life. This showed the effect of brainwashing on an individual and how it caused them to try killing themselves. The treatment had made the individual’s mind very unstable. Further on, Alex tried to clear his mind and decided to read the bible. Though, the treatment brainwashed him to feel sick in the presence of violence, and the bible contains many acts of violence, “So I put that back and then took down the big book or Bible, as it was called, thinking that might give me like comfort as it had done in the old Staja days (not so old really, but it seemed a very very long time ago), and I staggered over to a chair to read in it. But all I found was about smiting seventy times seven and a lot of Jews cursing and tolchocking each other, and that made me want to sick, too.” (Burgess, 106). Alex wanted to be religious and ask God for guidance, but reading the Bible with all the violence is too sickening. It shows how the brainwashing could be good for removing violence from Alex, but instead, he can never be religious again. The whole point of the treatment was to create peace in Alex’s mind, and religion takes a large role in doing so, for many people. However, the treatment also took away religion for Alex, and no one would have thought of that during the treatment. This made Alex’s mind even more unstable because he has no one to ask for help. His parents had basically kicked him out of the house and he cannot turn to the Bible for guidance. Generally, the events that took place during the third part expressed that the treatment had broken down Alex and changed him for the good, but also, for the bad. Living normally had become very difficult for Alex, and therefore, he decided to kill himself. The novel shows the reader what effects this type of treatment can have on a person, and making them believe there should have been another way to purify Alex’s actions.

Finally, one of the main themes in A Clockwork Orange argues that a brainwashed society would be unstable. This theme is ‘Free Will vs. A Clockwork Orange.’ An individual with free will is allowed to make their own choices, but it is up to them to make the right choices. As for a clockwork orange, the author has said, “A Clockwork Orange Resucked, has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil or (since this is increasingly replacing both) the Almighty State.” To elaborate, Burgess is saying that a clockwork orange is someone who appears to be sweet on the outside, but inside of them is a clockwork controlled by someone with power. In the first part of the novel, Alex has all the free will he could have. However, he does not make morally correct choices, as he loves rape, violence, and stealing. When he is caught by the police and undergoes the treatment, he is stripped of his free will, “You are to be made into a good boy, 6655321 [Alex]. Never again will you have the desire to commit acts of violence or to offend in any way whatsoever against the State’s Peace. I hope that you take that all in.” (Burgess, 71). This was spoken by the Chaplain of the prison, who told Alex that the treatment will force him to never break the law. In other words, they will be taking away his free will, and turning him into A Clockwork Orange. He will seem lovely on the outside, but the treatment will insert a clockwork into his flesh that is controlled by the state government. That may sound good, but it will completely remove the individual’s free will and make them unstable. Consequently, by removing one’s free will and making them into a clockwork orange, you are forcing them to be a part of society and taking away their ability to make their own choices, “This is Joe’ said my mum. ‘He lives here now. The lodger, that’s what he is. Oh dear dear dear,’ she went.” (Burgess, 100). At this part of the novel, Alex had returned to his home, but his parents had rented the room to someone else, and told Alex to leave. This represents that Alex has now become a part of the outside world, because everyone he used to know has shrugged him off. He used to have free will and everyone he knew engaged with him, but when he became a clockwork orange, he was to function with the other gears of society. This caused Alex to be mentally ill, and ultimately, led to his breakdown. All in all, the theme of ‘Free Will vs. A Clockwork Orange’ shown in seperate parts of the novel demonstrates that free will is a power that everyone needs. If they are forced by the government to be something they are not, they will only act as a robot and will dysfunction on the inside.

To conclude, this essay proved that an individual should not undergo a treatment that will force them to make positive decisions. Alternatively, they should receive minor psychological treatment that will help them choose the positive path. The tone and diction Burgess uses throughout the novel indicates how helpless Alex becomes by the end. The writing style makes the reader feel that the treatment is completely wrong. As well, the way the reader connects with the actual treatment makes the reader think about the Ludovico Technique and how it mentally breaks down an individual. It should not be done, and an individual should be able to choose. In addition, the overall novel shows the consequences of the treatment and how it led to Alex’s malfunction. After the novel, he was unable to look to someone or read the Bible for peace. Ultimately, he ended up trying to kill himself. Further, the main theme, ‘Free Will vs. A Clockwork Orange’ suggests that one should not be stripped of their free will, and should not be turned into someone who is completely controlled by the state government. These arguments indicate should be much more helpful in bettering their citizens. Treatments, to force one to make the correct choices, should not be done because they will only lead to dysfunctional minds. In today’s world, it is still difficult to find a way to improve someone’s behaviour, but in time, civilized solutions will be found.

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