*BEFORE READING PLEASE NOTE: There are actions spoken about in this novel and review that can be triggering to certain individuals. Please read with caution.
At what point should we be left to choose for ourselves? At what point have we done so much wrong that we are no longer allowed to choose for ourselves? Anthony Burgess makes us question what is considered human and moral in A Clockwork Orange. His 1962 novella follows the adolescence of Alex, only 15 years old, as he brutally leads his group of friends to vandalize, steal, beat, rape and eventually murder innocent citizens for fun. As horrifying as his actions are, Burgess presses the questions of morality and ethical decisions to take charge over someone else’s actions. Mainly, Burgess leads us to inquire about the extent on which we can act on someone else’s life.
“What does God want? Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?” (106).
Alex is taken into custody after having been caught at the home of a break-in and battery. When the woman he beat dies in the hospital, Alex is sent to prison for murder. It is there that he is found to be a good candidate for the aversion therapy method the state has been wanting to test. At first, he is keen to try the method, as it will get him out of jail within two weeks. It is not until after the therapy begins that he realizes the torture he is being put through.
When originally writing the book, Burgess wanted to explore the ideas of aversion therapy (giving someone an unpleasant thought or feeling to associate with an action) to cure juvenile delinquency. A Clockwork Orange fights against the use of aversion therapy with the most likely candidate in need to receive it, Alex.
“A man who cannot choose ceases to be a man…To turn a decent young man into a piece of clockwork should not, surely, be seen as any triumph for any government.” (175).
Anthony Burgess does not claim A Clockwork Orange to be his best work. Actually, when it was first published in the United States, the last chapter was left out, which left an entirely different ideology for the meaning of the book. This last chapter was left out when Stanley Kubrick created the horrifying movie version in 1971, altering the way many people know the story today. The last chapter causes the reader to understand that Burgess tries not to encourage the fight between good and evil but to questioning the way adolescents are raised.
Need to read it now? Read it on Kindle here.
Want to find out where the name A Clockwork Orange comes from? Read the explanation by Anthony Burgess here.
Maybe you only want to see the classic horror? Watch the movie here.
Jill Ciampa is a professional writing major studying publishing, technical, and public policy writing. She enjoys spending time reading and watercoloring. She can usually be found watching Netflix, traveling, or trying to get someone to understand her French. Follow her @jillcia on Twitter.