Book Review: A Clockwork Orange

Book Review: A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess was first published 1962. The novel is about violence in society, and features a 1960-1980’s city theme, along with a set of made-up slang words which several of the characters use throughout the novel. The characters in the novel are all fictitious but possibly personalities created from people’s past experiences. The characters are complex and each his own individual throughout the novel, with specific individualism through speech and actions.

In the introduction, which stands as a preface to the book, the author says that his reasoning for writing this book “was to titillate the nastier propensities of my readers. My own healthy inheritance of original sin comes out in the book and I enjoyed raping and ripping by proxy. It is the novelist’s innate cowardice that makes him depute to imaginary personalities the sins that he is too cautious to commit for himself. But the book does also have a moral lesson, and it is the weary traditional one of the fundamental importance of moral choice.”  The author uses the ideas for the novel to a point where the novel itself is almost a perfect read.

Throughout the novel, there are several plot twists. From the novel comes an introduction, several moments of repeating suspense and climax followed by an eventual plot twist involving much complicating accident and incident, and a highly unanticipated conclusion. The novel A Clockwork Orange is about the life of a teen named Alex. He and his friends live quite violently day to day and care nothing for anything other than themselves. Alex later gets in trouble in a sad plot twist, and is carted off to prison. He spends around two years in prison and several weeks in a “society rehabilitation program.” After this he is released and later comes to realize several things. The novel does indeed speak of the importance of moral choice, and throughout the novel the reader is kept on his toes in an interesting and complex story of plot twists, sadness and realizations.

The author uses both description and narration to develop his support for the theme of moral choices. An example of description comes in the first chapter when the main character and his ‘Droogs’ (friends or partners) are sitting in a bar which is unlicensed to sell liquor, therefore selling “milk plus something else” – the ‘Korova Milkbar’ sells milk mixed with different liquors. This scene is descriptive in giving several examples of the made-up slang as well as an important setting that will show up several times throughout the novel where major events occur. The “moral choices” of the characters, as narrated by Alex, the protagonist, are revealed when he describes what he and his ‘Droogs’ plan to do that night – “… Or you could ‘peet’ (get, drink) milk with knives in it, as we used to say, and this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, and that was what we were ‘peeting’ this evening I’m starting off the story with” (4).

Burgess’ choice of theme, in my opinion, works well with the plot and way the novel is written, and uses the theme to the fullest. I would recommend this book to someone looking for an interesting read that takes unexpected twists and turns though the novel.

“Anthony Burgess has been called one of the very few literary geniuses of our time. Certainly he borrowed from no other literary source than himself. That source produced thirty-two novels, a volume of verse, two plays, and sixteen works of nonfiction-together with countless musical compositions, including symphonies, operas, and jazz. Anthony Burgess died in 1993” ( i).