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A Clockwork Orange: Review Of Book And Firm Version Essay, Research Paper

A Clockwork Orange: Review of Book and Firm Version

In A Clockwork Orange, Alex, the narrator and the main character, tells

the story of his teenage years, starting at fifteen. He begins his tale as the

leader of a small gang that spends its evenings pillaging and wreaking havoc on

the town until the gang mutinies and “Your Humble Narrator,” as Alex refers to

himself, is caught by the police. From there, Alex travels to State Jail 84F to

serve 14 years, but receives an offer from “the Government” which entails

undergoing experimental treatment in return for early release. He seizes what

seems to him an opportunity, but is horrified by the “cure” he endures. The new

“good” Alex that is released unto the world is depressed, frustrated, and lonely,

although no longer violent. A radical political group then exploits him as an

example of the cruelty of “the Government.” This faction tries to force Alex to

suicide in order to gain a martyr, but Alex’s attempt fails and he is nursed

back to health and his natural mental state by the Government, who in the end

comes out on top.

Alex, whose last name is not mentioned in the book, is a violent,

aggressive teenager of fifteen, who is the leader of a four-person gang. He

truly enjoys violence, reveling in the sight of blood or weapons. Alex’s love

of hate is not simply a rebellious emotion, but as he explains, it is his very

nature, and he could not change it if he wanted to. Despite his passion for

what most see as ugly and disgusting, Alex does have a great appreciation for

classical music, especially Beethoven.

Alex’s main conflicts are both external and internal. His external

conflicts are between him and the members of his gang. Dim and Georgie, two of

the members of Alex’s gang, are unwilling to accept Alex’s leadership. They

challenge his authority, and Alex reacts rashly by trying to re- establish his

dominance through defeating both of his aggressors in fighting. This

confrontation only raises tensions within the gang, and leads to a betrayal

which results in Alex’s capture on the charge of murder. Alex’s main internal

conflict is a physiological one. The Government’s experimental treatment which

Alex undergoes involves conditioning to produce a feeling of nausea and

overbearing fear when violent tendencies are encountered. Since Alex’s nature

is to respond to situations violently, he is ruined by the conflict between his

physical and emotional feelings.

The climax of the book occurs at the end of Alex’s conditioning, when he

is made to feel sick by his own true emotions, and he realizes fully that he

must change his entire way of life.

The major difference between the film and the book versions of A

Clockwork Orange was the lack of theme or meaning in the film. The film easily

conveyed all aspects of the story’s plot and dialogue, but was quite lacking in

the conveyance of the thoughts within Alex. It seemed that without this key

part of the book, the film was completely devoid of any merit whatsoever.

Between the film and book versions of A Clockwork Orange, I prefer the

book infinitesimally. The whole reason Anthony Burgess wrote the book in the

first place was to convey a question of morality: is it justifiable to corrupt

the pure nature of a person for the benefit of the greater society? His epochal

query was clearly communicated within the book, but Stanley Kubrick did not even

begin to deal with this moral issue in his movie which I perceive as a shallow

and strange film which I could not enjoy, knowing that the message behind

Burgess’ story was not the advocation of blatant violence, as portrayed in the


The climactic scene in the book occurs when Alex has finished his

conditioning, and he is displayed as an example of the new technique in criminal

reform. Alex is put on stage in front of government dignitaries, where he

proves that he is incapable of committing an act of violence.

In the book, Alex is thrust on stage, where he tries to defend himself

against an attacker, but is choked back by the acute nausea he experiences with

violence. With Alex narrating, the reader experiences the main character’s

thoughts and feelings as his physical body strangles his true emotions and

prevents him from acting on them.

The movie shows the same scene, but without examining any of the

psychological aspects of it. All the viewer sees is Alex being bullied by

another man, and unable to fight back, crippled by some unknown internal monster.

I did not like the film’s version of this scene because it did not

clearly show what was transpiring within the characters.

The theme of the book deals with a person’s most basic right to be

himself. Burgess questions whether it is right to destroy an individual’s self

in the interest of society. He also questions the morality of the government

judging what is right or wrong for everyone.

While these themes were evident throughout the book, they were only once

mentioned in the film, by a minor character who appears only once. I think the

film does not deal with theme because it is difficult to impart the thoughts of

the main character without changing the plot of the film, which would lead it

astray from that of the book.

The most obvious and powerful symbol in the book was the slang language

used by the teens, called “nadsat.” Nadsat has chiefly Russian origins. Many

of the words were chosen because of their forceful sound, as a symbol of the

attitude of the nadsats, or teens. For example, “grahzny bratchny” sounds much

more harsh than “dirty bastard,” although one is a literal translation of the

other. This is similar to Gene Roddenberry’s creation of the Klingon language,

which sounds very much like Russian, in his series “Star Trek,” although this

may have been due to a cold war stereotype.

This symbol, although it was attempted in the film, did not work well.

It seemed that dropping words like “droog, tolchock,” and “zooby” in the middle

of a sentence of otherwise perfect English only confused the viewer, especially

without any reference to the nadsat language.

A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess, presents an issue that should be

discussed in schools, although the book may be too potent for some. The film,

however, is definitely too focused on plot and the portrayal of destruction and

violence, without enough of a focus on theme. I would recommend reading the

book; its social commentary is much more relevant now than when it was written

in the sixties.

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